Waiting for Laws


Writing a blog scares me. I can't stand the feeling of pressure, writing a new blog once a day, or once a week, even every other week. I'm a single guy and, like most writers, I work a full-time job, plus I need to shop and I like to cook; exercise; walk a lot; read books; do my laundry and iron all my clothes every week, especially my bedding; see and cook for my elderly mother; and then there's my first book that was just published and I'm trying to still pitch interviews, and reviews, and of course I'm writing a new book. Who has time to write a blog?

But then I lie in my lavender-scented Epsom salt bubble bath to try and relax, to try and not think about all the things I don't have time to write about in a blog

Like laws banning "conversion therapy." Canada's banned it in two provinces, Ontario and Manitoba, except that in Manitoba it's not really a ban so much as a health regulation, deterring licensed therapists from practicing "conversion therapy." Does anyone actually think a licensed therapist who wants to practice "conversion therapy" is going to admit to practicing "conversion therapy"? Or even bill the province for "conversion therapy"? Please. A "regulation" like this is less than ineffective; in my mind, it's an insult. I understand Alberta's Lethbridge Public Interest Research Group, a "student-funded, student-directed, not-for-profit organization" is now spearheading a movement to ban the practice in their own province, but even there I understand they're meeting opposition from lawmakers with remarks that "conversion therapy doesn't happen in Alberta."

Oh, really?

Since my own six years in a form of "conversion therapy" in my native British Columbia, I've approached a number of politicians to try and bring about a law or even a public statement, just something, opposing this form of torture. Granted, the first time I approached a sitting MLA (Member of Legislative Assembly) in my West End neighbourhood of Vancouver, I was in the middle of suing my former psychiatrist for the treatment, so it was probably not the best time. Still, I'd hardly made it through the MLA's front office door and explained my history with this doctor when I was told, point blank, that they could not help me. Did I mention the MLA was a gay man? 

Flash forward, and about six years ago I approached the new MLA, again in my West End neighbourhood, once again explaining that I'd lived through six years of "conversion therapy" in British Columbia, that I'd filed an ethics complaint against the doctor with BC's College of Physicians and Surgeons, that I'd even sued the doctor, and had spent the last (at that time) roughly 15 years working on a book about the whole ordeal. I was approaching him, the MLA, now, I said, in the hope of sponsoring a private members bill, banning the practice of conversion therapy in British Columbia. 

At first, he seemed genuinely interested; he thanked me for bringing this "very serious community issue" to his attention; he told me that we'd meet again. Weeks later, I called and he said he had no time to help, but that if I did some "research" on my own, I could send it to him by email and he'd "look into it." Oh, did I mention he was also a gay man?

Then this year, in 2017, in anticipation of my book's release, I approached the city of Vancouver's LGBTQ2+ committee, which is tasked with making recommendations to the City of Vancouver about issues affecting Vancouver's LGBTQ community. I asked them to consider recommending to the City that they take a public position against "conversion therapy"--not even banning the practice legally, just simply taking a public position against the practice.

I waited months, but heard nothing. Then one day, I spotted a City Counsellor in my neighbourhood grocery store. Without thinking (or else I'm sure I would have shrunk back in fear), I approached him, introduced myself, told him about my email to the City's LGBTQ2+ Committee, and what I'd proposed. To which he said he knew all about my email already. We chatted next to the cucumbers, I think. He told me he knew of several "religious conversion therapies" that were happening right here in British Columbia. "They're a menace to our community," he said. "They're crazy." He seemed to know much more about these "therapies" than I did. He handed me his business card. He told me to follow up with the Committee. Oh, did I mention he is also a gay man?

I followed up with the Committee again, weeks later. I cc'd the City Counsellor.

Finally, six weeks later, they invited me to their next meeting, six weeks after that. I prepared a briefing note about "conversion therapy" in Canada, and in British Columbia, and my own history with the therapy, even detailing all the laws that have been passed banning the practice in various U.S. states and cities. There was precedent to my proposal.

At the meeting, I talked for a good 40 minutes, answered questions; everyone seemed very nice and eager to Stop. The. Big. Bad. Wolf. of Conversion Therapy. Some of the Committee members hadn't even been born when I was in my own therapy. I'm not sure how I felt about that, but I felt old.

I left, then heard nothing. Weeks passed. I emailed again, thanked them for inviting me to the meeting, to which they responded and said, "Oh, we were just about to email you. We will follow up with you next week, and invite you to join a sub committee about banning reparative therapy in British Columbia." 

Weeks wore on; now months. Still no word. I don't care anymore. No, that's not true. Yes it is. Not it's not. I don't know anymore. I'm tired, and I'm mad. I can't stand the waiting. I can't wait for politicians, or committees. Bureaucracy makes me crazy. I can't stand trying to make my point that "conversion therapy" is dangerous, that it causes harm, that it hurts people, that it hurt me. I take it all far too personally. The issue is a very personal issue to me. Frankly, I don't know how it is I'm still alive today. The medications that the doctor prescribed to try and "kill" my sexuality (my homosexuality) nearly killed me. I overdosed. I should have died. Thankfully, I didn't die. I'm alive. I try and make a difference. I wrote a book. I spent a very long time writing this book, The Inheritance of Shame: A Memoir, to try and "get it right." Maybe someone will read it. Maybe it will help one kid. Maybe one parent will read it and think twice about sending their gay or trans kid into "conversion therapy." I hope so. I really do. That's my prayer.