Committee debates gay ‘cure’ therapy before inquiry into doctor advocating it

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

A heated debate on therapy attempting to “cure” people of same-sex attraction took place in a committee room at the Houses of Parliament on Wednesday.

The debate comes two days before a professional conduct inquiry into a complaint made against Dr Mike Davidson, a therapist who advocates for people who say they have unwanted feelings of same-sex attraction.

Dr Davidson himself took part in the debate, as well as Peter Tatchell, Professor Michael King and Dr Joseph Berger.

The debate was around the legitimacy and freedoms to offer the therapy. Such practices have proven controversial worldwide.

Peter Tatchell, human rights campaigner, said that the motivation behind providing such therapy was homophobic, and that it was not scientific.

Professor King, Director of Mental Health Sciences Unit at UCL expressed strong objections to the therapy. He went on to say that he thought it was based on “moral outrage”, and agreed with Mr Tatchell that it was not based on science.

Both Professor King and Mr Tatchell cited research which they said demonstrated the innate nature of homosexuality.

Arguing that there is no physical location for homosexuality in the brain, and therefore it was not innate, Dr Berger, Consultant Psychiatrists and practitioner of therapy of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, Canada, said it was a concept, not a biological phenomenon.

Dr Berger said that therapists offering such therapy did not see homosexuality as a disease, and said: “I treat people, not homosexuality”.

Dr Davidson agreed, and called for a return to a “person-centred” approach to providing therapy.

Some professional regulatory bodies, such as the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) and the United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP), have already banned sexual reorientation therapy.

Dr Davidson spoke out against the bans, warning that the minority of people turning to such therapy may turn to a “pray away the gay” situation, and said that practitioners sharing his position on the therapy would not be able to train or be professionally monitored.

He is a trainee with the British Psychodrama Association (BPA), and in January 2012, he commented on a BBC local radio show to say he was in favour of the therapy.

He became the subject of a complaint that his views contradicted the BPA’s policies, and as a result he will face a Professional Conduct Committee, PCC Inquiry on 1 February.

The debate was jointly organised by Core Issues Trust, of which Dr Davidson is a director, and Christian Concern. The Christian Legal Centre is supporting Dr Davidson in his response to the PCC inquiry.

Core Issues Trust describes itself as: “A non-profit Christian ministry supporting men and women with homosexual issues who voluntarily seek change in sexual preference and expression. It respects the rights of individuals who identify as gay who do not seek change”. It does not support equal marriage.