THERE is something deeply heartless about asking a gay child to never act on their desires as they grow older and being forced to commit themselves from a young age to a life without love or real intimacy.

Yet that is what those who promote conversion therapy in even its mildest forms are demanding of people; to commit themselves to a half-life in the name of another’s imposed religious or social values.

For all that those in support of conversion therapy dress up their language in the cloak of care, the consequences to the lives of LGBTQ+ people are no different than when someone doesn’t bother to choose their words so carefully.

Last week in the Scottish Parliament, SNP MSP John Mason stood up during a debate on banning conversion therapy and made some of the most disgusting and ill-informed comments I’ve heard to date in Holyrood. That he has largely escaped any serious backlash or consequence can be attributed to his putting a pretty little bow on top of what I’d call naked intolerance.

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The debate around banning so-called conversion therapy in Scotland – the practice of trying to forcefully change someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity – broadly saw agreement across the chamber that it has no place in our modern country, nor anywhere else for that matter.

The process in all its forms is a barbaric one that has left in its wake only unhappiness, trauma and, in some cases, death. The Kristine Stolakis documentary Pray Away, which explores conversion therapy through prayer, a method that Mason appeared to defend in the chamber, highlights the very real outcomes that this pseudoscientific mistreatment has on the lives of LGBTQ+ people forced to endure it.

Randy Thomas, a former Exodus International vice-president who features in the documentary and who was once part of the former gay movement, described how his perspective shifted following the suicide of a friend. Reflecting on his involvement, Thomas said: “It crushed me to know the ideology we had both ascribed to, that we both lived by, that I had been promoting, had killed my friend.”

Attempted suicide rates among young LGBTQ+ people more than double when their parents try to push them through conversion therapy practices – a statistic that only gets worse when religious leaders and conversion therapy practitioners are involved.

This is the process that Mason likened in Holyrood last week to just choosing not to eat too much chocolate or drink too much alcohol.

Speaking with the survivors of conversion therapy, it’s evident that the cosy analogies pushed by Mason and his contemporaries are pure fantasy. Blair Anderson, who gave evidence during the debate, has described how his parents abused and forced him to pray to “fix” his sexuality – a violent event that still leaves him “waking up screaming” at night.

The return of “pray the gay away”- style rhetoric (though it never really left) fits perfectly with a general resurgence of many of the anti-gay talking points of the 1980s and 90s,

repurposed and given a coat of paint to target transgender people rather than gay, lesbian and bisexual relationships. Where they differ, however, is in having been adapted to cover up their open bigotry with the language of safeguarding and concern. Listening to John Mason describing being gay or transgender as a simple excess like eating too much – one that can be withstood with self-control – is a position of advocacy for what Amnesty International described as “cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment” even when it skirts around naming itself.

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Anyone who falls for this rhetorical ploy that diminishes the seriousness of Mason’s intent is on par with a dog that can distinguish only tone over the substance of words; where a cavalcade of abuse can be masked by a pitch and cadence that suggests a walk to the park may lie in the near future.

So-called religious exemptions from a conversion therapy ban is no less than a failure to institute any ban at all, as would be any ban that excluded attempts to force transgender people to live an inauthentic life.

Exemptions like these leave cracks in the legislation that over time would be pried open, wider and wider, until it is no longer fit for purpose – and, having failed to so far secure themselves the right to discriminate, any weakness in the legislation that can later be used to undermine its purpose is the only route left.

In this sense, the many anti-trans groups who purport to stand up for LGB folk while advocating for the weakening of this legislation are the “useful idiots” of a right-wing and reactionary movement to eventually roll back their own rights, too.

Being gay or transgender is not a choice. It is a fundamental part of our identities that there is no ethical reason to suppress.

Mason claims he is broadly opposed to conversion therapy, yet his own justifications would suggest otherwise. Instead of outright support, there is instead the creation of unwinnable scenarios that mask the intended outcomes, like saying sex outside of marriage is wrong while ensuring that equal marriage remains illegal. Or that transgender people should still be made to “live as their gender” for two years before being eligible for a Gender Recognition Certificate, while also arguing that they can’t access single-sex spaces until they have one.

All of this is simply designed to paper over the real-world consequences of such practices and demands, and I’m left wondering always if the reason they skirt around saying what they truly mean is purely to disguise their true intent for political reasons, or because deep down they don’t really want to reckon with the horror they are advocating for.