Michael Riordon

the view from where I live

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Gay ‘conversion’ on trial in China

Power is in tearing human minds to pieces and putting them together again in new shapes of our own choosing.   George Orwell, 1949, in 1984.

Gay 'conversion therapy', China protestProtest: “Homosexuals don’t need treatment,” Haidian court, Beijing, July 31, 2014.              Photo: Li Hao/Global Times.

A young man in China, Xiao Zhen, has taken a courageous public stand against the forced ‘conversion’ of gay people in his country.  (Xiao Zhen is a pseudonym, to protect himself and his family from harassment.)

“I was electro-shocked at a gay ‘cure’ center. Doctors hypnotized me and said they would ‘shock the gay’ out of me.

In families like mine, being gay is still seen as something that can be cured, and scam clinics prey on that fear. Now, I want my friends, my family and everyone in China to understand that being gay is normal.”

Though I’ve never met Xiao Zhen, I think of him as a younger brother. In 1968 I underwent the same electro-shock ‘treatment’ in Canada, for the same reason. Then it was called ‘aversion therapy,’ now it’s rebranded more positively as ‘conversion therapy.’ Either way, it’s torture. This should not happen to anyone, anywhere.

Remarkably, not only has Xiao Zhen taken the clinic to court, in a landmark case for China, now he has also taken an even bolder step: a petition to the World Health Organization.

“If we can get the World Health Organization (WHO) to join in and speak out against gay ‘cures’, it could help convince officials to finally ban these dangerous gay ‘cures.’

Will you sign my petition asking WHO Director Dr. Margaret Chan to speak up now and condemn gay ‘cures’ in China?”

More than 87,000 people have already signed the petition.  Please add your voice here, and pass this message on to others.

Psychiatry and psychology are among the many tools marshalled by the powerful to repress nonconformity and dissent.  More on this, and the resistance, in Bold Scientists: dispatches from the battle for honest science, available September 4 from Between the Lines.

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Whole food for free-range minds

Available September 4, 2014

Bold Scientists, front coverCritical comment:

“A gripping tale of heroic scientists working in the public interest despite powerful
opposition.  At once, both tremendously hopeful and profoundly disturbing.  The world
needs more bold authors like Michael Riordon.”

 Thomas Duck, Associate Professor, Department of Physics and Atmospheric Science,Dalhousie University, Halifax, Canada

“Silence is consent, my fellow scientists. Riordon’s profiles in courage encourage us to take our data and our voices into the gladiator’s arena and engage in the great moral and political battles of our time.  As Bold Scientists so clearly shows, it’s where we belong.”

Sandra Steingraber, Ph.D., author of Living Downstream: An Ecologist’s Personal Investigation of Cancer and the Environment; co-founder, Concerned Health Professionals of New York

The menu/chapters:

When the river roared.   First Nations, a long view.
Digging thistles.   An experimental post-oil farm.
A dialogue with the world.   Biology, from the ground up.
Blood on my hands.   Life and death in the garden.
Stolen children.   In El Salvador, war, genes and human rights.
The Cloud.   Watching Big Brother.
ODD.   Psychology and power
Awe.   The wisdom of a spider web.
Pesky data.   Under lakes, dark truths.
The unsolved problem.   Fracking: homeland insecurity.
When the lights go out.   Awakening in an ice storm.
No time for cowardice.   An elemental fight for science and democracy.

Bold Scientists: dispatches from the battle for honest science


  • Pre-order it from independent bookstores and Chapters/Indigo stores across Canada.

After September 4th:

    • Purchase or order Bold Scientists from local retailers or libraries across Canada.
    • Purchase it directly from the publisher, Between the Lines, online (within Canada) at http://btlbooks.com/book/bold-scientists, or by phone toll-free at 1-800-718-7201.
    • Purchase online through Amazon.
    • Internationally, the book will also be available via Central Books Ltd:  orders@centralbooks.com / centralbooks.com. (Tel) +44 20 8986 4854.

Unspun science for dangerous times

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Mental health: who can you trust?

Conformity hazardBruce Levine works as a psychologist in Cincinnati, Ohio.  By the time he got his PhD, he told me, he felt so alienated from the profession’s dominant goals and practices that he hesitated to tell strangers how he made his living.  Eventually he encountered other dissidents, both within the profession and among people who have survived its abuses.  As a therapist, activist and writer, Bruce Levine strives to help people, especially adolescents, to find their own way through a society that packages conformity as freedom, and non-conformity as illness.

“Over and over,” he says, “we’re told that mental illness is caused by a biochemical imbalance in the brain, or it’s genetic.  I’ve learned to distrust claims like these, especially when it’s going to make someone a ton of money or be used to manipulate and control people.  The whole area of biochemical cause and cure is a giant money-maker for the drug companies.  And who decides these things?  Committees of psychiatrists basically decree what gets listed in the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), the diagnostic bible of the American Psychiatric Association.  If you have any common sense, it’s not hard to see how unscientific that is.

“For example, in the 1970s when I was a psychology undergrad, homosexuality was in the DSM as a mental disorder.  Gay activists finally managed to get rid of that, but now we have things in there like ADHD (‘attention deficit hyperactivity disorder’), and ODD (‘oppositional defiant disorder’).  If you look at the so-called symptoms, what you find are kids – huge numbers of them – who are bored, or who question, or argue, or refuse to cooperate with illegitimate authority.  So what do you do?  You call these kids sick and you drug them.  In the Soviet Union, the psychiatrist’s job was to ‘treat’ political dissidents as sick, to hospitalize and drug them.  Here we don’t even wait until they’re adults speaking out against injustice, instead we get ’em when they’re twelve and speaking out against some pointless school assignment.

“Given how often the mental health authorities have been wrong, and how much harm they’ve done, people like me have a clear responsibility to question their decisions, their power.  In a strange way, the fact that the abuses are so clear actually makes it easier to speak out.”

Bruce Levine speaks out in his blog.   And in his books.  And other places too, eg:

Why are Americans so easy to manipulate and control?  AlterNet, October 2012.

A clear voice for human rights in the mental health system is here: MindFreedom International.

On the other hand: 70% of DSM Psychiatrists Financially Tied to Drug Companies.  Natural Society, March 2012.