The event entitled ‘Interrogating the Pejorative – Considering Therapeutic Approaches and Contexts for those Conflicted in Sexual Identity’ was led by the ex-Gay life coach, David Pickup. Pickup claims that homosexual behaviour can be reverted through various therapies, all of which relies on homophobia to suggest a person can be normalised to a heterosexual lifestyle through therapeutic treatment. The promotional literature suggests, “You don’t have to be gay”.
About 15 people went inside to attend the conference, whilst the overwhelming majority of people were there to show their opposition to this dangerous practice. The protest organised by the Rainbow project included members of the LGBT community and friends, alongside members of the trade union movement and others compelled to show their opposition to such practices.
Two young women attending the protest said,
“This whole thing is ludicrous, there’s no sense behind it, it’s lying to people about themselves and they’re making money out of it. It’s like 20 quid a time, no I’m not having it” (Ciara).
“I came here just to protest, Ciara told me about it and I just thought it was really ridiculous that the people are claiming that you can cure what I see as love. You can’t cure who you fall in love with. I just came down here to see if anyone is attending this and just go and say ‘You don’t have to think you are ill’”. (Rebecca)
A significant message was sent to the organisers of the conference that they would not go unchallenged – especially when they invite homophobic speakers to Belfast. These events amount to big business for the Christian Right, David Pickup has links with ‘Exodus International’, a US organisation that he practices his hyper-masculinised life coach business from.
The LGBT community feels strengthened in recent times with strong numbers turning out for annual Pride events. It is estimated that Belfast Pride is the largest on the island and around 10,000 people are expected to take part in events towards the end of July.
At the reparative therapy protest we saw a commitment to tackle homophobia head on. The hatred spouted here and by the likes of Iris Robinson in recent years has faced significant opposition from both the LGBT community and broader society in Northern Ireland. However, the gains made in equality legislation over recent decades do not guarantee future safety.
Homophobic insults and attacks are still commonplace and a strong opposition needs to be built to tackle homophobia on the streets, in the workplaces and in our schools. A politicised LGBT community getting active in the trade union movement is needed to tackle this hatred.
Thanks to Caroline Irwin for Photo