14/02/2019

Green Party's Mal O'Hara: Gay People Need No Cure

A Green Party representative for north Belfast has spoken out to tell so-called conversion therapists that gay people need no cure.

Malachai O'Hara's message comes ahead of a film screening at Townsend Presbyterian Church on Thursday 14 February.

The film 'Once Gay- Matthew and Friends', which depicts the journey of a man who left homosexual practices, will be screened.

The Green Party representative, who is a well-known champion of LGBTQ equality, said the film endorses the discredited practice of "conversion therapy" and "devalues the lives of Queer people".

"Thankfully, all major UK counselling and psychotherapy organisations alongside NHS England and Scotland have been emphatic in their opposition to the dangerous and harmful practice of conversion therapy," Mr O'Hara explained.

"Core Issues Trust are behind the screening of this film and are one of several 'Pray Away the Gay' organisations operating across the world. These have emerged from a fundamentalist faith base but style themselves as therapeutic organisations.

"Worryingly, Core Issues Trust has strong links to some faith groups in Northern Ireland. While more and more faith groups are supportive and affirming of LGBT people, there is still much work to do in engaging around the wider issues and building support for LGBT people in those congregations.
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"My particular concern is that by agreeing to show this film, Townsend Church are offering tacit support to the idea that being gay can be prayed away. This is a dangerous and damaging message particularly for the LGBT people that may be part of that congregation. It's also a ridiculous message – one as silly as the notion that being heterosexual can be prayed away."

Mr O'Hara authored a report in 2013 identifying that one in four LGBT people in Northern Ireland had a previous experience of a suicide attempt.

He said that World Health Organisation guidance is clear that addressing suicide and poorer mental health amongst LGBT people requires addressing societal prejudice.

"This film reinforces the idea that LGBT people are somewhat lesser or that their orientation or gender is inherently 'wrong' and that exacerbates level of risk. On this basis, I lobbied to have the church reconsider their decision to show the film. This proved fruitless.

"So instead, on Thursday night I will protest outside the screening with LGBT people and our allies. Green means banning harmful conversion therapy. We are delighted that other parties are now supporting this call. But, until it is made illegal, we will continue to demonstrate and protest against this dangerous and damaging faux therapy.

"We will protest to show people that minority orientation or gender identity is normal. We will protest to show that you can be happy, healthy and accepted as an LGBT person. We will protest to show that our lives need no cure."



(JG/CM)

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