What is Conversion Therapy?
Conversion Therapy is the practice of attempting to change or suppress a person’s sexuality or gender identity using pseudoscientific physical, psychological or spiritual methods.
Practices have historically included behavioural ‘therapy’, aversion conditioning, sterilisation, and even torture and lobotomy. Religious techniques often involve shunning or attempts to ‘pray the gay away’, in which an individual’s community or congregation may be involved.
Conversion therapy also happens in a more covert form in the provision (or refusal) of gender affirming healthcare. If trans and non-binary people are prevented from accessing transitional healthcare, or the criteria to access these services is too rigid, it can be argued that this forces trans and non-binary people to either access DIY medical care, or simply suppress their gender identity altogether. This forced suppression could be tantamount to the state sanctioned denial of trans and non-binary gender expresses, and therefore amount to conversion therapy in all but name.
Since 1999, many countries have passed legislation to ban conversion therapy due to practices violating the human rights and autonomy of LGBTQA+ individuals and causing significant harm and distress to those forced to undergo them.
You can learn more about conversion therapy, and read stories from survivors here.
Does This Really Happen in the UK?
It’s very easy to slip into the colonial belief that such barbaric practices surely couldn’t be carried out in the UK, especially given that the UK consistently ranks highly on global LGBTQA+ rights.
The majority of reported cases in the UK relate to religious or healthcare-based conversion therapy practices. 5% of LGBTQA+ people have in the UK have been pressured into accessing conversion therapy-based treatment, rising to 9% of LGBTQA+ People of Colour and 20% for trans and non-binary individuals.
With the exception of corrective rape, conversion therapy is still legal in UK.
What’s Already Being Done?
In July 2018, the government promised to ban the practice. 4 years later, little progress has been made.
Banning conversion therapy is a fairly simple legislative issue – the UK government could simply look to Canada, Brazil, Norway, Argentina, Malta, Germany or one of the many other countries to implement such a ban.
Instead, the government has launched an initially delayed consultation on proposed legislation, widely considered to be an attempt to justify allowing certain religious and gender-identity oriented tactics to continue by allowing evidence from groups and individuals affiliated with the practice.
This dithering is deeply concerning, given that legislation could be easily adapted from any number of countries, and that charities and human rights lawyers have already given significant evidence that the practice should be made illegal.
Additionally, the Conservative government has failed to establish a new LGBTQA+ Advisory Panel, 9 months after the previous panel was disbanded by Liz Truss for their support of self ID for trans and non-binary people. This is concerning, as it indicates a lack of urgency by senior government officials to prioritise the safety of LGBTQA+ communities, and an unwillingness to listen to the needs of people from those communities themselves.
What you can do?
Given that this government is refusing to listen to LGBTQA+ communities on this issue, it’s of utmost importance that straight, cis allies lend their voices to this campaign.
Here’s some action you can take:
Learn more about conversion therapy and the experiences of LGBTQA+ people forced to endure it:
Respond to the government consultation and demand that all forms of conversion therapy be strictly outlawed: https://www.banconversiontherapy.com/
Write to your MP and demand a meaningful and comprehensive ban on conversion therapy: https://www.parliament.uk/get-involved/contact-an-mp-or-lord/contact-your-mp/
Sign up to receive updates on Ban Conversion Therapy’s campaign: https://www.banconversiontherapy.com/
There is no excuse for conversion therapy to be allowed to continue into the future. With enough pressure and your support, we can make a meaningful difference for LGBTQA+ communities in the UK.