About 20 people staged a protest outside a ‘gay conversion’ conference in Mitcham, a suburb in Melbourne’s east, on Saturday.
They waved placards that read “Hands off queer kids” and “You can’t straighten me out”, and had a heated debate with organisers about whether it’s possible to become straight.
Former lesbian Shirley Baskett, one of the speakers, told the Herald Sun she wanted to help the 25 conference participants choose the right path.
“It can be very confusing to have these feelings,” she said.
“We are giving troubled church members a place to speak about what they are going through. It’s about choosing Jesus and combating same-sex attraction.”
But gay rights campaigner and protest organiser Tim Wright said the conference was destructive.
“Teaching young people to suppress their sexuality and pretend to be straight is detrimental to their well-being. It creates false hopes and encourages further self-loathing. If their church won’t accept them for who they are, they should find a church that does,” he said.
“The idea that you can convert gays to heterosexuality belongs in the past. It has been completely discredited by science, yet a small handful of fanatics continue to advance it.
“It’s not likely that the conversion movement will ever gain traction in Australia as it has in the United States, but this event is a reminder that we must remain vigilant.”

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