Ontario was the first province to ban conversion therapy for anyone under the age of 18 and now Alberta is being asked to do the same.
Conversion therapy or reparative therapy is purported to allow gay people to be “cured”. Kristopher Wells, faculty director for the Institute of Sexual Minority Studies at the University of Alberta and founder of Camp Fyrefly for LGBTQ youth, says the practice is still occurring in some parts of rural Alberta and the province needs to act on it. In Ontario, the Affirming Sexual Orientation and Gender Identy Act, bans therapies aimed at changing gender or sexual orientation for anyone under the age of 18 and stops funding for them under the provincial government health plan.
Wells told me the practice can be particularly damaging for LGBTQ youth, who end up suffering feelings of depression, engaging in self-harm or even committing suicide when they are told to reject who they are through this kind of therapy. As for adults? That may be a different story.
Rich Wyler, founder of People Can Change (www.peoplecanchange.com), was living a double life for the first half of marriage, and it was tearing him up. He said he sought counselling to come to terms with why he felt compelled to have sex with men even though he was happy married with children. He said, “I resented the suggestion that the only “correct” solution (politically correct, anyway) for me was to abandon my wife and children and throw myself into a gay life. That was not what I wanted.” Through the therapy process he discovered events from his childhood that had estranged him from having platonic relationships with men. By working to develop emotionally intimate male friendships he was able to recommit to his marriage with Marie, and stayed faithful to her until she died in 2006. After her death he remained heterosexual and remarried in 2010.
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