Crippen receives disturbing news from Northern Ireland / 17 April 2010
I have been getting some rather disturbing messages from Gay Disabled friends in Northern Ireland in relation to a recent conference promoting 'conversion therapy'. This is the process where people can be 'cured' of their homosexuality through prayer.
The conference, which was held back in February was organised by Core Issues, an evangelical Christian group in Northern Ireland which promotes this so-called therapy and claims to have 'saved' numerous homosexual Christians. The star speaker is the Rev Mario Bergner, a Chicago-based Anglican preacher and leading proponent of conversion therapy, who claims to have been cured of Aids and homosexuality through prayer.
Despite a big presence at a protest rally organised by the Queer Youth Network and the Stop Conversion Therapy Taskforce (Scott), a new lobby group set up by gay journalist Patrick Strudwick, many Gay people in Northern Ireland are being badly affected by this new move by organised religion in the area. So much so that, according to one source, many are taking their own lives.
This month, The Independent published the results of a year-long investigation by Patrick Strudwick, which exposed how evangelical therapists – some operating within the NHS – try to "convert" homosexual men and women to heterosexuality. Strudwick explained the protests were to reassure any gay man or woman tempted to try conversion therapy that homosexuality is not an illness which needs to be cured. "The message of our protest is simple," Patrick told the Independent. "Love needs no cure. We want to remind the young people in the conference in the midst of so-called treatment that they are healthy, normal, valuable people; they are perfect how they are; they don't need to try to change something unchangeable and they can be happy being who they really are."
One of my sources in Northern Ireland is working with others to get Disabled artists involved in the protest and told me: "There is splintering amongst some of the queer/gay groups but a group has formed that has an ambition for artistic intervention. I have been saying F**** the divisions - that's what Northern Ireland’s sectarian history thrives on. I would like to rally the Disabled artists I connect with. They need to see that this is a humanitarian issue."
If anyone feels that they would like to become involved in this issue, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll pass your contact details on.
Keywords: disability art,disabled people's movement,discrimination,young disabled people,gay and lesbian issues