Mercedes Allen

Media Afraid to Report on Alleged Aversion Project Doc Aubrey Levin

Filed By Mercedes Allen | January 04, 2011 11:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Fundie Watch, Media
Tags: Aubrey Levin, aversion therapy, Canada, ex-gay, LGBT history, South Africa

Dr. Aubrey Levin, a Calgary professor and psychiatrist who is accused of sexually assaulting at least 21 male patients, is scheduled to come up for trial in June 2011. This is internationally notable, since he was alleged to have led a program while in South Africa to "cure" people of being gay. levin.gifThe local media has been particularly quiet about this, even though the CBC notes that authorities have put out a call looking for more possible victims. In fact, aside from a brief mention on Christmas Eve, coverage has been largely found in unusual places like SBWire, and German-based openPR:

CCHR has asked the Alberta College of Physicians and Surgeons to explain how Dr. Aubrey Levin, who emigrated to Canada in the mid 90s, was allowed to become a Clinical Professor in the Department of Psychiatry (Forensic Division) at the University of Calgary's Medical School, in light of the fact that in 1997 South Africa's "Truth and Reconciliation Commission" named him for possible "gross human rights abuses" during Apartheid rule. The college has refused to respond to this vital question.

Levin has been accused in South African media (though never convicted: he fled to Canada and therefore never faced the Truth and Reconciliation Commission) of attaching electrodes to the bodies of soldiers and recruits to test their responses to centerfolds and porn, and treating any who were deemed gay or lesbian with aversion therapy using shock treatments.

I wrote about Aubrey Levin before:

Levin, a former University of Calgary professor and consultant with Corrections Canada, was the former chief psychiatrist at the Voortrekkerhoogte military hospital and was once identified by The Daily Mail and Guardian (July 28, 2000, original article no longer online) as the director of "The Aversion Project," in which the South African military used aversion treatments to "cure" gay and lesbian military personnel. In the most extreme allegations, it had been said that The Aversion Project treated those who could not be cured with chemical castration or forced Genital Reassignment Surgery, although these allegations have never been proven. The latter allegations appear to come from Jean Erasmus... and Daily Mail writer Paul Kirk, and are otherwise difficult to corroborate (at least from Canada)...

Levin denies taking part in surgical reassignments, but the Citizens Commission on Human Rights (an organization founded by the Church of Scientology) clarifies in their press release:

But he had never been accused of this. He was not a surgeon. The only allegation had been that he had referred military conscripts whom he could not 'cure' of homosexuality to the surgeons and their knives. That several of these difficult and dangerous operations were botched and others were left uncompleted was not a responsibility laid directly at the door of Levin. Possible knowledge of these ghastly practices most certainly is.

Author Hamish Pillay wrote about the Aversion Project in his novel, "The Rainbow Has No Pink." He blogs that:

When I started writing "The rainbow has no pink" I struggled to find any source information of gross human rights abuse that took place in the SANDF during the 70's and 80's highlighted at the TRC hearings... None of these horrific stories made the [Truth and Reconciliation Commission] other than a mere mention...

There is, of course, the possibility that forced surgical reassignments never happened. But something certainly seems to have. And until it's thoroughly investigated, we'll never know and the legend will only grow. Canadian media noted the connection to "The Aversion Project" when Dr. Levin moved to Calgary in 2000, but then apologized after lawsuits were threatened, only adding to the mystique. Since then there has been little will to investigate the allegations.

As a trans advocate in Alberta, I've written how for those who require gender reassignment surgery (not all trans people do), it becomes an absolute necessity, impairs their ability to function and it is even fiscally sensible to do so. However, it has never been (or should never be, that is) a "cure" for being gay, which is a different issue altogether (one is about who we are, the other about who we're attracted to). If these surgeries actually occurred, then what the "Aversion Project" would have done was to induce gender dysphoria in people who hadn't experienced it before (and possible medical complications, depending on the quality of the surgery performed).

(Crossposted to DentedBlueMercedes Picture via the Calgary Herald.)

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There were lots of crimes against humanity to have come out of South Africa during that period, and he should be put to trial for his part in them even decades later.

John Rutledge | January 5, 2011 10:25 AM

Someone should pay him a visit. Any Act Up type activists out there for a protest at his office? Media attention needs to be so driven. It might only take a few with signs and effective press notice, social networking and Youtubing to see some justice. War criminal types should not get to rest easy.