Few spiritual interventions cause the degree of harm that efforts to change someone’s sexual or gender identity do. From deeply internalized shame and self-loathing, to depression, high risk behaviours like substance abuse, and suicidal ideation, attempts, and death by suicide, sexual orientation and gender identity change efforts (SOGICE) have caused profound trauma. When these efforts are practiced in the context of one’s faith community, by the spiritual authority figure, the harm goes incredibly deep.
Recently, efforts to ban the practice of conversion therapy, particularly for minors, have intensified. Two Canada-wide petitions asking the government for a federal ban have garnered thousands of signatures. The challenge with legislative efforts is that many SOGICE experiences do not take place in therapists’ offices.
Much of the harm is experienced in churches – perpetrated by well-meaning pastors.
For decades there has been a steady stream of Christian resources published to equip the local pastor to believe they could be used of God to change someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
Exorcisms. Prayer sessions. Bible memorization. Accountability. Church discipline. Counselling attempts.
Energized by a theology that taught that LGBTQ2S+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, 2 Spirit, plus people) were inherently sinful, disordered, and in need of repair, the damage caused by the Christian community is unfathomable.
Psychological trauma. Emotional trauma. Spiritual trauma. Physical trauma. Financial trauma