Pride Centre coordinator Jory McKay says conversion therapy tells people that they need to change to meet society’s expectations. He is currently advocating that the practice be banned provincially because he believes people should be taught to accept themselves instead.
The petition started by the Grosvenor Park United Church is aimed at banning the practice of conversion therapy, which is still legal in Saskatchewan and most of Canada. Conversion or reparative therapy is an ineffective, harmful and discredited treatment aimed at changing an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
While sharing this petition on campus, McKay discovered that many people were surprised that conversion therapy has not already been banned.
“A lot of people don’t know that it’s actually still legal,” McKay said. “So when most people find out that it’s legal, they want it changed.”
There is no credible evidence that indicates a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity can be changed. Instead, research shows that conversion therapy has lifelong and damaging effects on people’s psychological and social well-being.
McKay says that another important part of making the practice illegal in Saskatchewan is to help protect the rights of minors when their parents consent to it.
“I’ve heard those questions which are like, ‘What if someone wants to go to conversion therapy when they’re an adult?’ But for people under the age of 18, they don’t really have a choice,” McKay said.
McKay personally knows students who have suffered from conversion therapy and always thought it was a “terrible practice.” He says that these sorts of treatments perpetuate heterosexism and the Pride Centre has a role in teaching that selfacceptance is okay.
“Conversion therapy pushes that it’s better to be a cisgender straight person within society than to be something that’s a little different, when really what the queer community is really fighting for is to show that it’s okay to be different,” McKay said.
“It’s actually better to be different than to just be the same as everyone around you and to be proud of who you are, rather than trying to change to be a better fit with society.”
McKay feels frustrated because the federal government has yet to create legislation banning conversion therapy across Canada, saying it is a concern of provincial and municipal jurisdictions. However, as more cities in Canada and the United States ban the practice, McKay believes it’s the right time to address this issue as a province.
“We need to, as a province, especially in the middle of Canada, take that first step because for a notoriously conservative place like Saskatchewan to make that change. I think the rest of Canada will see the importance of us doing this first,” McKay said.
McKay believes that because Saskatoon is a LGBTQ2S+ positive area, once people are made aware that banning conversion therapy is possible, there will be an outpour of support for it. He says that the Pride Centre is supporting the Grosvenor Park United Church by getting as many people on campus to sign the petition as possible.
“For something like this, we need as many signatures as we can get to show that this is something that really matters,” McKay said.
“Unfortunately politicians, even if they want to do it, can feel like it’s too much work or there is not enough support for this. So we need to get as many signatures as possible to get it through.”
Noah Callaghan|Staff Writer
Photo: Victoria Becker | Photo Editor