“It’s wrong… it’s totally unacceptable. I’m an example of the enormous damage that it can do to people.”
That was Ron Smith’s reaction to Health Minister Greg Hunt’s refusal to condemn a controversial plan by a section of Victoria’s Liberal Party to debate gay conversion therapy.
The 71-year-old former Baptist minister is a survivor of electroshock therapy, a now discredited practice once believed to rid patients of their same-sex attraction.
“They … put a wiring on my private parts that measured temperature changes, and showed me about a thousand pictures of men and a thousand pictures of women over about a 10-day period,” Mr Smith recalls.
“When my body temperature rose when I saw the guys, which is natural for me, they delivered high voltages of electricity through wires that were attached to punish me for being gay and try to make me straight.
“It was horrific.”
Mr Smith received the treatment in 1976. It was recommended by his psychotherapist — a respected member of the Baptist community — who knew Mr Smith was gay, and promised this would change his sexual orientation. It didn’t.