Journalist and gay-rights activist Patrick Strudwick went undercover (with his tape recorder under cover, too) to Lesley Pilkington’s office to see what tactics she would use to change him into a heterosexual man. The result of their meeting might spell the end of Pilkington’s career.
Mrs Pilkington, a devout Christian who says she ‘understands the issues’ because her son is gay, has treated around ten patients using the controversial Sexual Orientation Change Efforts programme over the past decade.
In tapes of her sessions with Mr Strudwick he asks her if she views homosexuality as ‘a mental illness, an addiction or an anti-religious phenomenon’.
She replies: ‘It is all of that.’
He complained to the BACP and it launched disciplinary proceedings against her, accusing her of ‘praying to God to heal him [Mr Strudwick] of his homosexuality’ and having an ‘agenda that homosexuality is wrong’.
Mrs Pilkington, who is fighting the case, accuses him of entrapment. Her defence is funded by the Christian Legal Centre.
She said she wanted to help others who were in a ‘similar place’ to her 29-year-old son who, she insisted, was ‘heterosexual. He just has a homosexual problem’.
‘I am not in this because I am judging people,’ she said. ‘I am in it because I understand what the issues are.
Strudwick runs the Stop Conversion Therapy Taskforce and believes Pilkington and her ilk create a bigger problem than they think they solve.
‘Every major mental health organisation in Britain and America is opposed to attempts to change someone’s sexuality… because there is good evidence not only that it doesn’t work but that it is harmful.
All major national mental health organizations
have officially expressed concerns about therapies
promoted to modify sexual orientation. To
date, there has been no scientifically adequate
research to show that therapy aimed at changing
sexual orientation (sometimes called reparative
or conversion therapy) is safe or effective.
Furthermore, it seems likely that the promotion
of change therapies reinforces stereotypes and
contributes to a negative climate for lesbian, gay,
and bisexual persons. This appears to be especially
likely for lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals who
grow up in more conservative religious settings.
So at least they’re aware of how tenuous a prospect it is. The British Medical Association condemns the practice so I suspect Pilkington’s lawyers are not going to make much headway in terms of winning this one, unless they can prove Strudwick’s method for getting his information was illegal or something.
To finish, check out the article Strudwick wrote last February about his experiences with other gay-to-straight conversion therapists.
The purpose of this investigation was to find out how conversion therapists operate. What I didn’t expect was that I would learn how their patients feel: confused and damaged.
I began to constantly analyse why I found particular men attractive. Does that man represent something that’s lacking in me? Do I want him because he looks strong which must mean I feel weak? Did something happen in my childhood? The therapists planted doubt and worry where there was none.
My experiences, I learn, are typical. I speak to Daniel Gonzalez, one of Nicolosi’s former clients. “Conversion therapy is a very complicated form of repression,” he says. “It’s a way of convincing yourself that your same sex attractions have some alternate meaning. It continued to haunt me for years.”
I also speak to Peterson Toscano, who spent 17 years in Britain and the US trying every different reorientation treatment available. He says simply: “It’s psychological torture.”