On Wednesday, a UN committee in Geneva asked State Department representatives what the federal government was doing to prosecute psychologists who help patients change their same-sex attractions.
The questioning came during the U.S. report to the UN Committee on Torture on how the U.S. is complying with the treaty against torture to which the U.S. has been a party since 1998. The treaty defines torture as pain or suffering caused by a “public official” for the purpose of punishment or to elicit information.
A group of LGBT activists submitted to the committee what is called a “shadow report” outlining the case on why such therapy fits within the treaty definition of torture and why it should be outlawed.
The activists testified to the committee behind closed doors on Tuesday. One of their chief witnesses is Samuel Brinton, who says he was tortured, with his parents’ approval, by a therapist. This therapist strapped his hands down, placed ice blocks on his upturned palms, wound copper wires around his arms, and placed electrodes into his fingertips to emit electric shocks.
Brinton’s story, however, has been questioned by leading LGBT activists who say it should not be used. Brinton first told his story of torture in a video called “I’m from Driftwood,” reported in the Huffington Post.
The LGBT website Queerty.com tried to verify what Binton’s said. In the comments section of that report, Wayne Besen, former chief spokesman for the mammoth LGBT Human Rights Campaign, says he also failed to verify it.
Samuel came forward and told a story presumably in an effort to help others. There are groups like mine who would be thrilled to use his example to demonstrate the harm caused by “ex-gay” therapy. We live for real life examples like this. However, until he provides more information to verify his experience, he makes it impossible for us to use him as an example. Indeed, it would be grossly irresponsible for us to do so.
Besen called on Brinton to provide the identity of the “therapist who tortured him … either publicly or privately.” Brinton said coming up with the identity of the therapist was “simply not an option” and that he cannot remember who the therapist was.
Brinton said his story was “not for him to prove” and that he did not want to become the “poster child of the anti-conversion therapy movement.”
However, he continues to tell his story, and the National Center for Lesbian Rights took him to Geneva. There, he told this story to the UN Committee on Torture that is now pressuring the federal government to prosecute psychologists who counsel voluntary patients seeking treatment for unwanted same-sex attraction.
Therapists who practice sexual orientation change efforts roundly deny that treatments like those described by Brinton are being used.
The vice-chair of the torture committee is American Felice Gaer of the American Jewish Committee who told the Vatican earlier this year that prohibitions against abortion were also a form of torture.