A new RTÉ documentary, Converted, brings to light shocking cases of ‘gay conversion therapy‘ which took place in Ireland. The programme, directed and produced by Suzie Keegan, comes at a time when the practice is still legal in this country, as a bill to ban conversion therapy has just passed the second stage in the Seanad.
Converted contains interviews with four men in some way connected to the dangerous practice. Those interviewed include an Irishman who underwent conversion therapies and exorcisms in an attempt to ‘cure’ him of his sexuality, another who provides the therapy, a journalist who went undercover in a Christian group which supports its members to live “chaste homosexual lives” and a Christian man who believes the therapy should be made available.
One of those interviewed is Padraig O’Tuama who details how his ordeal began in 1993 during his time working for a Christian organisation in Dublin. When a co-worker found out about his sexuality he was told “that men who had homosexual desires were like cannibals. He said homosexuality and cannibalism were both rooted from the same disorder.”
It grew to the point where he was warned to ‘fix’ his sexuality. “The consequences that were given to me were that you’ll lose your faith, you’ll lose your friends, you’ll lose your family, that’s what I was told. So the first exorcism happened in Dublin in the context of a prayer meeting.”
A female group leader led others present in conducting the exorcism. “Six or seven people gathered around and she was casting the demon of lust, the demon of homosexuality from me and they were saying, ‘come out, come out’, really, really loudly. I was thinking the whole time, ‘what is happening to me? Is there a devil in me? I don’t think there is, but is there?’ I think they wanted me to shout or bark or cough or something that would indicate something physical happening to me… I was living where I was working so I went to bed that night petrified, thinking how are people going to look at me?”
But these exorcisms were merely the beginning, as Padraig then went on to undertake conversion therapy. “I was told that if I had a mother who was a strong female character and a father who is out at work all day, that would contribute to being gay. Three-quarters of the population of Ireland would have been gay in that case.”
Thankfully, Padraig was eventually able to realise his sexuality was not the terrible thing he was being brainwashed into thinking it was. He shared, “I know of some people who have taken their own lives, whose lives have fallen apart. Sexuality is something intrinsic to the person, is fundamental, it is a part of us.”
Converted will be available on the RTE Player from Tuesday, October 15.
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