The not too distant past saw homosexual men – that was indeed the description then – prosecuted for the manner in which they had sex with other consenting adults. An outrage. That English law never made quite the same point about lesbian sex is, anecdotally, because Queen Victoria refused to believe such a thing could happen. Nice anecdote but.
We’ve now moved on and the world is a better place for it. Except, well, it’s possible to have more than the tiniest concern about the latest manifestation of this modern liberality. For we’ve now the government girding its loins to make gay conversion therapy illegal. The system used to be that BadThink about sex was illegal, the future system is going to be that BadThink about sex is illegal. It’s a pity that we don’t seem to have had – or if we have it’s been a vanishing moment – of actual liberality about sex inbetween.
The argument in favour of whatever sort of sex consenting adults wish to get up to is chacun a son gout. The argument in favour of consenting adults offering or accepting gay conversion therapy is chacun a son gout. The argument in favour of legality – in fact, the argument in favour of government having entirely bugger all to do with either – is exactly the same in each case. As it is with a predeliction for fly fishing or grimebassthrashmetal if I’ve heard that right just now on the pop radio station.
So-called ‘gay conversion’ therapies are to be banned, the Government has announced.
Ministers have pledged to bring in new laws to prevent charlatans from advertising ‘abhorrent’ treatments that offer to ‘cure’ people of their homosexuality.
Thousands of gay people have been offered the therapy, which claims to be able to make them heterosexual, a survey for the Government found.
It’s simply no business of the government to decide or insist upon what people may say to each other. One obvious problem here is that we need a legal definition of what it is that is being banned. “Have you tried hetero to see if you like it?” could be described as a conversion attempt in a world where not having a cake baked for you is discrimination.
Writing exclusively for The Independent, Penny Mordaunt, the women and equalities minister, said that conversion therapy – sometimes referred to as “gay cure” – is “abuse of the worst kind and must be stamped out”.
Or to move from what will obviously be tried on to something a little more subtle. Human sexuality upsets absolutely everyone at some point. The most resolutely cis-hetero whitebread among us included. Some to many go to varied kinds of therapy to aid in dealing with this. Such a ban could – would for those with a penchant for slippery slope arguments – lead to “Would you like to act upon your same sex desires?” being a legal question to ask and “Would you like to stop acting on your same sex desires?” not being so. A legally dodgy and morally ludicrous state of affairs.
Other results show that much more than a culture change is needed: two per cent of those who responded had been through “conversion therapy”, and a further five per cent had been offered it. Conversion therapy can range from pseudo-psychological treatments to in the most extreme cases, surgical interventions and “corrective” rape. This is abuse of the worst kind and must be stamped out.
Rape, whether corrective or not, is already illegal and highly so. “Pseudo-psychological” isn’t something we can ban by law. Not with any pretence at remaining a free country that is.
No, you don’t have to agree with the following but you do need to understand it. The Catholic Church teaches that sexual acts – any sexual acts – not between a man and a woman (note the “a” there) in holy matrimony, open to the possibility of conception, are sinful. Sins lead to your immortal soul being condemned to Hell for all eternity.
Yes, sure, there’s an awful lot of blind eye and real life is more difficult going on there. The Church also doesn’t say that being gay is sinful. But it does say that any sexual acts outside those confines are.
Again, you don’t need to believe this – I don’t either – but you do have to understand it. For if a bloke goes to his parish priest for advice about sex – no, don’t laugh, it does happen – and is told that making love to his, male, soulmate is going to condemn him to torment to the end of the universe, is this “pseudo-psychological” pressure? Is this now that BadThink forbidden by law? And if it isn’t then what about the more vociferous perhaps minister of an independent Protestant church making such an argument more publicly? For it most certainly is psychological pressure, isn’t it?
This year Labour MP Ben Bradshaw told the House of Commons that a ban on such therapy is “long overdue”. A government LGBT action plan due this week is expected to include one. Another Labour MP, Sarah Champion, welcomed the news, telling Buzzfeed: “The concept behind conversion therapy, that a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity is something that needs to be cured, is highly offensive and incredibly damaging to those exposed to it.” A ban, in short, would mark a step forward in the eyes of many LGBT campaigners.
Highly offensive and damaging? It might well be but those basic points of freedom and liberty do mean that we all get to be so to each other. At least in our speech we do, subject only to incitement to immediate violence and libel/slander restrictions. Because that’s what freedom and liberty mean. Pride marches get to inflict the dredges of Jimmy Sommerville’s career upon us, bigots get to rail against their doing so.
We seem to have zipped from one intolerance to another, only the name of the love that must not speak changing, without that intervening stopover in the only truly liberal position. As long as you’re not actively harming a third party and confining your activities to similarly consenting adults then get on with it and good luck. This applies to the views of Ian Paisley MP (decd) just as much to those of Ben Bradshaw MP.
Or, as is happening in this modern world, apparently not.