Sunday, 29 May 2011

An ex-gay therapist faces sanction - a wider look

So, Christian therapist, Lesley Pilkington, the woman responsible for this mess has been found guilty of malpractice by the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy

And this is important, oh yes yes it is.

Not just because she is an evil, dangerous woman who has the ability to hurt people when they are at their most vulnerable. Though we do have to stress just how dangerous she is and how much she can hurt people. People go to a therapist when they're hurting, people come to her when they're fragile, when they're hurt, when they're in pain, when they're afraid – and she exploits that. She adds to that, she furthers any damage, any hurting and perpetuates it and encourages it to last longer and go further. I don't exaggerate when I say this is a very evil woman doing an utterly evil thing.

But beyond stopping the actions of a horrendous woman before she does more harm, I think this is also vital because of what BACP has done. It has said that trying to change us, trying to “cure us” is wrong and unprofessional and forced one of their own for retraining for trying to do so.

Now, I dearly wish they had been stronger in their statements and make statements like this one much clearer. But still it is a firm rejection of “gay-cure therapy”. I am irritated that they didn't outright say “all 'gay cure therapy' is damaging and unprofessional” in their ruling and make it clear that any therapist who tries the same will face similar sanction. We need that, we need that unequivocally stated in the strongest terms backed by the ultimate sanctions. I think we got closer with this ruling but I still don't think we got there.

And that is important. GBLT people have somewhat... fraught history with the mental health profession. I know one of the barriers for me seeking help from profession-whine-listener man was my fear and distrust of the mental health profession (and too often I do think whine-listener man has an abundance of straight privilege and lack of understanding). One of the things I felt I had to say on the very first meeting was “you blame anything on my being gay, I walk.” Which is great, I started my professional-whining with a huge chunk of suspicion, distrust and expectation that I would be hurt. Is this helpful? I doubt it.

But this is a problem. The mental health profession – indeed the medical profession as a whole – has done a whole lot of bad things to GBLT people. Too many medical professionals as well as the medical profession as a whole have treated us as ill, diseased or criminal – and hurt us, punished us or even tortured us as a result. The Doctor has long been a figure of suspicion for many of us, another authority figure out to victimise us, rather than a friend, helper or healer. A lot of us are aware of that fact and are duly suspicious. And this most certainly isn't a thing of the distant past – or even the past at all People we should trust – we need to trust – are hurting us and hurting us badly. And we can't avoid the fact that, due to the omnipresence of societal bigotry and the general headaches straightness forces on us every day, that a lot of us need these services – and if we need them, we need to be able to trust them.

So, yes this is a step forward. But it's late. It's very very late. And it doesn't go far enough and it isn't strong enough. Still, it's moving forwards and hopefully working to build bridges we sorely need.

The Christian Legal Centre, of course, remains a centre of vileness and bigotry. But we expect no less from them.