In Turin, an endoscopist is on trial for aggravated and persistent defamation against gay persons. For years, she has inexhaustibly brought forth a hodgepodge of theories combining anatomy, psychology, and ethics in a confused manner to attack the LGBTQ community. Many of the ideas she endorses are the same ones that, for centuries, have been rehashed, and that by now have been discredited and repudiated by the international scientific community: that homosexuality is a disease of which one can be cured (and that she, of course, has the cure); that sex is intended only for the purpose of procreation; that any other sexual act (even between persons of the opposite sex) is a “disorder;” and that homosexuality eventually leads to pedophilia and other paraphilias. In this way, the doctor has become the champion of a colorful mix of ultra-traditionalist Catholic groups and websites who has also been able to count on the support of politicians, mainly from the League and Brothers of Italy parties.
In the U.S., two movies have just come out bringing public attention to the disastrous consequences of the theories advocated by this endoscopist and her clerical-fascist friends. The so-called “conversion therapy,” banned by law in 14 states of the Union, but still allowed in the other 36, aims to change the sexual orientation of gay people and “make them” heterosexual. It is, obviously, a practice devoid of scientific basis, condemned as useless and deleterious by major medical, psychological, and psychiatric associations that in turn prohibit their members from engaging in the practice. However, the problem is that in a majority of cases, centers for “sexual re-orientation” are not subject to the laws and policies prohibiting the “therapy” because they are affiliated with Protestant fundamentalist churches, which are protected – as all religions are in the U.S. – by the First Amendment’s guarantee of religious freedom, and do not have any medical or psychiatric personnel. The practicioners are but fanatical torturers who cause enormous and irreparable damage to young people, often minors, entrusted to their “care.” Reliable data show that more than 700,000 Americans have endured these “therapies,” often against their will, and with the result being a 30% increase in depression and suicide rates among the male and female adolescents who subjected to them.
The movies, both of which came out in theaters a few months apart, tell the story of two adolescents that have survived gay conversion therapy: one female in the movie The Miseducation of Cameron Post (winner of the Sundance Festival, previewed in Italy at the Rome Film Fest, and now set to play in theaters), and male in the movie Boy Erased (also presented at the Rome Film Festival, and coming to theaters in Italy on February 7 under the title “Vite cancellate”). The first one is based on a novel, whereas the second is based on Garrard Conley’s autobiography. The first focuses mainly on the network of solid friendships that grows among the companions of misfortune, whereas the other film focuses on the complicated and agonizing relationship between a boy and his parents, played in a masterful way by Nicole Kidman and Russel Crowe.
Boy Erased is a tough film with scenes difficult to watch in their entirety, but there is a character that, between the fanaticism and general conformity of the small town in Arkansas where the story takes place, represents the voice of reason, of equilibrium, and of a humanity not enslaved by ideology. It is the doctor that, at the father’s request, performs a series of analyses on the boy before he is sent away to the infamous conversion center. The doctor tells him sweetly, “I am a woman of faith, but I am also a doctor and I already know that your analyses will confirm what we already know: that you are a healthy boy and there is nothing in you that needs to be changed.” While watching this scene, I could not help but think of the doctor on trial in Turin that wishes to make conversion therapy legal in Italy, while in the U.S., are finally trying to put an end to this practice devoid of scientific basis.
Translated by Emmelina De Feo