Earlier this month, the Victorian Parliament passed a sweeping legislative condemnation of gay and gender ‘change and suppression practices’.
The legislation is not only the most robust in Australia (the ACT and Queensland have partial bans in place; the rest have none), it's world-leading. And rightly so, given the gruelling process that survivors and allies experienced during the legislative drafting. Through harrowing consultations, in-depth interviews, and political advocacy, we recounted moments of deep harm, family violence, and discrimination in our most valued communities.
I know this reality in a deeply personal way. Sitting down with the Victorian Health Complaints Commissioner over two years ago, I recounted my experiences of the conversion movement while entrenched within a small evangelical cult in Melton, Victoria.
"My vulnerability to the evangelical cult’s deadly conversion ideology was sharp and heavy. "
My exposure to these abhorrent practices occurred within a brief two-year span, compared to other survivors who endured a decade or more in formal ‘conversion therapy’ settings. Yet, my vulnerability to the evangelical cult’s deadly conversion ideology was sharp and heavy.
My family life was in shambles, torn apart by persistent drug and alcohol issues, severe mental health complications, and a psychologically violent family member who had threatened repeatedly to harm or murder people — including me — for being gay, trans or queer.
Going along to church services enthusiastically as a new convert to Christianity, my personal vulnerability to shame and violence made me hungry for change, not only socially but personally. I wanted to change.
The church community introduced me to a loving God who wanted to, in their words, ‘save, heal, and deliver’ all people of ‘sin and sickness’. This included not only immoral sexual behaviour but sexual and gender identities that existed outside the definition of cisgender heterosexuality. This proclamation, which they called the ‘gospel of Jesus Christ’, was followed by bizarre and esoteric extrapolations of the Bible.
They sounded more like the New-Age ‘positive thinking’ peddlers who declared through the television at 2:30 am that I could generate millions of dollars if only I believed it enough. The conversion ideology in this setting wasn’t too different, albeit wrapped in scripture citations and pseudo-psychological claims that would make even Carl Jung blush. There, it was declared that if you ‘believed it, you would receive it’ — that included heterosexuality and cisgender identity. If you didn’t believe it, then you were being unfaithful, insincere, or perhaps tangled up in some kind of ‘spiritual’ war with an unknown evil presence.