TRUE OPINION: A fortnight ago, a prominent member of the “ex-gay movement” in America announced he had left his wife of 34 years and was now in a relationship with a man because he could no longer deny his “non-negotiable” needs. As a ‘gay conversion therapist’ it is likely though that David Matheson has heaped untold damage to countless of other gay men prior to his own ‘coming out’, writes Tim Kent.
So-called ‘gay conversion therapy’ has been widely condemned for its role in inflicting guilt, shame, a punishment supported almost exclusively by Christian fundamentalists.
What underpins this so-called therapy is an attempt to apply a disease, mental health disorder, deviance model for homosexuality, as if it was some kind of tangible nefarious affliction that had to be treated aggressively in order for the individual to function and socially progress in a moral society. Which in the case I’ll discuss below, was a moral society exclusively shaped by David Matheson, his Christian faith and his Mormon Church.
There is no evidence whatsoever to suggest any kind of ‘gay conversion therapy’ actually works in the first place. But its success or failure all too often is solely measured in the eyes of faith-based ideology. It is for all intents and purposes a practice used by self-hating, religious, bigoted shylocks.
But apparently not, according to David Matheson – the Utah-based gay conversion therapist who had been administering the controversial and demeaning treatment for a number of years to possibly hundreds or more of his subjects.
Those treatments in all likelihood probably propelled his ‘patients’ into a deeper level of shame, self-loathing and likely suicidal ideation. In addition, Matheson and his conversion therapy would have pushed back any notion or intention on the part of his subjects to feel safe about disclosing their own sexuality.
But what Matheson did in ‘coming out’, he attempted to conceal the trail of broken victims in his wake. But most astonishingly Matheson in announcing he is gay also stated he will not only remain with his Church that supports this abhorrent therapy but will continue in some capacity to be involved in gay conversion therapy.
David Matheson’s coming out is couched in breathtaking hypocrisy and distraction. It carries with it a seemingly emotional vacuity on his part as to the damage he may have caused. All of which took a distinct back seat to his announcement regarding his sexuality. In doing so he proportioned much of the blame to his strict Mormon upbringing. So David what has changed since your childhood experience of the Book Of Mormon and the ‘real time’ Book Of Mormon?
This hypocrite delivered a so-called therapy to people that are already psychologically and emotionally vulnerable, struggling with fear, trepidation and shame. He essentially applied what amounts to “punishment” therapy to people who shared the same sex orientations as he does.
David Matheson came out at his convenience; making it about himself but perhaps hoping it would reset the damage he had inflicted upon so many.
Any doubt as to the harm that ideological bigotry has had on the LGBTIQ community even if it is socio-political have been confirmed with the recent results of a study into the impact that the Same-Sex Marriage Law Postal survey had on the community. Conclusions from this study indicated the campaign impacted negatively on the mental health of the LGBTIQ community.
The evidence is abundantly clear that the community remain under duress and punishment for who they are and the lives they wish to lead.
The concluding comments from this study are as follows:
“legislative processes related to the rights of stigmatised, minority populations have the potential to adversely affect their mental health. The findings also highlight the role of personal and public support as protective factors against minority stress. Within the limits of cross‐sectional study design, these findings have implications for public policy and legislative decision‐making, treating clinicians of LGB clients, and LGB rights and mental health organisations”.
Senator Penny Wong told Parliament at the time how thesame-sex-marriage debate was exposing families to hatred. And of course, the good old Christian right is there again. She stated as follows.
“Have a read of some of the things which are said about us and our families, and then come back here and tell us this is a unifying moment,” she said.
“The Australian Christian Lobby described our children as the ‘Stolen Generation’.
“We love our children, and I object, as do all those same-sex couples who have kids, to be told our children are a stolen generation.”
I have long held concerns over some people’s obsessive-almost-hysterical contempt for the gay community who have been marginalised, vilified and even verbally and physically assaulted for years. The Christian right are the main protagonists.
Even the Australian Christian Lobby has thrown their support behind gay conversion therapy. Sadly, it’s not uncommon for those concealing aspects of their own struggles with sexuality to join in the anti-gay chorus. And in David Matheson we have a perfect example: a gay man hiding as a religious fundamentalist and advocating for and delivering this appalling punishment disguised as therapy.
The prolonged and cruelly debated same-sex marriage campaign allowed the Christian right free licence to practice bigotry in the name of “religious freedoms” – a form of public conversion therapy if you will.
The bigots seemed obsessed with influencing the community into seeing the world of same-sex unions as a shameful, sinful error, a spiritual and social character flaw and at the same time hoping to prevent the psychological and emotional harm that would come to any of the children they plan to raise within a same-sex union.
Just like Anglican Archbishop Glenn Davies who by donating $1 million to the “No” campaign did so according to him as an investment in Australia’s future. He, like others, hid behind their religion to advance their bigotry whilst trampling all over the emotional and psychological state of the LGBTIQ community in the process.
Politicians and those from the Christian right argue the same old chestnut of the traditional relationship, and that the marital union between a heterosexual male and female is the only one that is stable and balanced enough in which to raise healthy children in. Then we see the very same politicians fall off their moral perches with a resounding thud over their marital infidelities all of which followed very public statements against LGBTIQ marital unions and how morally and socially wrong for society were.
Fred – ‘I have to research hours of pornography‘ – Nile’s commentary on the issue was predictable as it was condemning and then Eric Abetz, Craig Kelly, and the former Deputy PM, Barnaby Joyce, joined the chorus. The now the disgraced likes of Joyce’s fellow Nationals travellers, Andrew Broad and David Littleproud, also applied their own moral commentary singing the praises of the traditional marital union. Joyce, Broad and Littleproud all soon fell like ducks in a shooting gallery if that shooting gallery was a pit of their own hypocrisy.
The hypocrisies on display and indifference to the feelings of others are not dissimilar from our friend David Matherson; this gay conversion therapist now admitted gay man. Did he consider the mental health status of those he administered this loathsome therapy too? The possibility of perhaps triggering suicide in those that feelings of shame and isolation existed prior to the treatment and that the treatment reinforced that their choice of sexuality was a disease that required intervention, no he did not.
David Matheson said he was not renouncing his religious faith, or the entirety of his work as a gay conversion therapist, despite dating men. But he did criticise the “shame-based, homophobic-based system” of his upbringing in the Mormon church. Nevertheless, Matheson intends to be loyal to his Church and this cruel punishment masquerading as “therapy”.
Chaim Levin, the successful plaintiff that led to the shutting down of (JONAH) “Jews Offering New Alternatives to Homosexuality” was a little more brutal about things, stating he hoped Matheson would do whatever he can to rectify the harm that he has inflicted on people in the LGBTIQ community. While pleased with the path that Matheson has found to move forward in his life, Levin said: “I cannot help but think of the hundreds if not thousands of people who are still stuck in the closet, a closet that in part was created by Matheson himself”.
The Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law estimates as many as 700,000 LGBTIQ adults in the US have undergone some kind of “therapy” in an effort to change their sexuality.
The historical attitudes toward the gay community at times reads like a horror story of exclusion,persecution, shaming, loathing, verbal, physical assaults and sometimes sadly even murders. All of which carry the theme of punishment for who they are as a perceived and only solution for their dilemma. Disturbingly some of most aggressive opposition comes from Christian fundamentalists.
David Matheson knew what was at stake but continued anyhow but I guess when allegedly doing God’s work it matters little. Yet Matheson should by rights be judged by his own Church and it remains to be seen whether his loyalty to his faith will be repaid in kind with a request that he undergo gay conversion therapy. I doubt it though, the fundamentalists have a PhD in the sliding scale application of hypocritical morality, particularly in regard to their own. We have seen that via the“conspiracy of concealment” to protection practices of senior Catholic clergy in regards to child sexual abuses.
The LGBTIQ community experience a high incidence of psychological distress, with it not uncommon that depression and anxiety feature as well. Much of it can be attributed to the public perceptions and the inflicted guilt and shame applied to them for their sexuality. Sadly, such punishment remains alive and well for them and you will always find the religious right front and centre of that punishment and poised to cast the first stone .
Not unlike David Matheson the spectre of hypocrisy I suspect will raise its ugly head once more with more politicians and lobbyists publicly airing anti-gay sentiments succumbing to revelations of behaviours that are in essence hypocritical. It simply all too often it comes with the territory.
For David Matheson – I have but one message. You inflicted harm on these people and in the course of coming out you laid blame on your religious upbringing. However you are not relinquishing your connection with the Church that supports this hideous punishment disguised as therapy nor have you distanced yourself from the therapy. So it’s business as usual, except you, also wish to move forward in life as a gay man.
So I ask you, David Matheson, what was your point again?