The Victorian Government has just published its media information pack on conversion therapy. And I’ve gotta say, the YouTube video its has produced takes the biscuit. And it’s taken a leaf out of casting central, by employing Mr Bed Time Story Guy to provide the voice over. As I was watching it I wanted to curl up in my jimmy–jams with a hot cocoa.
It’s so soothing. It looks and feels like something that no one in their right mind would reject.
So soothing. So seductive. Its narrated in the most calm, wonderful sleepy-bye-byes bedtime story voice one could ever hope for. Before reading any further on this blog post, have a watch. A watch, and a listen. Especially a listen.
Repeat after me: “All of these are perfectly natural”
“All of these are perfectly natural.”
“I can’t heeeeaar yooooo!”
“ALL OF THESE ARE PERFECTLY NATURAL!”
“That’s right, now where was I? Well Mummy Bear and Mummy Bear went…”
So now that we know it is all natural and safe, we also can conclude what is unnatural and unsafe. And what is unnatural and unsafe is any attempt to convince anyone otherwise. The soothing voice goes on. And how can you argue with this:
Everyone deserves to be loved and cared for by their family, friends and community. And people can still be a person of faith. Or not. Whichever they prefer.
Well you’ll get no argument from me on that. But what does that look like and who determines that? It’s pretty clear that the primary aim here is churches. Churches and Christian schools. And the primary soothing, oh so soothing, threat, is that if your church or school says otherwise, well there’s going to be trouble. And clearly the champion here is expressive individualism. The institution has no say on this matter. Well the institution of the Victorian Government does.
Now it is interesting that at the start of the process the Victorian Govt was at great pains to point out that general sermons were not going to be targeted by the legislation. Well, think again. The media kit goes on to explain that the move to suppress or convert often come in disguised forms:
These actions might look like counselling. Or they might be disguised as prayer. Or pastoral conversations.
In other words, something surreptitious is going on. Those sneaky, sneaky Christian pastoral staff, comouflaging their true intent in pious words and cups of tea in the church office (suitably fitted with two way glass of course). The accompanying pictures also paint their usual thousand words. Here are some screen shots:
The gentle, soothing tone is so reminiscent of something sinister in and of itself, that one wonders if they have shot themselves in the foot, to be honest. But for those in the more progressive side of the church who think “and a good thing too” and that there’s no sense of over-reach, it was interesting to see this visual:
Note the angry fundamentalist preacher, preaching from a Bible of all things, with speech marks coming out of his mouth that surely indicate he’s gotten stuck in Romans 1 or some such. Though it’s interesting that the group most likely to be animatedly discussing these matters on a Friday morning to a gathering is not represented at all. Oh, and family members also. The Victorian Government is very clear that family members are also problematic in this matter.
But the soothing voice goes on:
The Act says these practices, whether done by family members, health professionals or health care providers, disability support providers, teachers, or faith leaders, among others, are deceptive, because they are based on ideas that we now know are untrue and harmful.
The video states the practices it is targeting, and surely the devil will be in the detail. As will the court cases. So much of the video’s information leaves issues open-ended. And that’s perhaps the design. It’s about self-censorship. Soft totalitarianism is never about jack-boots on the pavement, that’s way too gauche, especially for an uber-cool city like Victoria’s capital, Melbourne, where in my recent experience, you can get the best coffee in the best laneways.
This, clearly, is a long way from the stated, initial intention, that wacko conversion therapies such as “pray the gay away” etc, are what the government is truly targeting. The intended effect is chilling. In fact, listening to that soothing voice, watching those beautiful pictures, you just know there’s an iron fist inside that velvet glove. The pictures finish with, as you would expect, a utopian ideal for faith groups.
And it is surprising how much of this is directed towards faith groups, given how little evidence there is that explicit conversion therapy goes on. And schools especially will have to figure this one out. What chance any sex-ed classes in a Christian school going anywhere near these issues. But come to think of it, how would you even begin teaching the first couple of chapters of the Bible?
The real irony is in the email from the Victorian Equal Opportunities Commissioner, Ro Allen, that accompanies the material. The email states:
I’ve been concerned about misinformation and that people have some real fears about what might happen to them if they have a conversation with their children about their own views on gender or sexuality.
Let’s be clear Ro, the video did nothing to allay those fears, but in a gentle soothing matter, ensured that those fears are very real.
But don’t worry, just watch the video again and be soothed by the soporific voice of Mr Bed-Time Story Guy telling that we all lived happily ever after.