Piece on the BBC Website

There’s a piece today on the BBC Website about Peterson Toscano in which I’m quoted. Here’s the section.

Church of England priest Peter Ould believes men can live together as partners and have holy and fulfilled lives, as long as those lives are celibate. He argues that sexual desire can be suppressed for both homosexuals and unmarried heterosexuals and that God will replace those wants with something else.

Mr Ould is married with children and calls this stage of his life “post gay”, Although he never had sex with a man or conversion therapy, in his 20s he was provided with pastoral support for his attractions to men.

“A holy life means abstaining from sexual relations until one is married to someone of the opposite sex,” he told BBC Religion. Mr Ould now offers pastoral support to homosexual Christians, through both the Church of England and an organisation called the True Freedom Trust (TfT), which had given counselling to Mr Toscano.


Well as always 95% of what I said was ignored. Also the line about “offers pastoral support to homosexual Christians, through both the Church of England” rather misses the point that I explicitly told the journalist that I do *not* operate under any Church of England mandate for the bits of pastoral work I do. It’s actually quite misleading what was written in the article.

Indeed, although the piece is presented with myself and Peter Saunders in “for balance”, notice that we don’t get an opportunity to actually engage with Peterson’s experiences and the claim that they were “psychologically damaging”. Indeed, I presented Karen Millington with details of where to go if she wanted to actually document the research on harm from reparative therapy (or indeed the lack of such evidence) but none of that appears in the piece. I also pointed her towards the best longitudinal research done on the subject, the Jones and Yarhouse Exgay Study, but once again no mention. Finally I (and I suspect TFT as well) pointed out very clearly that TFT does not now nor has never promoted orientation change, yet the piece tries to suggest that they do. And one more piece of hyperbole – the line “ Up to 1973, US psychiatrists had been classifying homosexuals as insane” is complete nonsense. Homosexuality was removed from the DSM in 1973 but the DSM never suggested homosexuality was a sign of insanity.

It would be nice, if the BBC were *really* interested in balance, if they actually gave us as much time as they give the likes of Peterson Toscano. It would also be nice if they sought to not sensationalise the facts (“insane”). But that’ll never happen, because those of us with a life story contrary to the modern sexual assumptions and facts that challenge the agenda are quietly side-lined and ignored.

Please try harder BBC.


Peter Saunders has this to say.

The full quote I gave the journalist who wrote today’s BBC article read as follows:

‘Many people believe that homosexual and heterosexual are distinct biological categories which are unchangeable, biologically fixed and genetically determined but this view is beingincreasingly challenged by new research. Sexual attractions are now best understood as lying on a spectrum rather than in terms of a simple dichotomous binary categorisation, and mixed patterns of sexual desire, including attraction to both sexes at the same time and changes in the strength and direction of sexual attraction over time are not uncommon. It is on this basis that some people understandably will seek professional help in dealing with their changing feelings. Professionals providing such care should do so in a way that both respects the beliefs and values of the person seeking help and is also evidence-based.’

They chose only to use the last sentence, I suspect because the other three, about the fluidity of sexual feelings, did not fit with the underlying presupposition of the article that sexual orientation is something fixed, unchangeable and genetically determined and that the only approach to people experiencing feelings of same sex attraction is to encourage them to embrace a ‘gay lifestyle’.

But this view is overly simplistic and not actually supported by the evidence (see my article on Max Pemberton for more on this)

Instead the latest research supports the idea that, for some, sexual feelings are often quite fluid and changeable. Many gay rights commentators including Peter Tatchell and Matthew Parrisshare this view.

This leaves us then with the question of how to help those who are experiencing ‘unwanted’ feelings of same sex attraction.

On this I would particularly recommend a booklet published last year and available on the CMF website titled ‘Unwanted same sex attraction: Issues of pastoral and counselling support’.

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