Conversion Therapy

I wouldn’t dare post this on Twitter or Mastodon as I would get a lot of hate and abuse for posting an alternative view. Which to me alone suggests there is something wrong about this debate.

Conversion therapy is the pseudoscientific practice of attempting to change an individual’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression to align with heterosexual and cisgender norms. Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) is a psychological therapy that is also being used on people diagnosed with Autism and many call this conversion therapy as it attempts to reduce autistic traits.

I don’t believe anyone should be doing any form of conversion therapy against someones will. They shouldn’t be coerced, blackmailed, forced, misled or manipulated to do it. Conversion therapy isn’t proven to be effective. People can be left the way they are and be fine if society accepts them.

After reading much philosophy and more recently theology I see much of this in a different light. I personally wouldn’t sign up for conversion therapy for my sexuality or autism. However, I think with the proper safeguards in relation to consent, I should have the right to seek it, if I choose to knowing the risks. To me that is a human right in itself.

I also see conversion therapy as a rather blunt term. All therapy in the end is a form of conversion. No therapy is guaranteed to be effective. We have medicalised therapy when for the most part it is a “talking shop” between two or more people. Whether you are converting them from a depressed individual to a less depressed one, anxious person to less anxious person or a person with psychosis to a state with less psychosis. Therapy is just two or more people participating in an exchange.

On a larger scale many people are forced to be capitalists. They are forced to work otherwise they face no food or housing. Many people get depressed and anxious and even develop psychosis because they aren’t good at capitalism. Some fair better not because they are good at capitalism but inherited money and were groomed by family to safe careers. We consider this a socially acceptable form of conversion.

I myself have been forced in a psychiatric ward to take medication against my will. This is considered socially acceptable. I have developed all kinds of side effects. One of them principally is lack of motivation but society would rather just say I’m lazy. I still take medication because I see is as a social contract. Even though I perceive it as unfair. Peoples attitudes changed towards me if I tell them of my mental illness diagnosis or my autism diagnosis. Yet I am one human being.

What I’ve learnt in life is there is no one size fits all policy. We all come in different shapes and sizes. So we need different clothes. Some people believe theologically gay sex is a sin and want to try abstinence. Some autistic people might want to try something different to manage themselves. Each to their own in my view. As long as they are informed and understand the risks.

This discussion reminds me of a lecture by the Philosopher Isaiah Berlin in the 1950’s. He distinguished between two concepts of Liberty. Negative Liberty is the absence of obstacles, barriers or constraints. One has Negative Liberty to the extent that actions are available to one in this negative sense. An example of Negative Liberty is the right to walk down a road or have conversion therapy without prosecution at ones choice. Positive liberty is the possibility of acting — or the fact of acting — in such a way as to take control of one’s life and realise one’s fundamental purposes. An example of positive liberty is walking down a road with the opposite’s sex clothing or becoming celibate by ones own choice.

Overall I feel the world is so focused on Negative Liberty so much we totally ignore the good of Positive Liberty. Positive Liberty allows for self-determination and self-actualisation. In my case, as an Autistic person, it’s a struggle to actualise as the social systems aren’t setup for people like me. Help being me, however I want to be, is true Liberty.