Sunday, April 26, 2009

Protest at 'Gay Cure' Conference in London

Whilst Tamil protesters waved banners and protested on the corner of Parliament Square last Saturday, April 25th, another protest was taking place down a quiet street just around the corner. A group calling themselves Anglican Mainstream was holding a conference to discuss the virtue of curing gays at the Emmanuel Centre in central London and a hundred or so protesters gathered around to give them an unexpected reception.

Shouting "2, 4, 6, 8 There is no cure to make us straight" as well as a host of other ad-hoc chants, the wide-ranging group of LGBT people and their straight friends gathered together to tell the Conference and its organisers that gay is not a disease and we are not looking for a cure.

Jimmy Somerville was there, looking just the same as he did in the eighties, together with three of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. For political clout there was members of the Queer Youth Alliance, the Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association, Schools OUT and LGBT History Month Co-Chair Tony Fenwick, IDAHO's UK coordinator Derek Lennard, an Amnesty International representative, and a member of the Green Party.

For added colour, a glass canopy that topped the Home Office building behind the protesters included all the colours of the rainbow. When the sun came out it shone through the canopy and projected the rainbow colours onto the road where the protesters were gathered - so that the side of the road where the conference was taking place was shrouded in shade while the side of the road where the LGBT protesters were assembled was literally lit up with the rainbow colours. If there is a God s/he couldn't have managed that better.

American 'psychiatrists' Joseph Nicolosi and Jeffrey Satinover, and Doctor (of law) Arthur Goldberg, co-director of JONAH and president of PATH, spoke at the Conference, entitled Sex in the City. All three have built a career on the premise that gay people can be turned straight if they want it hard enough. The line was that there are young people who don't want to have same sex attraction and it's their human right to have the option of a cure.

Nicolas Chinardet, a friend of LGBT History Month and Schools OUT, organised the protest - his first. He said: "While we were taking a stand against the so-called psychiatrists, I could not forget the fact that there were also gay people inside that building. People like us who were suffering and, I believe, being exploited. Sending them a positive and fun image of the community, contradicting what they no-doubt had been led to believe, was an added and significant benefit of our action".

Schools OUT's Tony Fenwick added: "I'm here today for all the children who can't come out because their schools are still not safe spaces. Young LGBT people need understanding; not cures."

But the winning argument of the day came from a young Jewish man, smartly dressed and with a skull cap, who spoke clearly about how he joined JONAH to be cured of his gayness. He was forced into a marriage and had 3 children. His wife found out about his past and left him, taking their children with her. He is still gay and his life, he says, has been ruined by these people. He then wandered over the road to try to tell the Conference his story.

For the UK Gay News report go to here. For Nic's own write-ups, which include handy hints on how to organise your own protest, go to here.

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