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A Peek Into Transphobia and 2S-LGBTQIA+ Change Efforts in the Okanagan

Faith-based organizations don’t all agree on conversion therapy and change efforts

From mild to wild, faith-based organizations across the Christian spectrum have quite differing views on so-called conversion therapy or conversion efforts. Some are openly hostile and vilify the LGBTQ2S community, while others couch homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia in words that disguise an agenda. Others completely oppose it.

Conversion Efforts in the Okanagan

Kelowna Harvest Church made their hate for the queer community known in a Facebook post on July 21, 2021. The post was taken down after several users reported it for hate speech. A meme depicting a clawed hand with a rainbow sleeve reaching out to a symbol of male and female figures holding children’s hands was posted with the caption “Time to stand and fight for our kids.”

“Ever since the Stonewall Riots of 1969 this evil has moved ahead at great speed to destroy Godly sexuality, marriages and family structures, and it’s amazing how many peole have been dooped into blindly following along.”

–Facebook user commenting on the Kelowna Harvest Church post

Art Lucier, the leader of this Kelowna church has made it his mission to attack the transgender community. In a Youtube video, Lucier interviews someone who, although he states he is just an ordinary citizen, carries on to give misinformation and lies about the treatment of transgender youth. He likened the healthcare options for transgender youth to the treatment of Indigenous children in residential schools. Ironically, the agenda of this type of “Christian” is to erase the queer community, exactly what churches were trying to do to Indigenous culture. This video, which provides no information about medically sound life-saving healthcare for youth is sickening to watch. This isn’t just conversion efforts, it is repulsive, hurtful and blatantly transphobic.

Lake Country Alliance Church has been exposed for pressuring an Okanagan gay couple to “go straight.” After joining the church they began receiving emails with suggested books and videos of “ex-gay” people who had become straight by accepting Jesus into their lives.

Much of the opposition to Bill C-6, An Amendment to the criminal code (conversion therapy) has come from Catholic and evangelical churches. What seems clear is while they say they’re against the harmful aspects of conversion therapy, they fail to acknowledge that all conversion efforts are harmful. The lobbying against the bill points to their concern over the practices they wish to continue and their fear the net of the law will catch them.

Some Christian Organizations Fully Support the Queer Community

It is important to understand the progress that has happened in the Christian community with respect to accepting and affirming the queer community. Forty faith leaders from Regina recently wrote a joint letter to the City of Regina when that city was debating a conversion therapy ban. The letter is clear in its support for the dignity of all people regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.

In 2018 a Christian lobby group protested SOGI 123 implementation in BC schools. SOGI 123 is a set of resources for schools, teachers, and parents to create safe and inclusive learning spaces. Several BC Christian leaders signed a letter of support for SOGI 123.

Kelowna has a few churches that are openly accepting, and/or affirming. This includes Centre for Spiritual Living Kelowna, First United Church, and Kelowna Unitarians.

Many churches do not publicly reveal their stance on sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. The BC Human Rights Act forbids discrimination on these grounds, however, it doesn’t mean these churches won’t condemn what they call the sin of homosexuality, or carry out conversion efforts on queer members. It is also important to note that even if a church declares they are accepting, these words may be hollow if all members don’t live up to this expectation.

Advocacy Canada Compiling List of Supportive Churches in the Okanagan

We are compiling a list of churches in the Okanagan and including information on what their stance is on the queer community. The good, the bad, and the ugly. If you have information to share on this please contact us.

Photograph: Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP/Getty Images