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Darwish’s story

The incidents portrayed in this story are inspired by real stories, but all names and other identifying details have been changed.

‘My doctor’s referral letter said I had a mental illness – that I suffered from attraction to men and that I needed fixing.’

‘I was told by the Coptic Church and doctors that what I was experiencing was just a phase and that one day, I would grow out of it.

I was told that they could fix me.

As a person of faith, my faith anchors me and gives me a sense of purpose and belonging.

So, I lapped up the information and had a false sense of security and hope that I would grow out of it.

When my attraction towards other men didn’t end, I wondered what I had done wrong.

I was told that the system works, that many people like me are now married and have kids.

I fasted. I prayed. I abstained and I confessed.

My Church leaders sent me to a doctor where I was referred to a psychiatrist. Both the doctor and psychiatrist were part of the Coptic Church.

My doctor’s referral letter said I had a mental illness – that I suffered from attraction to men and that I needed fixing.

I was told by these people of authority and medical experts that I was fixable if I just had enough faith and trust in God. Who was I to question these experts?

I was given two options: become asexual or heterosexual. I was told to write down everything I remember – what went wrong and why I wanted to be fixed. The psychiatrist used the absent father model. As my mum was more present in my life and she likes men, it meant that I like men too.

I really tried and two years later felt I was becoming a robot; I was emotionally, physically, and sexually switched off.

I struggled with my mental health and had suicidal tendencies. I was asked by health professionals why I didn’t give up my faith.

But my faith identity is very much entangled within me, very much like being gay.’

How does the law apply to Darwish’s situation?

Under the Change or Suppression (Conversion) Practices Prohibition Act 2021, it’s against the law to try to change or suppress someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

This means that the church leader who referred Darwish to the doctor for the purpose of trying to change and supress Darwish’s sexual orientation has engaged in a change or suppression practice.

Darwish’s doctor who referred Darwish to a psychiatrist and the psychiatrist have also engaged in a change or suppression practice by providing a referral and advice based on their own beliefs, for the purpose of trying to change and supress Darwish’s sexual orientation. The doctor and psychiatrist cannot ask Darwish to undertake activities to change or suppress his sexual orientation.

Are you in a similar situation?

You can make a report to identify a person or an organisation who has tried to change or suppress your sexual orientation or gender identity.

A report is made with the intent to:

  • show the harm of these practices
  • have your story heard
  • seek an outcome (facilitation, education or investigation)
  • stop these practices from happening.

Read more about how you can make a report.

Support services

Reading this story may have caused distress. These services can help:

Rainbow Door is a free specialist LGBTIQA+ helpline providing information, support, and referral to all LGBTIQA+ Victorians, their family, and friends.
Contact: 1800 729 367 or 0480 017 246 (SMS) or support@rainbowdoor.org.au

Beyond Blue provides 24-hour information, advice and support for people affected by anxiety, depression, and suicide.
Contact: 1300 224 636

A full list of affirming faith organisations, LGBTIQ support organisations and crisis and mental health services can be found on our ‘Have you experienced a change or suppression practice?’ page.

Read more about LGBTIQ rights

Change or suppression (conversion) practices

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