What is gay conversion therapy? (and what it is not)

//What is gay conversion therapy? (and what it is not)

What is gay conversion therapy? (and what it is not)

Gay conversion therapy (GCT) is the most popular term used to describe the practice of attempting to change from homosexual to heterosexual within religious contexts.   Some, even in the media, are confused about what ‘gay conversion therapy’ or ‘conversion therapy’ actually is. The term is being increasingly misused. You’ll see below how terms have evolved over the last four decades. First of all it’s important to know what we are NOT talking about.

When talking about gay conversion therapy we are NOT talking about:

1. Camps where people are tortured or starved

what is gay conversion therapy

The above picture has appeared regularly on the internet since 2013. This tragedy was not the result of a specific GCT program however, but a three-month military style course run by Alex de Koker’s Echo Wild Game Rangers in the bush an hour south of Johannesburg. Unfortunately journalists, who are either lacking integrity or poorly researched use it from time to time to accompany articles on GCT. This of course plays right into the hands of religious GCT advocates because they can immediately deny ever using starvation and torture tactics. I have spoken with literally 1,000’s of ex-gay survivors since 2000 and only one of those had the extreme experience of being beaten (by his uncle in a Christian cult).

2. Electric shock treatment to the brain or in aversion therapy

what is gay conversion therapy

Electric shock treatment directly to the brain

3. Aversion therapy when people watch homoerotic images whilst at the same time are given electric shocks or vomit inducing drugs

A homosexual in the Prince Henry Hospital watches a screen which flashes before him images of his abnormalities.

Although all the above have been methods used, and in some parts of the world still are, to try and change gay people straight, they are not GCT that we in the western world are trying to see banned. It is within essentially fundamental, evangelical, charismatic and pentecostal breeds of christianity that GCT.

Gay conversion therapy (GCT) is a relatively new term.

Originally the term ‘ex-gay’ was coined by the founders of Exodus in 1976. Then the term ‘reparative therapy’ was introduced. Next people spoke about ‘unwanted same-sex-attraction’. Of recent times fancy terms have been introduced  such as ‘Sexual Attraction Fluidity Exploration in Therapy’ (SAFE-T) by the Alliance for Therapeutic Choice and Scientific Integrity (formerly NARTH) in 2016 and ‘Sexual Identity Affirming Therapy’ by Christopher Doyle from Voice of the Voiceless.

This change in terms is interesting in itself, as it reflects not only the evolution of the ex-gay/reparative/conversion therapy movement and who is in control of the conversation.


The fact that the most popular terms now are ‘gay conversion therapy’ and ‘conversion therapy’ demonstrate that we are now in control of the conversation as those who are pro the ‘change is possible’ message would never use that wording. These terms are used in a derogatory sense which is why ex-gay practitioners and believers have changed even from ex-gay to the fancier terms I’ve mentioned above.

What is Gay Conversion Therapy?

GCT is a religiously based attempt to change or overcome a person’s same-sex-orientation. It is based on the belief that homosexuality is:

  • sin
  • resulting from a dysfunctional upbringing or sexual abuse
  • unnatural/abnormal
  • a choice

People distressed about their sexual orientation or gender identity can experience GCT by:

  • one on one counselling with a pastor, church leader or Christian counsellor
  • personal prayer and faith believing for change and deliverance
  • inner healing believing that being gay means you are broken from past experiences that God can heal you from
  • support groups where people share their struggles and pray and support one another
  • exorcisms believing that homosexuality is a demonic force that needs to be cast out in order for the individual to be free
  • masculinisation/feminisation attempts to make the individual more like a ‘real’ man or woman
  • online courses like the support groups (extremely dangerous)

The above is a part of the presentation #TheQuestToCureQueers

To find out more about GCT go to our page on the topic HERE.

To be notified when ‘Exodus to Nowhere – the quest to cure queers’ is published, subscribe HERE.

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By |2018-09-15T23:24:46+00:00October 22nd, 2017|Categories: Conversion therapy|0 Comments

About the Author:

Anthony Venn-Brown
Anthony Venn-Brown is one of Australia’s foremost commentators on faith and sexuality. His best-selling autobiography 'A Life of Unlearning – a preacher’s struggle with his homosexuality, church and faith', details his journey from being one of the first in the world to experience religious gay conversion therapy, becoming a married, high profile preacher in Australia's growing mega-churches, such as Hillsong, to living as an openly gay man. Anthony was the co-founder and former leader of Freedom2b. He is an educator and consultant on LGBT/faith issues and leader in deconstructing the ex-gay/reparative/conversion therapy myth. Anthony is the founder and CEO of Ambassadors & Bridge Builders International. Anthony has been recognised on a number of occassions for his contribution and impact including being twice voted one of 'The 25 Most Influential Gay and Lesbian Australians’.

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