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Acceptance helps gays, psychiatrists inform Anglicans

14 November 2007

by Bill Bowder

THE Royal College of Psychiatrists has challenged Anglican bishops to support gay clergy and laity as an example to parents struggling to come to terms with having gay or lesbian children.

“The Church has a wonderful opportunity to lead rather than to be dragged along kicking and screaming. Christianity is such an inclusive religion,” said Professor Michael King, an executive committee member of the College’s special-interest group of 200 to 300 psychiatrists who work with lesbians, gay men, and bisexual and transsexual people.

His committee has submitted a report to the Church’s Listening Exercise on Human Sexuality, to inform a study guide for next year’s Lambeth Conference.

The report, endorsed by the full College “from the President down”, said that there were no scientific or rational grounds for treating lesbian, gay, and bisexual people differently, Professor King said on Monday.

If there were theological reasons for treating lesbian, gay, or bisexual people differently, that was for the Church to decide; but the Church had already changed its mind over slavery and the position of women in society. “It is odd to see why this should be a sticking point.”

Professor King said that he no longer attended church because of its “disappointing attitude” to this issue (and to that of women bishops), which had contributed to social exclusion.

Research showed that lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) people suffered stress because of the rejection and discrimination that they experienced. This resulted in the same kinds of mental-health issues, destructive behaviour, alcoholism, and substance abuse as people subjected to racism also experienced. Both groups also experienced a kind of “internal form of stigma”, he said.

“What we know is that greater openness leads to self-acceptance. If the message of acceptance comes from people placed high in the Church — that LGB people can lead ordinary lives — then this does a huge amount for families who are struggling to come to terms with an LGB son or daughter. The message that LGB people should not be discriminated against could be a message to society that they were all equal before God.”

The report says that LGB people should have the right to protection from therapies purporting to change their sexual orientation. There was no evidence that treatment of this kind worked, but considerable evidence that it did a great deal of harm, Professor King said.

Sexual orientation was a spectrum. “In nature, there are spectrums: they can’t be cut into neat joints.” At one end would be someone who was predominantly heterosexual, and at the other someone who was predominantly LGB. It would be “impossibly difficult” to try to change someone at either end of the spectrum.

Full text of the report

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