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Homophobia in the health service? All in a day’s work for the Chair of Northern Ireland’s Committee on Health

June 14th, 2008

Dr Petra

Iris Robinson is a Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) MP, wife of Peter Robinson (the chair of the DUP), and the chair of the Northern Ireland Assembly’s Committee on Health.

You would expect that someone in charge of a health committee would be well aware of evidence relating to health care issues, including homosexuality. Iris Robinson appears to think that being in a position of power means you can simply disregard evidence in favour of bigotry.

Earlier in the week Robinson claimed in an interview that she regarded homosexuality as a mental illness which could be ‘turned around’, adding that she condemned homophobic violence but decried homosexuality. She explained “I have a very lovely psychiatrist who works with me in my offices and his Christian background is that he tries to help homosexuals – trying to turn away from what they are engaged in”.

So now we have not only the chair of the Committee on Health having no clue about evidence, she is being advised by a practitioner who also clearly hasn’t read up on the evidence around the ‘treatment’ of homosexuality.

Following this controversy, rather than apologising, or looking at whether her claims hold any substance (outside of being just a personal view) Iris Robinson continued to state homosexuality was a mental illness, stated she had ‘no regrets’ over the claims she had made, and went on to claim being gay was on the same spectrum as being a murderer.

Given Mrs Robinson’s views about homosexuality I suspect she won’t be remotely interested in considering the scientific evidence on this issue, but in case anyone else wants to know homosexuality is not a mental illness (it used to be classified as such, but hasn’t been for many decades). The American Psychological Association have created a list of FAQs answering most of the commonly asked questions about sexuality and mental health.

Since being gay doesn’t mean you’re mentally ill there is no cure or treatment needed. Although there are some private practitioners who claim they can make gay folk straight, independent research of psychiatrists and patients offered cures for homosexuality indicate that treatments for the most part are completely unsuccessful. Click here for that research on patients and practitioners as well as a summary about homosexuality over the past 40 years.

It has to be said that lesbians, gays, bisexual and trans folk often do report more problems with mental health issues, not because they are ‘sick’ but because living in a homophobic society puts tremendous pressure on their psychological wellbeing.
MIND has some useful information and sources of support for people concerned about their mental health.

Claims have been made that Iris Robinson’s remarks have already encouraged homophobic attacks, and as a result of this plus her narrow minded views, there is now a petition you can sign to call for her to be reprimanded. I would add to this that the psychiatrist also offering ‘treatment’ to ‘turn around’ gays should be investigated as there is no place within the health service for homophobia.

While people are entitled to religious views, when one holds a position of power relating to healthcare, and where there is a body of evidence being ignored this becomes a major ethical and social problem.

It also becomes very depressing, so let’s look at how relying on the bible to inform our views on homosexuality may sometimes give us some further life instructions that are also pretty daft.

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