There are sometimes stories that reach the media which require some sensitive handling, and this is one of them. This story perpetuates myth and misconception about hypnosis, but also raises some other important issues.
Back in 2010, I wrote an article entitled Hypnotherapy and Homosexuality: “Can Hypnotherapy Cure My Homosexuality?” and it stated my stance on this subject, do have a read if you want a good precursor to this shorter article I am writing today.
I did receive emails from some very public gay community authors, speakers and fellow professionals which highlighted the fact that I am no expert in the area of understanding homosexuality. Yet I stood by the notion that homosexuality is not something I believe requires a cure. I am uncomfortable writing that sentence at all, because it suggests that perhaps someone somewhere believes homosexuality needs curing. In fact, in China homosexuality was only declassified as a mental illness in 2001 and it is China that is at the centre of this blog entry today.
Today then, a story which is making headlines for a number of reasons is one that tells of a man in China who is suing a hypnosis clinic for attempting to turn him straight.
This hypnosis article over at Gay Star News reports that a hypnosis clinic in Congqing attempted to use a “gay conversion” hypnosis treatment to a man using the clinic. Now the man at the centre of this case not only alleges that the treatment did not work, but also that he is suffering from significant psychological damage as a result of the treatment. He is suing both the clinic and Baidu, a Google-like service that advertised the procedure. This indicates that he clearly knew what he was signing up for, which strikes me as a bit odd.
Perhaps by offering the service, it insinuates it is something which can be cured, or is even ‘wrong’, and the clinic promoted that with the treatment, causing him distress. I wonder how many others are experiencing the same distress as a result of these kinds of programmes being made available or being promoted?
The man seems to have consented to this treatment, and I don’t think it is being suggested that the clinic did this without his consent or understanding. Either way, hypnosis simply cannot be used for this type of thing and likewise cannot be wielded as a tool to make changes in anyone.
“It’s a sign of tolerance” that the courts have taken up the lawsuit, said a spokesperson for the group Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights Advocacy China, as reported in Al Jazeera, which you can read about here. “Before, Chinese courts would have never taken on such a case,” said Xiao Chuan, a member of the LGBT rights group is quoted as saying in the article.
The decision comes after years of mental health and gay rights activists around the world advocating against conversion therapy.
“To date, there are no scientifically rigorous outcome studies to determine either the actual efficacy or harm of ’reparative’ treatments,” the American Psychiatric Association said in a 2000 position statement emailed to Al Jazeera.
Elsewhere in the world, gay conversion therapies have largely been discredited (with or without hypnosis used to facilitate it). The American Psychiatric Association says undergoing such treatment risks depression, anxiety and self-destructive behavior, and the United Kingdom Council for Pyschotherapy calls the practice unethical.
It does not seem clear what the man is suing about, did he want to become straight and it failed so he is suing? Or is he suing because of the very notion of what was being offered infringed on his rights or was misinformation? Either way, hypnosis would not have been effective in this regard. It simply is not the type of thing that people think it is or that is being portrayed here.
As I mentioned in the afore mention blog entry of 2010, hypnotherapy has been used for this purpose here in the UK as recently as the 1960s. Though this is not something that is considered a valid use of hypnosis today; there is no evidence to support the use (however many times the authors quote Pavlov’s conditioning theories) of hypnosis this way, and strikes me as highly disrespectful to the gay community to suggest that homosexuality needs curing.
Do have a read of that former entry. This story in China will make more rounds I am sure, but I wanted to simply denounce this use of hypnosis that is being portrayed in the article. Nothing more. I don’t feel wholly qualified to comment on Gay Rights issues, but feel strongly enough about it to write something protesting of this apparent use of hypnosis.
I’ll be back soon.
Firstly, I am straight so I also feel unqualified to evaluate the outlook any gay person may have on this although I should imagine that the vast majority if not all, would find the notion of “curing” what is after all part of their identity, pretty offensive. Everyone has the right to be themselves and to be authentic and true to their nature. IF however, someone finds themselves with a part of their nature ( not necessarily their sexual orientation ) that they wish to voluntarily alter by some means or another, then as long as that is harming nobody else, I assume most of us feel they have the right to choose that too. Everyone has the right to aspire to be what they want to be if indeed it is THEIR CHOICE to change. BUT and it’s a big one, I am totally in agreement with you Adam, that altering a person’s fundamental identity is not something that hypnosis should be employed to treat. I will reiterate that I see no reason why anyone should consider anyone else’s orientation – as long as it involves loving and appreciating another consenting adult – a matter that needs curing at all. Acceptance and knowing the value of ourselves and each person we meet as who we truly are and who they are too is the most important thing.
Thank you Cate. The bottom line for me, is that conversion treatments have been shown to do more harm than good and there is no credible evidence to advocate the use of hypnosis for this application.
Best wishes, A.
Selective reporting bound to be misinterpreted by the public (again)!
Perhaps it gives us an opportunity to continue to educate accordingly and correctly? 🙂
Best wishes, A.
I guess I don’t understand why he’s suing. Did he employ the hypnotist to convert him to becoming straight and it didn’t work? Or did they try covert hypnosis on him unknowingly? Or did his sign up for it in confidence and it got out that he tried to use hypnosis to change his sexuality. And now he is suing to save face.
Either way if he is gay or straight who cares so long as he is happy.
And if he did make the choice to try it. Then that is his choice as well and he should not be bullied by the heterosexual nor LGBT community for making his very personal choice.
I wish people would stop using other people’s lives to push there own points of view. To many people have committed suicide behind others trying to make them a poster child for a cause. When they just want to be left alone to live their lives on their own terms.
But, with that being said. If they tried to change him without his consent. They should lock them up and throw away the key.
But if they didn’t and he knowingly with desire to become heterosexual, did sign up to be hypnotised into a straight man. Then those who bully and judge him should be the ones locked up and throw away the key.
Tolerance is a two way street. The media is the biggest bully to date… Nothing but love to all.
And according to the laws of hypnosis you can’t be forced to act against your will, Even under hypnosis. So hmmmmmmm …lol