This article was originally published in September 2019 and has been updated to include recent developments.
Queensland has become the first Australian state to outlaw gay conversion therapy.
The state's parliament passed a bill on Thursday that will see doctors, counsellors and psychologists who attempt to change or suppress a person's sexual orientation or gender identity face up to 12 months' imprisonment. That penalty rises to 18 months if the victim is a minor.
Addressing parliament, Queensland Health Minister Steven Miles described conversion therapy as a "highly destructive and unethical" practice.
"Being LGBTIQ is not an affliction or disease that requires medical treatment," he said.
"No treatment or practice can change a person's sexual attraction or experience of gender."
Sadly, there are plenty in Australia who believe otherwise. Chris Csabs was once among them.
"I became so frightened that anything could feed this demon inside me."
Chris thought gay conversion therapy would be his saving grace.
He’d realised he was same-sex attracted at the age of 13, but it was another three years before he opened up to his pastor. By then, the self-loathing was already deeply ingrained courtesy of his church and his desire to be ‘healed’ was overpowering.
When Chris finished high school, he signed up to the now-defunct Living Waters program in Canberra, willingly, desperately.
“That’s one of the misconceptions people have about this, that it’s people being forced into these ‘pray the gay away’ camps,” he told Mamamia's daily podcast The Quicky. “But particularly in Australia, it’s generally not like that. It’s people who have basically been taught—well brainwashed—into thinking that they are broken and need healing or fixing somehow.”
To hear about Chris’ time inside the program, listen to The Quicky.
The awful irony of that ideology was painfully clear to Chris when he finished the course six months later. After working his way through the Living Waters manual, the sermons and the confessions, and after having his feelings of being less-than confirmed, he emerged unchanged. And as a result, feeling even more broken than before.
He spent the next several years trying “anything and everything” to “fix” himself. Prayer. Exorcisms. Celibacy.
“I didn’t even look at guys. I would avoid men even when I was going to church. Guys would come up and say, ‘Hi. How’s it going?’ I would avoid them and I’d say, ‘Oh, sorry, I’ve got to go. I’ve got to the toilet,’ or something. Just in case, by even talking to someone, it would awaken something in me that was not of God,” he said.