Scottish MP for Glasgow East John Mason, during a debate on Tuesday on legislation to ban the practice of conversion therapy in the Scottish Parliament, likened it to getting therapy help for saying no to eat too much chocolate.
Speaking to fellow parliamentarians, Mason said sexual orientations should be accepted “to a great extent”, but they argued that for conservative religious communities, being LGBTQ was no different from “self-control and the choice not to put one’s thoughts or desires into action”. .”
Mason also argued that religious groups could be described as “above and beyond the law of the land”, comparing this to bowling clubs having mandatory dress codes, and added that for religious people, the word “conversion” was “good”. because it meant “turning away from something bad like alcohol or drug abuse.”
Mason’s remarks sparked a firestorm of criticism, including Blair Anderson, an Out Scots human rights activist and conversion therapy survivor who tweeted:
Disgusting and insulting to hear John Mason MSP compare the experiences of conversion therapy – widely seen as a form of torture – to breaking a dress code at a bowling club or binge drinking chocolate
Really disgusting shit
— Blair Anderson🍉🇵🇸🏳️🌈 (@blairanderson35) March 15, 2022
Anderson, in an interview with the Daily Record last July, described his experience as “intimate, non-physical abuse from someone who intended to ‘cure’ his homosexuality”. He told the Daily Record: “I lived in a strict religious household and grew up being told that being gay was a sin. When I came out, that was the answer. I was told that was not an option and was given an ultimatum – be gay or disavowed.
“I was only 14, a child. I was scared, so for the next five years I repressed my sexuality. I couldn’t explore it or express it. I pretended I was straight, had sex with girls, and couldn’t tell anyone else I was gay.
He goes on to say that his experience was a “more informal and intimate form of violence”, which at times left him feeling suicidal. “I endured gaslighting, bullying, harassment and isolation,” he said.
“It always took the form of a one-on-one discussion, away from the rest of the family, to talk. I was subjected to prayers in this capacity, to Bible scripture, to teaching in an individual environment. I was threatened, told that if I practiced my homosexuality in any way, my family members would die as a result – they would be killed by God. Other controlling behaviors include denial of access to health care,” Anderson said.
Mason’s remarks also offended others, including Trans Scottish Green member Beth, who noted:
So I saw a lot of talk with John Mason’s speech on conversion therapy in the Scottish Parliament and had to check if it was really that bad and yes it is.
Here’s John saying lust is bad, comparing same-sex relationships to the wrong dress code or drinking or eating too much pic.twitter.com/QBRbKTDefz
— Beth 🏳️⚧️🍉☂💜 (@pickle_bee) March 15, 2022
The National, a Scottish newspaper, reported that Ross Greer, MSP of the Greens for West Scotland, said it was ‘wrong’ to characterize the debate as ‘a conflict between LGBTQ people and people of faith “. He added that most religious leaders supported banning the practice.
An SNP source told The Washington Blade on Wednesday that Mason was often seen as an abomination who was only able to keep his seat because of his longevity in the party.
“We are at a precious moment in the history of the party, there is a regressive wing of the party which has been permanent throughout its recent history and, by virtue of being permanent (and arguably having paid dues, campaigns, etc.), thinks he’s right in the present tense,” the source said.
“At the end of the day, there are more and more members of the older generation who have to come to terms with the fact that this party is no longer what it once was – socially conservative and anti-European/internationalist. Mason is someone who was part of the party when it was like this and who hasn’t left or died yet. He and his ilk are merely voicing the concerns of the past, but increasingly irrelevant,” the source noted.
During the same-sex marriage debate in Scotland, Mason was widely condemned for raising a motion stating that “while some in society approve of same-sex sexual relationships, others do not agree with them” and that no person or organization should be forced to become involved in or endorse same-sex marriage.
Mason’s history of inflammatory rhetoric most recently includes in June 2018, when Glasgow Live reported that he responded to an email from a constituent saying he disagreed with pardons retrospectives for homosexuals convicted of consensual sex before decriminalization. He wrote: “I don’t see how anyone can forgive and apologize for anything that others have done that is not in accordance with modern customs. Will the Italians apologize for the Roman occupation?
In November 2018, he wrote a letter to the Herald newspaper complaining that transgender people “override science”. Then, in January this year, Mason called trans women “people whose biological sex is male” and suggested that those convicted of crimes serve their sentences in men’s prisons.