“The conversion movement’s widespread operations commenced in Australia between the early 1970s and mid-1980s. Faith communities – primarily Christian at this time – saw a need to provide a ‘biblical’ response to people whose sexuality and gender identity did not fit within the accepted norms of their religious culture. The prevailing belief was that same-sex attraction (or ‘homosexuality’) or any gender identity or expression that diverged from cisgender was a perversion of the 'natural order' and ultimately a choice that could be altered by prayer, personal effort, and re-forming 'healthy' habits, such as celibacy or even marrying someone of the opposite sex. In addition to this, some branches of faith traditions also saw same-sex attraction as being the result of spiritual influence. These beliefs formed the basis of early conversion ideology.”
‘Conversion (or ex-gay/ex-trans) practices’ refers to both formal therapeutic and informal practices occurring in a range of settings that target and attract LGBTQA+ people of faith in order to change or suppress their sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender and sexual expression. LGBTQA+ people of faith may have participated willingly: many formal conversion programs have claimed they only exist to help those who express an independent desire to change. However, many participants report that they were coerced by parents, pastors, and/or as a result of the ideologies implicit within their religious community. They are also often internally driven by the fear of rejection and the desire to be ‘whole’. Viewing conversion practices through the lens of ‘willing participation’ is thus extremely problematic. Equally problematic are attempts to counter the conversion movement that do not bear in mind the ideology that drives it.”
From SOGICE Survivor Statement
- According to the Preventing Harm, Promoting Justice Report, up to 10 per cent of LGBTQA+ Australians are still vulnerable to harmful conversion practices.
- In 2015, an Australian survey of more than 3000 LGBTQA+ Australians aged 14-21 found that 7 per cent had been exposed to the message that ‘gay people should become straight’ at school.
- Conversion practices aim to change or suppress the identities of LGBTQA+ people.
- An overwhelming amount of clinical evidence clearly demonstrates that LGBTQA+ conversion practices do not work and are both psychologically harmful and unethical.
- Victoria’s Change and Suppression (Conversion) Practices Prohibition Bill which denounced and prohibited change or suppression practices passed the Victorian parliament on 4th February 2021.
Anthony Venn-Brown OAM (he/him)
Founder and CEO, Ambassadors & Bridge Builders International
In a former life, Anthony Venn-Brown was a high-profile Pentecostal preacher. Anthony’s bestselling autobiography, ‘A Life of Unlearning’, revealed his 22-year struggle through gay conversion “therapy”, exorcisms and marriage trying NOT to be gay. ‘A Life of Unlearning’ opened a floodgate of responses from readers with similar experiences and since 2000, Anthony has worked extensively with people experiencing faith/sexuality conflict and survivors of LGBTQ conversion practices.
Anthony is the founder and CEO of Ambassadors & Bridge Builders International which provides resources and training in both religious and LGBTIQ circles. In 2020, Anthony received the Order of Australia Medal (OAM) for service to the LGBTIQ community.
Nathan Despott (he/him)
Manager of Inclusion Designlab, Inclusion Melbourne
Founder, Brave Network Melbourne
Nathan is the manager of Inclusion Designlab, Inclusion Melbourne’s engine room for policy, projects, quality and communications. In the past four years, he has coordinated pioneering projects in community development, NDIS readiness, inclusive oral health, electoral equality, choice for people with intellectual disability and supported decision making. Nathan also supports the quality and communications functions of Inclusion Training.
Nathan is eager to use applied research and communication strategies to target the key areas of life and practice that will lead to inclusion and transformation in the lives of Australians with intellectual disability. He began his journey in the disability sector working with adults and children with intellectual disability in residential and respite settings.
Nathan is also the founder of Brave Network Melbourne, a support and advocacy group for LGBTIQA+ people of faith. A fierce LGBTIQ rights advocate, Nathan has graduate qualifications in communications, social science, theology, and linguistics.