A man who was subjected to conversion therapy after coming out to his religious family has shared his experience to help others affected by the cruel practice.
Blair Anderson, from Glasgow, was 14 when he told his family he was gay.
From then on he endured years of intimate, non-physical abuse from someone who intended to 'cure' his homosexuality.
He told Glasgow Live : "Most people’s idea of conversion therapy is a formal one, taking place maybe in a medical practise or a church camp. My experience was different, as it was family-based.
“As a child, at the ages of 5 ,6, 7, I thought being gay was terrible. Years before even coming out to my family, I had denied my sexuality to myself and refused to accept it. It didn’t work.
“I lived in a strict religious household, and had grown up being told that being gay was a sin. When I came out, that was the response. I was told it wasn’t an option and given an ultimatum – to be gay, or disowned.
Blair Anderson is now estranged from his family
“I was only 14, a child. I was scared, and so for the next five years I repressed my sexuality. l couldn’t explore it or express it. I pretended I was straight, in relationships with girls, and couldn’t tell anyone else I was gay.”
He described his experience as a “more informal, intimate form of violence”, which at times left him feeling suicidal.
“I endured gas lighting, bullying, harassment and isolation,” he said.
“It always took the form of a one-on-one discussion, away from the rest of the family, to talk. I was subjected to prayers in that capacity, biblical writing, teaching in a one-on-one environment.
"I was threatened, told that if I was to practise my homosexuality in any way, family members would die as a result – they’d be killed by God.
“Other controlling behaviour included being denied access to healthcare.
“I developed mental health issues as a result of the conversion therapy I was experiencing, but when I wanted to speak to a doctor about my mental health I was told I wasn’t allowed to. I wasn’t allowed to go anywhere unsupervised.”
He said he developed mental health issues as a result of conversion therapy
Blair is now estranged from his family, saying that he was able to ‘escape’ when he was 18 and moved from North Lanarkshire to go university.
After a turbulent few years, where he says he was harassed and threatened for doing so, he had finally been able to process the damage that his experience has had on him.
“I didn’t know anyone else in the world was gay growing up, or that my experience was abnormal” he said.
“It was my life and I didn’t think anything of it. I didn’t think it was bad. I thought, this is a relatively normal thing to be going through. Only when I got older I realised it wasn’t.”
Blair is now part of the End Conversion Therapy Campaign group and is talking about his experience to raise awareness, and help those who may be in the same position as him.
He says that a lack of knowledge over the care system, compounded with the insidious nature of the practise taking place in unregulated spaces, makes a ban more necessary.
He explained: “My initial response was ‘I have to ‘pass’ as straight effectively, not because I wanted to but I had to.
“I didn’t know how the care system worked and went along with it out of necessity.
“It was never about changing or suppressing my sexuality, but about surviving. I wanted it to go away. I wanted the torture to stop.”
Currently, the Scottish Parliament's Equalities, Human Rights and Civil Justice Committee is looking at the issue after a petition seeking to outlaw such practices was backed by more than 5,500 people.
They are consulting with religious groups and those in the church.
Committee convener, Joe FitzPatrick, said the consultation was asking people if making conversion therapy a criminal offence was the "right way forward".
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Conversion therapy is an abhorrent practice that has no place in Scotland.
“We await the exact detail of the UK Government’s proposals on this issue. If their actions do not result in the banning of this discriminatory and harmful practice in Scotland, we will bring forward our own legislation, within the powers of the Scottish Parliament.”
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