In the previous column, Taipei Watcher questioned the attempts by some Christian extremists to use the public school system to “correct” homosexual students’ sexual orientation. The pseudo-scientific “conversion (or reparative) therapy” (性傾向治療) — treatments that aim to change a person from homosexual to heterosexual — is highly controversial. Numerous cases have shown that such forced conversion is unethical, and can lead to a number of negative consequences, such as delayed acceptance of self-identity, depression and even suicide.
The notorious case of John Paulk serves as an example. Paulk was a leading advocate of the Ex-Gay Movement that actively promotes conversion therapy. Both he and his wife claimed that they overcame homosexuality following their conversion to Christianity. For some years, his autobiography Not Afraid to Change was seen as a bible for such therapy and had encouraged countless gays and lesbians to force themselves to change their sexual orientation. But he confessed to PQ Monthly last year that he had never actually converted, urging the public not to buy his best-seller anymore. The couple later divorced.
The American Psychiatric Association (APA) removed homosexuality as a mental disorder from its manual in 1973, and it issued a statement against conversion therapy in 1998. “Homosexuality is not a disorder, and it requires no correction,” said attending physician Chang Shen-chieh (張勝傑) in the Department of Psychiatry at Taipei Municipal Wan Fang Hospital.
“On the contrary, if their parents or teachers constantly pressure them to change their sexual orientation, some homosexuals may suffer depression and other emotional disorders and therefore need to receive treatment,” Chang told Taipei Watcher.
In 2005, Taiwan’s society was shocked by the death of a 17-year-old girl who suffered depression and committed suicide after her mother kept forcing her to change her sexual orientation. Her mother even demanded that the doctor “cure” her homosexuality first and her depression later, because homosexuality was worse than depression in the mother’s eyes.
Australian Olympic gold medalist Ian Thorpe is another living example. Earlier this month, the swimming superstar admitted that he is gay after years of struggle. He has battled depression while keeping his homosexuality from the world. Despite having dated women, he was unable to change his sexual orientation and was extremely frustrated by the constant self-denial. Unfortunately, some religious activists in Taiwan are still brainwashing our students that homosexuality can and must be changed. Are they trying to create more tragedies?
More seriously, they even collude with politicians to oppress homosexuality. According to the Storm Media Group (風傳媒), Control Yuan member Gau Fehng-shian (高鳳仙) established the Christian Communities Coalition for Human Rights (教會人權促進協會) in March last year, and the group’s secretary-general, Pastor Chen Chih-hung (陳志宏), is an activist against same-sex marriage.
Between August and September last year, Gau invited Chen and the leaders of Christian, Buddhist and Taoist groups for a meal to discuss the draft bill for marriage equality, where they allegedly formed the Alliance of Religious Groups for the Love of Families Taiwan (台灣宗教團體愛護家庭大聯盟), which led to a large anti-gay campaign and demonstration in November last year.