A Christian campaigner for gay “conversion” therapy who is taking Boris Johnson to the High Court for the right to advertise on London buses, has said he is making a stand for the rights of people like himself.
Dr Mike Davidson, of Core Issues Trust, designed posters based on Stonewall’s "Some people are gay. Get over it!" to be put on London red buses.
His posters read: “Not Gay! Ex-Gay, Post-Gay and Proud. Get over it!".
Dr Mike Davidson, of Core Issues Trust
Dr Davidson, who describes himself as having had homosexual feelings supressed by therapy, enabling him to marry and have children, said he was campaigning for the right to be recognised.
He told HuffPost UK: “I am tired of being told I am a repressed gay and that I am homophobic. It’s too easy folks, it belittles me because I disagree, and that is not right. It is profoundly uncomfortable that we cannot talk about this.
“We are not damaging gay folk, we are damaging people that do not want to go in that direction and want to seek help, but cannot.”
Johnson says the ad is not only offensive to gays but could lead to a retaliation against the wider Christian community.
The Huffington Post UK met Dr Davidson at the headquarters of Christian lobby group Christian Concern, which is backing his case, on the eve of the High Court case.
The High Court is not the only battle he is currently fighting. He cannot practice, having been suspended from his training course with the British Psychodrama Association, a decision he is appealing against, with a hearing this weekend. Despite not practicing, he says he gets about three people contact him per week, seeking to rid themselves of homosexual feelings.
Davidson says Johnson is misrepresenting him, that he does not see “gay” as a disease that can be cured, but a “socio-political” construct people can reject.
“Any individual who puts their head above the paraphet and say, ‘Oh by the way, I am ex-gay’, they are branded as homophobic, or insincere, dangerous people. “Anything that moves away from the new normativity seems to be a problem. That’s an unhealthy thing.”
Now living near Belfast, Davidson grew up in South Africa “when the gay liberation movement was not exactly at the forefront, and in an area of the world where you didn’t talk about it.
“I was aware of homosexual feelings within me but that did not predetermine that I would then identify as being “gay” – the socio-political construct which has only been around for the last 80 years.”
He refers to the “Down Low” phenomena, which he describes as “American black men who are busy with homosexual practice who do not refer to themselves as gay. And some would say they are just repressed. But what they are actually saying is that ‘I don’t identify with the gay culture, this way of doing things.’ Gay is a set of ideas.”
When did he realise that he had feelings for other men? ”It began from the moment I opened my eyes,” he says, and his own experiences mean that he does not believe homosexuality is a “choice”.
But he adds: “I know I did not choose the feelings I have. But I had choices to pursue them. The more I pursued them, the more natural it felt.
He knows that comparing addiction to homosexuality is controversial to say the least, but he goes on: “Take for example what happens with addiction, your brain changes to accommodate that addiction.
“In some cases there are individuals whose primary identity is not sexual. They may have other values, and they choose to align themselves with those values, maybe values of faith.”
And has it made him happier? “It is never black and white.
“People make choices. Life is a challenge for all of us, this is difficult, and everybody finds the way they think they need to go.”
Professional bodies in the UK do not agree with his conclusions. The UK Council for Psychotherapy says conversion therapy should not be practiced by “responsible psychotherapists.”
The Royal College of Psychiatrists says: “There is no sound scientific evidence that sexual orientation can be changed. Furthermore, so-called treatments of homosexuality create a setting in which prejudice and discrimination flourish.”
Davidson says it is impossible to publish data with randomised testing to prove effectiveness. “It is actually a political statement, and is not about the scientific data. In America, the bodies do not ban it. They may disapprove or question its effectiveness but it is not banned.”
He claims he would not treat a gay person he believed had been pressured into being “converted” but admits he would find it uncomfortable to pass anyone on to a “gay-affirming” therapist.
“I can see a scenario where I would affirm a client’s right of choice. To be very honest, I would not be thrilled with the idea to pass them on to a gay affirming therapist, but I think I would be ethically bound.”
The Stonewall advert on buses in London
The Stonewall advert enraged him. “I’m often asked how do I think people feel when they read our advertisement and it’s the same as how I feel reading the Stonewall advert.
“I am not denying the existence or rights of a gay person, but they are denying the rights of people who have gone through a struggle and faced huge opposition actually to their desire to move away from homosexuality.”
A TfL spokesman said prior to the Judicial Review on Thursday: "The advertisement breached TfL's advertising policy as in our view it contained a publicly controversial message and was likely to cause widespread offence to members of the public."
The campaigners will argue that TfL has generally low standards when it comes to offensive adverts, including one from the British Humanist Association, funded by Richard Dawkins which read “There’s probably no God”.
Andrea Williams, director of the Christian Legal Centre, which is supporting Dr Davidson's case, said: "The ban on these advertisements was the beginning of a kind of reverse discrimination which threatens to obliterate debate in the public sphere.
"Boris Johnson needs to realise his mistake and ensure there is freedom for all in the marketplace of ideas. He cannot prefer one group over another."