Growing up as a teenager in the suburbs of Sydney, Chris Csabs was led to believe he needed to be “fixed”.

“I was gay and had grown up steeped in an ideology that told me that God had not made me that way. That there was a negative cause to my homosexuality,” he said.

“My sexuality was ‘broken’ and needed to be fixed.”

For years, since the age of 16, he attempted to “heal” his sexuality, including taking part in prayers, “exorcisms”, Christian counselling aimed at addressing the “causes” of his orientation, as well as suppression and abstinence.

“Seven years later, I really was broken, and I have struggled to heal from the damage caused by conversion practices for more than a decade since,” he said.

Csabs, who has since gone on to co-found a conversion “therapy” survivors group, is now welcoming the support of both major parties in New South Wales to ban the damaging practices that stole so much from him as a young person.

The premier, Dominic Perrottet, on Friday gave the reform “in-principle” backing on the first day of Sydney WorldPride.

“There is no room for any harmful practices in NSW, particularly if they affect our young and vulnerable,” the premier said. “When the parliament returns, my government will provide in-principle support for legislation that brings an end to any harmful practices.

“This is a complex matter and in working through it with parliamentary colleagues we will carefully consider the legal expression and effect of such laws.”

So-called gay conversion “therapy”, which has been outlawed in other east coast states, tries to change or suppress a person’s sexuality.

The Coalition’s support marks a major win for the independent Sydney MP, Alex Greenwich, who this month revealed he would introduce legislation to ban the practices.

At the time he said the major parties’ position on the bill would be key in a decision on who he would support in the event of a hung parliament after the 25 March state election.

“I’m grateful for the premier’s support to end LGBT conversion practices in NSW,” Greenwich said on Friday. “We start Sydney WorldPride with both Dominic Perrottet and Chris Minns backing legislation to support and protect the LGBTQ community in NSW. This is a good day for our state.”

Ghassan Kassisieh, the legal director of the national LGBTQ+ group Equality Australia, said the premier’s commitment was “a welcome first step”.

“Any scheme to end conversion practices will only be effective if it is inclusive of practices that seek to change or suppress a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity occurring in either health and religious settings,” he said.

Csabs, who co-founded the group Sexual Orientation & Gender Identity Change Efforts (SOGICE) Survivors, urged whoever wins government to follow Greenwich’s example, and consult closely with survivors.

At the centre of new laws should be civil processes that emphasise education and investigation, he said, with criminal penalties reserved for situations where injury can be proven beyond reasonable doubt. He does not believe the laws should be applied retrospectively.

Minns last week confirmed that a Labor government would ban the “dangerous and damaging” practices.

“We should not have a situation where children are being told something is wrong with them and that they need to be fixed,” he said.

Labor would set up a working group with survivors, advocates and government departments including NSW Health and justice to draft the laws, he said.

Key figures organising parts of Sydney WorldPride and Mardi Gras on Thursday issued a warning to the NSW government that the “world is watching”.

The 17-day festival celebrating LGBTQ+ pride kicks off on Friday and includes parties, a human rights conference and a march across the Sydney Harbour Bridge on 5 March that is tipped to attract half a million people.


Tamsin Rose

The GuardianTramp

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