Edit 07/02/2018: Vue cinemas have confirmed that the film is not being shown, however Core Issues Trust continue to promte conversion therapy. Karen Pollock looks at just what Core believe.
Pink News revealed yesterday that an extremist Christian group wanted to show a “pro” conversion film in one of Vue‘s flagship cinema’s in Piccadilly Circus. The group, the Core Issues Trust has a fancy website, and makes many claims about its work, but just who are they?
The first thing which strikes me looking at the Core website is that their primary focus is religious, not therapeutic, and beliefs are given primacy over any therapeutic stance. They describe their mission – a word heavy with symbolism for anyone with a Protestant background – as a religious one, not a theraputic one. Their Objects of Association and Statements of Belief are again religious, rather than therapeutic. Religious organisations are, of course, free to believe what they want, but they should not make claims to be anything else but a religious organisation by offering what they call ‘counseling’.
It is also worth pointing out that their religious opinions are interpretation, one view of the Bible, and of how their mission can be achieved. They are quite didactic in their presentation of their belief system, and focus heavily on sex and relationships, ignoring for example, Biblical injunctions to feed the poor, give away possessions, or help widows and prisoners. One might even say, if one were prone to sidewalk diagnosis, that the sex lives of others were their particular fetish.
You cannot miss the importance of sales on the front page of the Core website. Conversion therapy is a huge industry, with millions to be made, just as snake oil salesmen of the 19th century made a fortune from their supposed cure-alls. The Core site makes this very clear. There would clearly be a loss of income to them, and other organisations offering to change gender or sexuality, if they couldn’t publicise their snake oil. I have written before about how I believe education will challenge conversion therapy, however we have laws against those who make fake medical claims, for example that their “medicine” can cure cancer. Core make money from the false claim of being able to change someones sexual orientation via therapy (and all research shows it is a false claim). I see no reason why existing legislation could not be used against them, and hit them where it really hurts, in their wallet.
Quite oddly, Core make a claim to sexuality being fluid, as it is for some, but despite asserting in their Statement of Prejudice tag to not be homophobic, they use this notion as an argument for changing someone’s sexuality to the one they prefer (heterosexuality). Sexuality, and gender are undoubtedly on a spectrum, and for many people either, or both, can change throughout a lifetime, often many times. I believe it is unfortunate that campaigns for LGBTQ+ rights used the “sexuality is fixed” argument so often (and rarely mentioned gender). It would, I believe have been much better to accept that for some it is a choice, and fluid, but that there are no better or worse choices. The “born this way” argument has always struck me as reductive, and trying to appease homophobes, or to quote Pat Califia who perhaps summed this up the best;
“I’m very fond of the concept of choice as the basis for sexual preference. This point of view is unpopular in an era in which every claim for gay rights is based on pseudoscientific sulking about how we can’t help being queer; we’re just born that way. Thanks, but I don’t want to receive my civil rights as a charity fuck bequeathed on me by my genetic superiors.”
Using the concept of fluidity is an appeal to science which is common among those offering to change gender or sexual orientation. It does not however, ask the question of why they believe one gender identity or sexual orientation is better than another?
More worrying than my personal views on whether it matters if sexuality is a choice or not, is the suggestion that sexual orientation is caused by sexual abuse. This is a straight out lie, and one which harms the survivors of childhood sexual abuse, particularly LGBTQ+ survivors. Already carrying the shame of being a survivor of childhood abuse, the last thing they need is to be told that one of the foundations of their identity is in fact the result of their abuse. Many LGBTQ+ children and young people are targeted by perpetrators, who identify and exploit their vulnerability, and who often use the child’s gender or sexual orientation as a way to silence them. There are many words to describe an organisation who, for profit, prey on the survivors of childhood sexual abuse. ‘Wicked’ is probably the politest I can think of right now.
Their publicity, such as the London Bus Campaign, and various court cases and campaigns against the Memorandum on Conversion Therapy (in either form), are aimed at presenting conversion therapy as an acceptable alternative to accepting someone’s sexuality or gender. This “acceptable alternative” is based on taking someone’s shame, self loathing, disgust, and saying it is how they should feel. Very often people who are distressed by their identity have very little knowledge of what being LGBTQ+ entails. Rather than encourage fact based research, Core encourage these fears and stereotypes. It should be apparent to anyone that this is as far away from ethical therapy as one can get.
It has to be said that therapy has not always treated LGBTQ+ people of faith well. Lack of training means many therapists have ignored that coming out is not a moment of rainbows and unicorns, that internalized shame is real, and that microaggressions, prejudice and abuse can make the lives of many people difficult. There has also, at times, been an attitude that if your sexuality and faith are in conflict then the solution is simply to abandon your faith. However, the solution to some therapists being unethical or poorly trained is not to offer even more unethical therapy, with zero scientific basis.
In one point in their criticisms of therapists who are accepting of LGBTQ+ people, Core make a startling claim that non-prejudiced therapists;
May under report the potential health risks of same-sex sexual activity (particularly for men).
Here, their own prejudices are made clear. Whilst it is one thing to point out that better training of therapists to look at all areas of LGBTQ+ life, including that of people of faith, is needed, it is quite another to ignore that the very basis of affirmative therapy, included the kind of education which they are claiming does not happen. Of course, suggesting that men who have sex with men are inherently dangerous is not new. The idea of gay men as vectors of disease has a long, dishonourable history, and one which must be called out whenever it rears its ugly head.
Core are obsessed with sex. They refuse to accept identities (other than cis het) exist, instead people “indulge” in homosexual acts. I am pretty sure they do not mean watching Eurovision or going to the Black Cap here. Sex acts, of course, do not have a sexuality. However, society has a deep-rooted prejudice against certain sex acts, with anal sex between men being top of the list. Lee wrote previously of the impact of this societal reaction to men who have sex with other men. Core are using this prejudice, one which often causes deep distress to men with same sex attraction, to lure the vulnerable into their web.
This film is trying to give legitimacy to what is an increasingly fringe idea. They show links to other international organisations who, a quick Google search, prove to be also fringe. I get the sense of a limited circle of organisations bolstering each other, and claiming that they must have legitimacy because look, this group agrees with me, in a mutual pact of support. Exodus the largest “ex gay” organisation in the world, closed with its founder admitting they had never actually converted a single person from gay to straight. Core it seems are determined to cling to their delusion that not only is it possible, but that it is morally acceptable to try.
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