“THEY put wiring on my genitals and showed me about a thousand pictures of men and women over about a 10 day period. When that machine recorded a rise in body temperature, which only happened naturally when the pictures of men came up, they delivered high voltage electricity into me to punish me for being gay in the efforts of making me straight.”
In the 1970s, electro shock therapy was offered to Queensland man David Turner by a psychiatrist and senior figure of his local church, with the promise that it would “cure” his homosexuality.
Turner, who was born in and remains a Brisbane local, hopes his story can contribute to the decade-long call for the practice of so-called gay reparative therapy to be finally banned in Queensland.
Starting his involvement with Brisbane’s City Tabernacle Baptist Church at an early age, Turner continued to dedicate himself through missionary work as well as study in bible colleges and the Queensland Bible Institute.
However, he was also aware of his attraction to men at an early age as well, a conflict that came to a head as a young adult.
“It started to affect my health quite considerably when I realised that the church would not accept me if they knew that I was gay,” Turner told the Star Observer.
“So I resigned and came home and that’s when I started seeing a doctor who was a psychiatrist because in those days if you gay, you were mentally ill.”
The doctor, who has since died, was the president of the Baptist Union of Queensland at the time.
“He was the one that suggested electronic shock therapy in Sydney at Little Bay hospital which very stupidly I agreed to,” Turner said.
“[The treatment] didn’t change a thing but very importantly, nothing changed in the machine’s readings that to me proved nothing can be done to change the outcome of the shock treatment.
“I asked the treating doctor if there had been any men who had their sexuality changed as a result of those treatments or any other method and he told me ‘none’.
“When I went back to my psychiatrist though and I told him the strength of the shocks he just laughed his head off and said ‘oh, that would have hurt you, hey?’.”
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) officially declassified homosexuality as a disorder in 1973, well before Turner underwent what’s commonly referred to as “conversion therapy”.
“[My psychiatrist] was putting me through very intense physical pain as an expression of his own homophobia because he was just totally ignoring the consensus of the entire medical profession,” Turner said.
He says he was aware of “conversion” treatments still happening today, carried out by numerous groups including the Exclusive Brethren whom Turner alleges conducts chemical castration on gay teenagers from member families and excommunicating any that reject or fail it.
Recently, Victorian Parliament introduced legislation to ban gay reparative/aversion therapy, while in Queensland, it remains in the legal statutes.
Turner said the damage done by these treatments was still causing trauma and costing lives.
“The damage done to me was very much psychological and I know of many gays who as a result of shock and other therapies that are still suffering deep depression as a result of it,” he said.
“I know of one man that even struggles with holding a job simply because of the depression he suffers years after the fact.
“I know of others who self harm and have committed suicide as a result, one in particular who was told by a leader in the church that God wouldn’t love him if he was gay. It’s all lies, just total lies and we lost him because of that.”
Ambassadors and Bridge Builders International founder Anthony Venn-Brown said in 2015 there were about 10 professional organisations with religious backgrounds that continue to offer conversion therapies.
One notorious group from the south-western Queensland city of Toowoomba, Triumphant Ministries, offers assistance for “those who want to and desire to walk away from same sex attraction”.
Liberty Inc Brisbane is another group that claims to “extend Jesus Christ’s unconditional love, support and acceptance to anyone struggling with their sexuality”.
Queensland Health Minister Cameron Dick’s position on banning conversion therapy is unclear and the Star Observer has contacted his office for comment.
Speaking in 2015 as the state’s then-Attorney-General, LNP MP Jarrod Bleijie said religious freedoms must be respected but disagreed with the practice.
“Everyone has a right to practice their religion and everyone also has the right to be who you are. I don’t agree with these so called therapies and would urge anyone considering taking part in one to reconsider,” Bleijie told the Star Observer.
Former speaker of the house and current Maroochydore state LNP MP Fiona Simpson has commented in the past that people could “grow into heterosexuality over time”, later refusing to rule out support for groups that practice conversion therapy.
Turner hopes the Palaszczuk Government will finally act, like the Victorian government, to ban all forms of conversion therapy.
“Knowing that reparative therapy still exists in Queensland and is legal? It makes me furious. I think people that practice it should be brought before the courts and jailed for a minimum of 20 years,” he said.
“That’s how strongly I feel about it. They need to suffer the consequences of the decades of harm they have inflicted and continue to perpetrate.
“The gay community needs to be protected from groups that promote and offer these services, however well-meaning they appear. All forms of any ex-gay treatment should be illegal.”
As Turner sees it, the excuses offered of respecting religious freedom to conduct these therapies should be struck down entirely.
“It is physical and emotional abuse and it needs to be called that, and groups should not be allowed to hide behind religious liberty as a veil to legitimise what they do,” he said.
“There’s no way known that they should be allowed to get away with it.
“Enough is enough. The gay community should not have to put up with this rort.”