A German gay ‘conversion therapy’ victim has insisted that “it is essential that the Churches speak out loudly that homosexuality is not a disease”.

Driving the news

Bastian Melcher, 30, spoke to La Croix after the news that Germany is to outlaw the very treatment he suffered for eight “painful” years in an attempt to ‘turn him straight’.

“For two years, we prayed with my pastor to God to change me”, denounced Melcher, who hails from a Protestant family from Bremen and suffered ‘conversion therapy’ from the tender age of just 15.

“The pastor told me that God would change me if I really wanted to. It put a lot of pressure on me”, Melcher lamented.

He added that from the age of 17 he participated in weekly Bible-inspired, Church-sponsored ‘Gays Anonymous’-style meetings.

“I wanted to do it, even if I doubted a lot. I suffered from depression. I thought about killing myself”, Melcher admitted.

That is, until one day when he participated in a Pride March in Hanover because he wanted “not to fight anymore”.

Go deeper

German Health minister Jens Spahn, himself a married gay man, announced December 18 that any medicinal or psychological treatment intended to change the affective orientation of a person will become an offence in Germany under pain of a possible one-year prison term and a fine of 30,000 euros.

The law applies to any ‘conversion therapy’ given under intimidation, threat, obligation or deception – especially to minors – and also bans any publicity and suggestion of the pseudoscientific treatment, including by religious representatives.

Spahn said the government also plans to set up a free and anonymous ‘conversation therapy’ helpline by phone and internet.

Why it matters

“Homosexuality is not a disease”, said the minister, announcing the new law.

“As a result, the concept of ‘therapy’ is misleading.

“When they occur, these so-called therapies cause severe mental and physical suffering. They make you sick.

“Their prohibition is also a strong societal signal to those who suffer because they are gay. We tell them, ‘You are fine as you are'”, declared Spahn.

For the record

Melcher welcomed the new anti-gay ‘conversion therapy’ law as a big “step forward”, but lamented it may be difficult to police.

“No one advertises it on the internet or distributes leaflets. Everything happens by word of mouth. Moreover, the law prohibits pressure and threats, but personally, I have never been forced or coerced to carry out these therapies”, the man warned.

For his part, Thomas Pöschl, spokesman for the German Ecumenical Working Group on Homosexuals and the Church, declared to Domradio that “the Churches as a whole accept the knowledge of science and confirm that homosexuality is not a disease”.

The Church “reject these therapies and do not advise to follow them”, Pöschl added, before admitting that “however, there are fundamentalist groups in all Churches who claim that such therapies can be successful”.

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