Some people are religious. Get over it!

The proposed "ex-gay" bus advert was offensive, but gay Christians face a genuine dilemma.

Boris Johnson stepped in yesterday to stop the "battle of the buses", banning a campaign by the Core Issue Trust -- which promotes controversial therapies designed to turn gay people straight  -- and the evangelical pressure group Anglican Mainstream. The decision is likely to increase feelings of persecution and marginalisation among a minority of traditionally-minded, and increasingly assertive, Christians. 

Johnson told the Guardian that his London was "intolerant of intolerance". The proposed slogan ("Not gay! Ex-gay, Post-gay and proud. Get over it!"), whatever its intention, was at least open to interpretation as an assertion of crude homophobia, or at least of heteronormative triumphalism.  It was intended, however, as a direct riposte to similar-looking advertisements being run by Stonewall with the slogan "Some people are gay. Get over it!" -- a campaign that implicitly targets opponents of gay marriage as reactionary bigots unable to come to terms with the modern world.

Some bigots may, indeed, hide behind religion.  Yet Stonewall's slogan, it strikes, me, misses an important point, which is that some people, who are gay, cannot "get over it" that easily.  A devout religious believer, who belongs to a tradition that says firmly that homosexuality is wrong, but who feels a strong inclination towards members of the same sex, is faced with an agonising dilemma.  Demands to "get over it", while not directly aimed at such people, can easily come across as insensitive and bullying.

Say you're a young gay Catholic.  The Pope has said, quite firmly, that homosexuality is "intrinsically disordered" and represents an "inclination towards an intrinsic moral evil".  Well then, ignore the Pope: many Catholics do, after all, when it comes to birth control, and some gay Catholics will be comfortable with that option.  But not all, because obedience to church teaching is, for many Catholics, a crucial dimension of their faith.  At the very least, so long as Catholic teaching remains what it is (and there's no evidence of any change on the horizon) many gay Catholics will feel conflicted.

Or say you're a Bible-believing Evangelical, and your reading of scripture tells you that homosexual practices are an abomination unto the Lord.  That isn't the only way to interpret the Bible, of course, and some gay Christians are fortunate enough to belong to churches that are welcoming of their sexuality.  But some of the Biblical verses that speak about same-sex sex are pretty plain, to say the least.

And of course commitment to a religious faith involves more than just intellectual assent to a set of belief-propositions.  It involves heart and soul, family and community.  There may be partners and children involved, if a gay believer has already "chosen" to ignore their same-sex inclinations.  Leaving all these things is not just potentially traumatic, it may well be something that the believer, however painful their internal struggles with sexuality, is not willing to contemplate.  And yet their inner turmoil is damaging to themselves and to those around them.

There's no reliable evidence that the therapy being promoted by the Core Issues Trust is effective in changing people's inner sexual drive; there's some evidence that it has helped some people to suppress their gay feelings and to function more comfortably in heterosexual relationships.  And this may be enough.  Human sexuality is not fixed at birth.  It's also more fluid for some people than for others.  There's no doubt that there are, in fact, self-described "ex-gay" or "post-gay" Christians, many of whom do indeed claim to have been helped by these therapies.  The Rev Peter Ould is perhaps the most prominent British example.  He has written:

I’m post-gay because I chose to leave “gay” behind. I chose to no longer accept “gay” as an explanation of who I was and instead to begin a journey away from it. I chose to do so because I was convinced from the Scriptures that “gay” wasn’t a suitable way to describe myself, that it wasn’t a valid way for a Christian to establish identity.

Ould's choice to "leave gay behind" is not the same thing as choosing his sexuality.  Rather, he chose to prioritise his understanding of his faith over his sexual inclinations.  Or perhaps it would be better to say that he felt a strong inner conviction of his need to do so.  Because, as the law and society have increasingly come to recognise in recent years, religious identity is deeply rooted.  It is part of "who people are", how they relate to the world around them, how they conceive of themselves.

Of course, many people change their religion, abandon religion altogether or discover it for the first time.  But for many who make such a transition the process involves moments of existential crisis and a slow, difficult adjustment to a new way of life and a new set of social relationships.  The consumerist language of choice simply doesn't do it justice.

The fact is that neither faith nor sexuality are a "choice".   And some people are religious.  Get over it!

The ad, backed by the Core Issues Trust, which stated: "Not gay! Ex-gay, post-gay and proud. Get over it!"
Belief, disbelief and beyond belief
#Match4Lara
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#Match4Lara: Lara has found her match, but the search for mixed-race donors isn't over

A UK blood cancer charity has seen an "unprecedented spike" in donors from mixed race and ethnic minority backgrounds since the campaign started. 

Lara Casalotti, the 24-year-old known round the world for her family's race to find her a stem cell donor, has found her match. As long as all goes ahead as planned, she will undergo a transplant in March.

Casalotti was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia in December, and doctors predicted that she would need a stem cell transplant by April. As I wrote a few weeks ago, her Thai-Italian heritage was a stumbling block, both thanks to biology (successful donors tend to fit your racial profile), and the fact that mixed-race people only make up around 3 per cent of international stem cell registries. The number of non-mixed minorities is also relatively low. 

That's why Casalotti's family launched a high profile campaign in the US, Thailand, Italy and the US to encourage more people - especially those from mixed or minority backgrounds - to register. It worked: the family estimates that upwards of 20,000 people have signed up through the campaign in less than a month.

Anthony Nolan, the blood cancer charity, also reported an "unprecedented spike" of donors from black, Asian, ethcnic minority or mixed race backgrounds. At certain points in the campaign over half of those signing up were from these groups, the highest proportion ever seen by the charity. 

Interestingly, it's not particularly likely that the campaign found Casalotti her match. Patient confidentiality regulations protect the nationality and identity of the donor, but Emily Rosselli from Anthony Nolan tells me that most patients don't find their donors through individual campaigns: 

 It’s usually unlikely that an individual finds their own match through their own campaign purely because there are tens of thousands of tissue types out there and hundreds of people around the world joining donor registers every day (which currently stand at 26 million).

Though we can't know for sure, it's more likely that Casalotti's campaign will help scores of people from these backgrounds in future, as it has (and may continue to) increased donations from much-needed groups. To that end, the Match4Lara campaign is continuing: the family has said that drives and events over the next few weeks will go ahead. 

You can sign up to the registry in your country via the Match4Lara website here.

Barbara Speed is a technology and digital culture writer at the New Statesman and a staff writer at CityMetric.