In this backwards world, there are medical professionals who specialize in “curing” the disease of homosexuality. They’re called gay conversion therapists, and one of them was just found guilty of sexually abusing two of his male patients.
Dr. Melvyn Iscove, 72, has built his career on the idea that homosexuality is a disorder that can be overcome.
Ironically, the man must suffer from the affliction himself, as Ontario’s medical regulator found that he’d engaged in mutual masturbation, oral sex and anal sex with male patients during therapy sessions. The men were told these sex acts were part of their treatment — that engaging in this sinful behavior would help them stop fantasizing about it.
The guilty findings come down from the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO), which investigated the abuses that victims claim occurred in the 1990s and early 2000s.
Patient A and Patient B, as they’re referred to by the CPSO discipline committee, were long-term clients of Dr. Iscove’s who claim the doctor abused them in their 20’s. They say they saw him as a father figure, even as he slowly coerced them into a sexual relationship.
Patient A began seeing the doctor in 1991 to help him deal with fears that he was gay. Iscove referred A to the teachings of Edmund Bergler, a 1950’s psychoanalyst whose writings can be quoted, “all attempts to prove homosexuality to be anything but an illness had in my opinion failed” and “there are no happy homosexuals.”
A decade into treatment, Iscove started asking A to touch him sexually. For the next few years, Iscove and A would regularly engage in blow jobs and mutual masturbation. Eventually, A ended their sexual relationship. He continued seeing Iscove for several years after.
Patient B wasn’t concerned about his sexuality before seeing Iscove, but two decades into treatment, he told the doctor he was considering if he was actually gay. B told Iscove that he wanted to get involved with a random man to figure this out, but Iscove told B that he’d be better off having sex with someone familiar, and offered himself up. After a year of oral and anal sex, B requested that the sex stop. He also continued therapy with Iscove for years.
In his own testimony, Iscove denied the allegations of sexual misconduct. He also denied that performing all those super-homo sex acts makes him even a little bit gay. The committee called bullshit, and suspended his license to practice therapy.
Iscove wasn’t the first quack to try to “convert” homosexuals with abusive treatments. Gay conversion therapy has a history of using violent, coercive strategies with zero scientific backing.
Popular treatments for homosexuality in the '60s and '70s, for example, included shocking patients or giving them nausea-inducing drugs while showing them same-sex pornography, estrogen treatment to reduce their libido, and even electroconvulsive therapy to induce seizures and re-wire their brains.
Gay conversion therapy is not illegal in Canada, where the abuses were committed.
It’s also still legal in 41 U.S. states, and a nationwide ban on the practice seems unlikely to pass anytime soon. However, lawmakers at the state, county and city levels are taking matters into their own hands, and outlawing conversion therapy little by little.