Healing Spiritual Harms: Supporting Recovery from LGBTQA+ Change and Suppression Practices | 2021


This research report presents findings from a project conducted in partnership with the Brave Network, the Australian LGBTIQ+ Multicultural Council (AGMC) and the Victorian Government on the recovery support needs of survivors of LGBTQA+ change and suppression (conversion) practices.

Studies suggest that at least one in ten LGBTQA+ Australians are vulnerable to religion-based pressures and attempts to change or suppress their sexuality and/or gender identity.

These practices may involve formal conversion programs or ‘counselling’ practices, but more often involve less-formal processes including pastoral care, interactions with religious or community leaders, prayer groups, and other spiritual or cultural practices initiated within particular communities.

Core to both these formal and informal change and suppression practices is the message conveyed to LGBTQA+ people that they are ‘broken’, ‘unacceptable’ to God, and need spiritual or psychological healing.

LGBTQA+ people may initiate or seek out conversion practices in an attempt to ‘heal’ themselves, affirm their spiritual and religious identity, and sustain their connection and sense of belonging to faith, community, culture, and family.

They may also be coerced into undergoing conversion practices. Psychological research has demonstrated that LGBTQA+ change and suppression efforts do not reorient a person’s sexuality or gender identity and an increasing body of literature has documented the negative impacts that these pressures and attempts have on LGBTQA+ people’s lives.

Little formal research evidence exists regarding what supports are needed to enhance the recovery of people who have been harmed by LGBTQA+ change and suppression practices.

This study investigated survivors’ experiences of recovery through interviews with survivors and mental health practitioners. It is the first such study internationally to include research with mental health practitioners and has a significantly more diverse cohort of survivor participants than previous studies. The report provides a detailed account of survivors’ support needs.

Its findings are intended to inform health practitioners and others working to meet the support needs of LGBTQA+ people who are recovering from the harms associated with LGBTQA+ change and suppression practices.

Sexual Orientation Change Efforts (SOCE) Survivor Statement | 2018 November

This statement is written by survivors of the ex-gay/conversion therapy movement and their allies and endorsed by advocates, organisations, and community groups that support, or are led by, LGBTIQ+ people of faith.

Preventing Harm, Promoting Justice – Responding to LGBT conversion therapy in Australia | 2018 October

Preventing Harm, Promoting Justice: Responding to LGBT conversion therapy in Australiareveals the voices and lived experiences of 15 LGBT people who have struggled to reconcile their sexuality and transgender identities with the beliefs and practices of their religious community.

The report, a joint initiative of La Trobe University, the Human Rights Law Centre and Gay & Lesbian Health Victoria, provides a comprehensive history of the conversion movement in Australia, together with legal analysis and recommendations for reform.

Religious Anti-Gay Prejudice as a Predictor of Mental Health, Abuse, and Substance Use | 2017

Sowe BJ, Taylor AJ, Brown J.

2017;87(6):690-703. doi: 10.1037/ort0000297. Epub 2017 Oct 16.


“Anti-gay, or homonegative, prejudice is generally considered harmful to the wellbeing of sexual minority individuals.

However, the origins or nature of such prejudice may vary. Despite a sizable body of literature suggesting homonegative prejudice is frequently religious-based, the psychological impact of exposure to religious anti-gay prejudice remains largely undetermined.

Addressing this research gap, the authors examined whether opposition to same-sex sexuality on religious grounds predicted detrimental outcomes among same- and both-sex attracted individuals, as well as their heterosexual counterparts.

A nationwide U.S. sample of 1600 individuals recruited using contemporary online crowd-sourcing techniques designed to limit selection bias-completed a novel inventory assessing interpersonal exposure to religious (as well as nonreligious) homonegative disapproval.

Outcome variables assessed included a number of clinically relevant measures spanning general mental health, social support, suicidality, abuse, and substance use.

Analyses revealed that greater exposure to religious anti-gay prejudice predicted higher levels of anxiety, stress, and shame; more instances of physical and verbal abuse; and more problematic alcohol use.

Furthermore, while sexual minority individuals tended to fare more poorly than their heterosexual counterparts on almost every outcome measure assessed, homonegative prejudice predicted poorer outcomes among all respondents regardless of their sexual orientation or religious identification.

Hence, results are among the first to demonstrate that anti-gay religious exposure is associated with substantial threats to well-being, and that such effects may be observed beyond religious sexual minorities.

Overall, findings imply that homonegative religious social conditions may be of broader health and mental health concern than is conventionally recognized.”*

*SOURCE: National Library of Medicine (USA)  © 2017 APA, all rights reserved.

A Silence Like Thunder: Pastoral and Theological Responses of Australian Pentecostal-Charismatic Churches to LGBTQ Individuals | 2017

Jennings, M. (2017) A Silence Like Thunder: Pastoral and Theological Responses of Australian Pentecostal-Charismatic Churches to LGBTQ Individuals. In: Wilkinson, M. and Althouse, P., (eds.) Annual Review of the Sociology of Religion. Brill, pp. 215-238.


I used to always feel as though the church was always talking about the “invisible children” around the world, when all the while there was a whole community of invisible children sitting amongst the congregation.

Nothing was ever relevant to us-relationships seminars, Valentine’s Day, women’s conferences, men’s conferences, the entire community was set up to be heterocentric, so when you come out you have no choice but to leave because there really is no self-respect in staying inside a community that holds up a banner saying “welcome home” while simultaneously rejecting your very presence by silence.

The silence was like thunder to me. (JY, personal communication with the author)

Ex-gay/reparative/conversion practices

Forty-five peer-reviewed studies published over the last 30 years addressed the question of whether conversion therapy (CT) can alter sexual orientation without causing harm.

Thirteen of those studies included primary research. Of those, 12 concluded that CT is ineffective and/or harmful, finding links to depression, suicidality, anxiety, social isolation and decreased capacity for intimacy.

Thirty-two studies do not make an empirical determination about whether CT can alter sexual orientation but may offer useful observations to help guide practitioners who treat LGB patients.

Only one study concluded that sexual orientation change efforts could succeed—although only in a minority of its participants, and the study has several limitations: its entire sample self-identified as religious and it is based on self-reports, which can be biased and unreliable.

The complete collection of these studies can be found HERE

Sexual orientation change efforts within religious contexts | 2015

Sensoria – A Journal of Mind, Brain, and Culture: Volume 11, no 1 | 2015


Societies where ignorance and misinformation about sexuality and gender identity abounds have been breeding grounds for much harm to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals and to the community as a whole.

Within the context of the Christian faith, the greatest harm has occurred to those LGBT individuals who have submitted themselves to ex-gay / reparative / conversion ‘therapies’ (i.e., SOCE; Sexual Orientation Change Efforts) and organisations.

The practice of seeking to turn homosexual to heterosexual has predominately existed within Christianity, but not exclusively. Programs have operated and still exist in association with Jewish, and more recently Islamic religious communities.

This article is a personal account from a former evangelist that details the ‘life cycle’ of SOCEs in Australia and the author’s personal experience with an ex-gay program.

Keywords: SOCE; ex-gay; reparative therapy; conversion therapy; sexual orientation change; sexual orientation change efforts.

Sex and the Sinner: Comparing Religious and Nonreligious Same-Sex Attracted Adults on Internalized Homonegativity and Distress 2014

Babucarr J. Sowe, Jac Brown, and Alan J. Taylor Macquarie University

The experience of prejudice can be psychologically damaging for LGB (Lesbian, Gay & Bisexual) persons, contributing to high rates of suicide, substance abuse, and mental health problems in LGB populations (Meyer, 2003).

Religion has been connected with prejudice for a long time (Allport & Ross, 1967), with homonegative prejudice apparent in much of mainstream Christianity.

Accordingly, LGB Christians may come to view their religion and sexuality as mutually incompatible, experiencing a fragmenting inner conflict that demands the rejection of their sexuality, or else risk rejection from ‘God’, Church, and family (Heermann, Wiggins, & Rutter, 2007).

This study explores whether LGB Christians were more psychologically distressed over their sexuality than non-religious LGB persons in general, and what particular religious and personal factors were implicated in whether an LGB Christian experienced a religion-sexuality conflict or not.

Exiting Exodus: Narratives of Gay Christians – Rachel Goff | 2012


This thesis is a qualitative sociological study of Christianity and sexuality within contemporary Australia that seeks to examine the identity construction of a (post-Exodus) gay Christian.

Drawing on interviews with six gay Christians who participated in an Exodus-style gay healing program, along with a comparison to five gay Christians who did not, this thesis explores the motivations for involvement in gay healing and reasons for the failure of religiously-mediated change of same-sex attraction.

It is argued that the exclusive nature of the post-Exodus gay Christians’ plausibility structure is the reason for involvement in gay healing, and the failure of reparative therapy to be based on Durkheim’s (1897) concept of anomie.

In exploring the reconstruction process of a religious worldview, it is argued that the (post-Exodus) gay Christian might begin to reclaim a personalised experience of Christianity and spirituality through the application of a gay theology.

Writing Themselves In 3 (WTi3) | 2010

Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society, La Trobe University 2010. Lynne Hillier. Tiffany Jones, Marisa Monagle, Naomi Overton, Luke Gahan, Jennifer Blackman, Anne Mitchell

The third national study on the sexual health and well-being of same-sex attracted and gender-questioning young people. Previous WTi studies mentioned the impact of religion on LGBT youth but WTi3 made a distinction between faith and non-faith LGBT youth.

The key findings of those who mentioned religion were:

  • More likely to feel bad about their same-sex attraction.
  • More likely to have experienced social exclusion or had to tolerate homophobic language from
  • friends.
  • More likely to report homophobic abuse in the home.
  • More likely to report feeling unsafe at home.
  • More likely to not be supported by their mother, father, brother, teacher, or student welfare
  • coordinator/counselor, when disclosing their SSA.
  • More likely to report thoughts of self-harm and suicide or to carry out self-harm.

A Pastoral Response to the Homosexuality in the Church – Rev Matt Glover | 2010


“Every book I have read about homosexuality and Christianity starts off with a statement about how the debate is tearing the church apart.

After debating the issue for years, we are no closer to a resolution and it seems that homosexuality is becoming more divisive in the worldwide church.

Positions have polarized with the church community and the LGBT community in a face-off over who claims the correct Biblical interpretation and theology.

But even within the church, denominations and congregations are being divided to the point of schism, and the unity of the Body of Christ is in disarray.

In the middle of the conflict are men and women, young people and old, who are genuinely wrestling with big questions about their sexuality and spirituality.

Young people struggling with their sexual identity are scared to raise their questions in the church environment for fear of isolation and ridicule.

These same young people summon up enough courage to “come out” to their parents, who in turn wonder what they have done wrong, hiding their struggles and questions from wider family and community.

Slowly gay and lesbian people drift from the church, and the cycle of loneliness continues.”

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