Harm and serious offence

As I noted two weeks ago:

You can’t “cure” someone of having a sexual orientation.

Individuals and groups who claim they can cure a person of being gay are either bigots or frauds or, quite possibly, both.

But from Monday 16th April, Anglican Mainstream and the Core Issues Trust will be running this ad on the side of 26 London buses:

Ex-Gay Advert - misleading & harmful

Anglican Mainstream is part of the coalition of anti-gay groups campaigning against lifting the ban on marriage for same-sex couples. Core Issues Trust is one of the groups that sponsored the Lepers Among Us conference in Belfast and London 2009.

Under the CAP code, this advert is at risk of causing harm and serious offence. It is also misleading advertising.

ASA - Just one Complaint

The advert may cause harm because it directly advertises the idea that if you’re gay, your sexual orientation can be changed, and implicitly advertises that this would be a good thing – that if you’re gay, there is something wrong with your sexual orientation.

Good practice psychiatry has agreed from Freud onwards that there is no way to change a person’s sexual orientation. Bad-practice psychiatrists have tried to do it with methods ranging from prayer to electroshock, but there is no scientific evidence that any of this works. So in advertising that it is possible to become “ex-gay”, this advert is promoting a misleading claim. In advertising implicitly that if you are gay your sexual orientation should be changed, this advert is promoting a harmful claim.

The Royal College of Psychiatrists says that therapies purporting to change sexual orientation are potentially damaging and create a setting in which prejudice and discrimination flourish:

The Royal College of Psychiatrists holds the view that lesbian, gay and bisexual people are and should be regarded as valued members of society who have exactly similar rights and responsibilities as all other citizens. This includes equal access to healthcare, the rights and responsibilities involved in a civil partnership, the rights and responsibilities involved in procreating and bringing up children, freedom to practise a religion as a lay person or religious leader, freedom from harassment or discrimination in any sphere and a right to protection from therapies that are potentially damaging, particularly those that purport to change sexual orientation.

The Royal College of Psychiatrists believes strongly in evidence-based treatment. There is no sound scientific evidence that sexual orientation can be changed. Furthermore, so-called treatments of homosexuality create a setting in which prejudice and discrimination flourish.

Ian McKellan: I'm Gandalf and Magneto. Get over it!
The advert is of course a re-work of the iconic Stonewall poster, just like the “I’m Gandalf and Magneto” t-shirt that Ian McKellan didn’t wear.

One of the members of the Core Issues Board of Reference is Doctor Paul Miller, recently sanctioned by the General Medical Council. His “day-to-day work” must be supervised over 18 months by a registered doctor of consultant grade until July 2013, and he can’t work outside of the UK without informing the GMC.

Therapy aimed at changing sexual orientation has been repudiated by virtually every reputable psychiatric organisation in the UK, Ireland and across the world. Recently (January 2012) the President of Exodus International, the world’s largest so-called ‘ex-gay’ organisation, and hitherto a staunch defender of attempts to change sexual orientation, stated that “99.9 percent” of those undergoing such therapy “have not experienced a change in their orientation”.

In June 2008, a gay man in his 20s was attacked by a group of younger men in what the police described as a homophobic assault:

Stephen Scott, 27, was walking home near Ballyduff Brae in Newtownabbey on Wednesday night when he was attacked.

Three youths, thought to be in their late teens, knocked him to the ground and continued kicking and punching him as they shouted insults.

Mr Scott is being treated in hospital for a head injury, a leg injury and broken ribs. “As far as I’m concerned they’re scum,” he said. “It’s enough to take a life – there were three of them on me and I was left for dead.”

Iris Robinson was then Stephen Scott’s MP. (A few weeks later she remarked in Parliamentary committee that homosexuality is “viler” than child sex abuse.) On BBC Radio Ulster’s Nolan programme on 6th June, she was asked about the homophobic assault on Stephen Scott.

Her response was not sympathy for her constituent’s injuries nor outrage at his attackers: she recommended the help of a “very lovely psychiatrist” who could help him get cured. (voice link)

That very lovely psychiatrist was Doctor Paul Miller. If these adverts constitute an advertisement for CORE’s supposed “health” services, they also fall under the CAP Code’s regulations against marketing communication for Medicines, medical devices, health-related products and beauty products.

The Advertising Standards Authority requires that adverts shall be “legal, decent, honest, and truthful”. You can complain about the harm done and the misleading claims made by these adverts whether or not you see one. But the more complaints ASA get from people who did see one of these and were offended, the harder they’ll look at the advert.

“It’s Okay to be Gay – Get over it!” is a campaign against homophobic bullying. Groups which believe that some sexual orientations can be “cured” are in general also fervent opponents of any campaign against kids in school being bullied because of what their sexual orientation is, or is believed to be, or even their parents’ sexual orientation.

Some people are gay. Get over it!

Ninety percent of secondary school teachers report that children in the schools they work in are suffering from homophobic bullying. (PDF) In the UK, anti-gay groups like CORE have opposed the introduction of toolkits for teachers to oppose homophobic bullying. In the US, Exodus International sponsors a pro-bullying “Day of Truth” in deliberate opposition to “Day of Silence”, a youth-run campaign established to confront the problem of homophobic bullying and harassment in schools.

That’s what this big red ex-gay advert for the side of a bus is all about: these people are paying to make it look okay to bully people for being gay. You can hear Andrew Mellor of the Anti-Bullying Network talk about how you have to tackle homophobic bullying by tackling homophobia.

Almost two thirds of homosexual pupils in Britain’s schools have suffered homophobic bullying, a survey suggests.

Almost all of those had experienced verbal bullying but 41% had been physically attacked, while 17% said they had received death threats.

The study was done by the Schools Health Education Unit for campaign group Stonewall, which said adults in schools were often behind the bullying.

But anyone can complain to the ASA.


Filed under Education, LGBT Equality

5 responses to “Harm and serious offence

  1. Boris has vetoed it. Purely for political reasons of course, but let’s take our brief moments of sanity where we can get them.

  2. Unlike homosexuality, Christianity CAN be cured, with an intense does of rationality. And unlike homosexuality, christianity really does need to be treated, because it is dangerous.

  3. Sam

    Wow, Sion,

    You surely sound like Vladimir Lenin and the Communists

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