Reports: 'Conversion' App Kicked Off Apple, Amazon Lingers on Google Play

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Thursday January 17, 2019

An app shilling so-called "conversion therapy" to LGTBQ youth was dropped by Apple and Amazon after outrage erupted, but that same app is still up at Google Play. Advocates for the targeted demographic want to know why multiple media outlets reported.

Android Authority covered the story, noting that the app in question — which overtly appeals to "young adults" — was created by Living Hope Ministries an entity devoted to "converting" gays and other sexual minorities to heterosexuals.

Android Authority also took note of the fact that Truth Wins Out — which is run by Wayne Besen, an ardent critic of "conversion therapy" — had gone after the app in the first place, creating a petition that ultimately succeeded in getting the app expunged from Apple and Amazon.

As reported at EDGE last summer, Besen similarly went after "sexual purity" ads on Facebook that appeared to users deemed to be possibly LGBTQ thanks to microtargeting techniques. Gay Facebook users were shocked to be confronted with ads for "sexual purity" showing up on their computer screens, and some British users had an ad for a book titled "Help for Men with Same-Sex Attraction" appear. Facebook scrubbed the ads in the wake of an outcry.

UK newspaper the Telegraph also reported on the story, quoting a spokesperson from Living Hope Ministries as saying, "We journey with individuals who seek out our help and help as they pursue a more intimate relationship with Jesus Christ."

But that innocuous explanation doesn't square with the harmful effects of the bogus therapy, which has been outlawed for use on minors in 14 American states and numerous municipalities. As of Jan. 15, New York State was set to follow suit with its own ban on applying the practice to LGBTQ youth.

The original petition that achieved the app's expulsion from Apple and Amazon has now been followed by a fresh petition calling for Google to follow suit. The new petition calls out the app on a number of counts:

" It brazenly compares homosexuality to an addiction. It casually trashes LGBT people as living 'destructive lifestyles.' Living Hope, the creator of the app, repeatedly belittles transgender people as suffering from 'gender confusion.' The group refers to gay men as 'sexually broken guys' who can 'walk out of false identities' and claims, without evidence, that the 'gay lifestyle' is 'spiritually and physically harmful.' "

The petition notes that reputable mental health professionals have roundly excoriated so-called "conversion therapy" as doing nothing to change sexual orientation — which science strongly indicates is innate and unalterable — while potentially putting at risk those who attempt to "cure" themselves of their natural inclinations after buying into the idea that being LGBTQ is somehow a pathological condition. The petition's text informs readers that:

"The American Psychiatric Association says that sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE) can lead to 'anxiety, depression, and self-destructive behavior,' including suicide.

"So, why is Google offering a platform for such a mean-spirited and dangerous product?"

Phil Samba, an equality advocate in London, agreed, telling the Telegraph:

"I think it's a terrible thing. I think it's terrible because there are a lot of people out there that don't understand their sexuality. When you're young and in the LGBTQ community you are brought up told that being gay is wrong or a choice. For those vulnerable people who are suicidal, it can be really dangerous."

Business Insider covered the story as well, reporting that the new petition encouraging Google to remove the app has garnered around 40,000 signatures in about a week.

Business Insider also took note of Google's own policy, which declares that apps will not be allowed at its Play Store if they "incite hatred against individuals or groups based on race or ethnic origin, religion, disability, age, nationality, veteran status, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, or any other characteristic that is associated with systemic discrimination or marginalization."

The article at Business Insider also warned about the health hazards of the debunked form of "therapy":

"Research has shown that LGBTQ+ individuals who went through gay conversion therapy are 63% more likely to have attempted suicide. Nonetheless, almost 700,000 Americans have received conversion therapy, according to a study from UCLA's School of Law in January 2018."

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews theater for WBUR. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

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