A psychologist and sexuality expert has urged parents who have put their children through conversion therapy to apologise after a new law bans the practice in New Zealand.
Dr Rita Csako, who is a senior lecturer in psychology and neuroscience with AUT University, made the comments on Science Digest, the New Zealand Herald's monthly science podcast.
Fronted by Dr Michelle Dickinson, known popularly as Nanogirl, this month's episode focuses on the science of sexuality and why conversion therapy cannot be achieved. The guests included Csako and Paul Stevens, a conversion therapy survivor who has advocated against the practice in recent years.
On Tuesday, the Conversion Practices Prohibition Legislation Bill passed its third reading in Parliament. It bans practices such as conversion therapy that exist to try and alter or suppress someone's sexuality or gender identity.
Csako said that psychologists in New Zealand have wanted this bill for years, and is thrilled that it has passed.
She said that parents who have put their children through this practice need to accept that they can't change their child's sexuality, and there are other ways to go about helping their child come to terms with themselves.
One thing Csako said they can do to start with is apologise.
"Go and say 'hey, I didn't know that it was wrong. I really wanted to do my best for you, and I'm sorry that I put you through that'. I think that's everyone who has ever gone through conversion therapy would deserve an apology."
Csako said few studies back up conversion therapy of having any scientific basis, and that most of those that do back it involve "self reports" from people who want the practice to work because they have been conditioned to think their sexuality or identity is wrong.
Stevens, who experienced conversion therapy as a teenager, backed that up, saying that at the time he was put through it, he desperately wanted it to work.
"I had a very clear view of the life I wanted to live. There was a time when I was a teenager where I wanted to be a success story, I had this vision of myself being a minister and standing up there as one of the ex-gay ministers I had seen in America."
He said that he realised the practice did not work when he attended an ex-gay conference in Auckland when he was 16 and found himself surrounded by "very, very lonely men" who revealed to him the truth of the practice – but it still took him some time to accept that homosexuality was not a sin.