Ann Widdecombe: Let unhappy gays try to turn straight

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Ann Widdecombe has backed the ability of therapists to offer so-called ‘gay cure’ treatments to clients who want to become straight.

In her column in the Daily Express, she questions the lack of availability of therapy for “gays who do not want to be gay”.

Widdecombe wrote about the case of Lesley Pilkington, who was found guilty of malpractice by the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy last year.

She argues that if a gay person wants to change their sexuality, professional help should be available to them, despite a lack of scientific evidence for it working.

She wrote: “When I was training as a Samaritan in the Eighties the first principle was never to dismiss another’s priorities.

“If a man rang in and said he was gay we should never say, “Oh, that doesn’t matter, it’s OK to be gay,” if he took the opposite view.”

The former minister is the second high-profile voice this week to back ‘reparative therapy’ in the face of general medical opinion against it.

Lord Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, is backing Lesley Pilkington’s appeal.

He wrote to the BACP, which is hearing the appeal, with other bishops to say that such ‘gay cure’ attempts do not “produce harm despite the Royal College of Psychiatrists and others maintaining the contrary”.

The Royal College of Psychiatrists’ official position on the issue says: “There is no sound scientific evidence that sexual orientation can be changed. Furthermore, so-called treatments of homosexuality create a setting in which prejudice and discrimination flourish.”

Widdecombe says the “homosexual lobby” has directed particular attention to Pilkington’s religion.

The retired minister herself famously converted to Catholicism, leaving the Church of England in favour of a denomination which, she said, “doesn’t care if something is unpopular”.

Drawing a comparison with the case of the Muslim men found guilty of distributing material intended to stir up anti-gay hatred, she queries why Christians, who make up 72% of the British population, are “targeted by gay activists” more frequently than Muslims, who make up 3%.

Widdecombe did not support ParliOut, the first LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) network for the Parliamentary staff, MPs and Lords in 2010.

She said: “No I do not. MPs are supposed to be there to help other people not to go whingeing on their own behalf. I cannot understand the modern day emphasis and fascination and obsession with people’s private lives.

She added: “We have had gay MPs since we’ve had MPs…we’ve had gay everythings. It is not an issue and what we are doing now is encouraging your profession to go into everybody’s private lives.”

Widdecombe’s comments add to an ongoing public debate about ‘gay cure’ practices.

Last week, the New York-based rabbi who heads Amsterdam’s Orthodox Ashkenazi community had said he feared for his life after he was suspended for signing a ‘gay cure’ declaration.

One of the signatories to the Torah declaration signed by Rabbi Aryeh Ralbag is Arthur Goldberg, a co-director of JONAH.

JONAH, Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing (formerly Jews Offering New Alternatives to Homosexuality), was in the news this month after JFS, a Jewish school in London, showed students a slide displaying its logo during a discussion on homosexuality.

The school strongly denied promoting the ex-gay group as an option for possibly gay students to explore.