You might have heard of the phrase “praying the gay away.” If you haven’t, it’s commonly used to describe what Christian groups would do to make a person straight. Because, according to their belief, homosexuality and being in a same-sex relationship is a sin.
This topic was raised yesterday when lifestyle website Preview.ph ran a story on May 29 about designer Jian Lasala and his decision to turn his back on homosexuality. The now-deleted article hinged on Jian’s Facebook post where he said, “Homosexual men and women will never turn to Christ because they are using religion to spread hate.”
He emphasized that he’s not condemning his LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters. Rather, he made this decision because this is what he believes to be the way closer to God.
Why I am running away and turning my back on Homosexuality. It is not my place to convict nor condemn my gay friends…
Jian’s post and Preview.ph’s article didn’t sit well with several members of the LGBTQ+ community and allies, especially with Pride Month coming up. The publication already apologized, but the disappointment is still there. As Thysz Estrada told us, “LGBT men and women lead different lifestyles—his being religious is just one. We respect lifestyles as long as they do not infringe on individual human rights. But to claim that one is better than the other? It’s just toxic righteousness.”
Although Jian never mentioned he underwent conversion therapy, many believe it’s implied to some extent. Especially with his insistence of abandoning homosexuality to seek God.
What is conversion therapy?
The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) described conversion therapy as having “a range of dangerous and discredited practices that falsely claim to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity or expression.” This can be done through psychological or spiritual means because it was believed that homosexuality was a mental disorder that can be cured. The World Health Organization only removed it from the International Classification of Diseases (ICD) in 1992.
Also important to note: WHO just removed transgenderism this week in their amended ICD, aka ICD-11.
During the early ’60s and ’70s, doctors would reportedly shock patients or give them drugs while they watch erotica. There have also been cases where men were given estrogen treatments to reduce their libido.
Today, the practices are less extreme but still equally dangerous. Modern conversion therapy methods now begin with parents who try to talk adolescents out of being gay. Minors are also being sent to conversion camps where they are forced to pray the gay away. A camp survivor told The Cut there was one instance when a pastor would scream at her “trying to get the gayness out of me.” She was also told that having a gaydar is having “the ability to see a demon in another person.”
Thankfully, in the US, there are now 17 states that have banned conversion therapy for minors. But there’s still so much to do. According to a San Francisco State University study cited by HRC, young LGBTQ+ people who experience such prejudice are more than eight times likely to have attempted suicide; six times likely to have high levels of depression; and three times likely to be at high risk to get HIV and STDs.
Here in the Philippines, the discussion on conversion therapy is under-the-radar. In 2007, Outrage Magazine released a story about a man who went through this in Makati City. There are also speculations that an influential religious sect forces teenagers to undergo conversion therapy because of their anti-LGBTQ+ stance.
Other than the topics mentioned above, there are no existing records to prove it’s rampant in our country. Though, according to Equaldex, conversion therapy isn’t banned here.
Further, the conversation surrounding conversion and how it’s seen as wrong can be harmful to younger members of the community. Especially those who are still figuring out who they are, and are looking for people to support them in their journey of self-identity.
The co-existence of religion and homosexuality
Drag performer Shahani Gania highlighted that there are LGBTQ+ people who are also followers of God and Jesus Christ. This sentiment was echoed by photographer Regine David, telling us in an email, “I think it’s wonderful that he has found peace with himself in finding God, but being queer and being religious can co-exist.”
I am Catholic and I am aware of the misconception that “God hates gays and it’s a sin to be homosexual because the Bible said so.” But, I don’t believe He despises the LGBTQ+ community, nor would He like his “children” to condemn their existence.
Contrary to what many may believe, there are only a handful of passages mentioning same-sex relationships—the most popular example can be read in Leviticus 18:22, in the archaic Old Testament. The King James Version of the verse read: “Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.”
In an HRC Q&A, United Methodist pastor Jimmy Creech said this the belief that homosexuality is a sin can be the result of “poor biblical scholarship and a cultural bias read into the Bible.” He continued, “Sexual orientation was not understood in biblical times. There are references in the Bible to same-gender sexual behavior, and all of them are undeniably negative. But what is condemned in these passages is the violence, idolatry, and exploitation related to the behavior, not the same-gender nature of the behavior.”
There is also a belief that being homosexual, bisexual, or transgender is a choice and, as mentioned earlier, a mental disorder. This is why old-school Christians and Catholics suggest conversion therapy to “fix” it. Jian’s Facebook declaration that he is abandoning homosexuality because he chose God is an example of this.
But, as LGBTQ+ advocate and transwoman Janlee Dungca said in a Facebook post, “Your GENDER IDENTITY AND SEXUAL ORIENTATION ARE NOT A CHOICE. You are born with them. It’s more about realizing and accepting them.” This is also backed by scientific studies stating that “gay genes” exist, and it can influence one’s sexual orientation.
After reading Preview's article on Jian Lasala and his journey and current take on homosexuality (which has now been…
Being an LGBTQ+ person does not make you sinful, nor does it strain your relationship with God (if you are a devout follower). Having a certain gender identity or sexual orientation is part of being a human on this Earth. It’s not a mental illness or a lifestyle we choose for the heck of it.
Role of media
Aside from the initial shock and disappointment in reading Jian’s Facebook post, many were mostly dismayed at how it was reported. Thysz said, “In its essence it was a simple article to promote his bridal line. But the way Preview chose to highlight his conversion instead? Irresponsible and downright harmful.”
Designer Rajo Laurel also found the headline (“Fashion Designer Jian Lasala Shares Why He’s Turning His Back on Homosexuality”) off-putting and “had a strong sense of veiled homophobia.” Another designer, who asked not to be named, said that while this is Jian’s story to tell and we should respect that, the issue here is a publication not upholding “responsible journalism in approaching [a] sensitive story.”
We feel empathy for Jian. We can’t imagine what it’s like thinking you need to “cure” homosexuality. This whole discussion is also why there should be more LGBTQ+ representation, more education, and why we must push for policies that protect one’s SOGIE. So LGBTQ+ people, especially the younger ones who are still figuring it out, won’t feel like they are wrong or unwanted or sinful.
We must also recognize the adversity our LGBTQ+ peers face daily. To be a good ally is not only to speak up but to do the hard work.
And to our LGBTQ+ friends, know that we hear you and are here for you.
Here are hotlines and organizations for LGBTQ+ people who need to reach out for support:
Phone: (02) 435-4103
Mobile: (0927) 293-3731
Rainbow Rights Philippines
Association of Transgender People in the Philippines
Mobile: (0915) 172 3707
Phone: (02) 804 4673
Mobile: (0917) 558-4673
Art by Tricia Guevara
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