The campaign to ban conversion therapy- the fight to prove that sexuality can’t be ‘cured’

The British government is determined to support the LGBT community by condemning a controversial process aimed at ‘transforming’ their sexual orientation. But why has it taken so long and what’s involved in outlawing this historical practice?

The Boris Johnson government have announced they would take active measures as a post-pandemic government agenda to stop these hateful behaviours that may cause spiritual harm.

In an agenda named LGBT Action Plan issued by the government in 2018, it stated that ending conversion therapy will be accomplished in 2020. In addition, Boris Johnson said measures would be brought forward against conversion therapy, what he called “abhorrent”.

More than one 100000 people have signed an online petition attempting to outlawing conversion therapy that aims to changing human sexual orientation.

On June 23rd of 2020, opponents of conversion therapy and LGBT campaigners protested in front of the Cabinet Office & Government Equalities Office, demanding a complete ban on conversion therapy.

Peter Tatchell, the head of the Peter Tatchell Foundation, believes that although the British government says that banning conversion therapy is a complicated process, many states in the United States, Germany, Australia and other countries have successfully banned the practice.

The “conversion therapy” is degrading and cruel in nature and poses a severe torture.” According to the independent expert, these practices are “very harmful practices, causing serious suffering, and lead to long-term mental and physical harm.”

Of the 108,000 people who responded to the 2020 LGBT government survey, about 5% said they had been provided some form of conversion therapy, and 2% had received this type of treatment.

Over half said it was done by a faith group, and one in five got it from medical practitioners.

At the same time, many LGBT rights organizations or campaigner groups are actively calling for a complete ban on conversion therapy treatment. These are the Peter Tatchell Foundation, Ozanne Foundation, Naz and Matt Foundation, Trans Actual UK, Anti-conversion therapy coalition, OpenTable network and so on.

Sunday world publishing a story about the harm of conversion therapy

“Conversion therapy is any practice that aims to diminish or change someone’s sexuality or gender identity. That can be through spirituality methods, physical means, and mental or emotionally manipulative means. There’s a wide variety of ways that it occurs. Still, the end goal is essentially to change or eliminate someone’s gender identity or sexuality,” says Eoin, spokesperson of the Anti-conversion therapy coalition, a coalition united by young activists calling for a complete ban of conversion therapy,” said Eoin, spokesperson of the Anti-conversion therapy coalition, a coalition united by young activists calling for a complete ban of conversion therapy.

“it’s incredibly traumatic, you’re essentially trying to break someone down and build them up in a way that just isn’t possible. There has been plenty of studies saying that sexuality is not a choice. It’s widely accepted among many academics who get themselves involved in conversion therapy,” says Eoin.

The only way of getting rid of being gay was to kill myself

Justin Kennedy, a training minister and gay Christian was subjected to conversion therapy in his 17.

Photo Credit: Justin Kennedy

Conversion therapy have casted a great doubt about his self-worth. Justin started trying to kill himself and hated everything he loved around him

“I don’t know who Justin is, if he’s not gay. I don’t know who I am without and the conclusion that I drew. While they were talking about me in another room, but the only way that I would get rid of being gay was to kill myself. That would be the only way that I would not be gay,” said Justin.

Justin met a couple at the church he used to be in. The couple told him that his sexuality is demonizing him and they could help him to “pray the demon away”.

“I started to live a lifestyle that was full of self- hatred and self-harm. I think my whole lifestyle became one that was full of risk,” said Justin.

“the ultimate thing is I lost my faith. I become somebody that just absolutely hated garden, hated the church and hated my family. The other impact is on the things that I desperately love. I hate it, because those things contributed to me feeling so much shame and so much self-hatred and so on.”

Justin feels blessed that he has a father who loves him and helps him out of difficulties, and also sympathizes with those who have the same experience with him but have no solution.

Justin did not get his faith back until he found another couple who make him think that there are affirming church out there.

It was at Justin’s 38 when he worked at Manchester University, one of the couple has invited him to a stag do.

He spoke to the one that quite frankly about how he felt about Faith Church Christianity, particularly in respect to my sexuality.

And to his surprise, the whole group started to talk very affirmatively, saying that they are rethinking all of this because they believe they’ve been wrong.

They’ve been totally wrong that their pastoral care and the way they’ve ministered to the LGBT community has caused so much pain and hurt and harm. And he remembers as a result of that conversation, almost something started to shift a little bit inside of him.

He started to feel the holy spirit coming back to him again because he felt that he is able to articulate what God’s meaning himself.

This protest was initiated by the Peter Tatchell Foundation, Ozanne Foundation and Trans Actual UK etc. along with the StopDithering petition advocating the British government to immediately ban conversion therapy.

“I just always now believe that God loves first. And if there’s anything in my life that needs any sense of healing, then God of Love will do that. God loves me as a gay man and that is all,” said Justin.

What have been achieved in UK so far regarding banning conversion therapy

 There are six countries or regions that have imposed bans on conversion therapy which includes Germany, Brazil, and Taiwan, and some states in the United States, Spain and Australia around the world so far. Some other countries are reviewing bans, including Canada, France and New Zealand.

In 2015, 17 institutions, including NHS England, signed a memorandum of understanding, which claimed that conversion therapy treatments dedicated to changing sexual orientation and gender identity are immoral and extremely harmful. These institutions emphasized the importance of a complete ban of conversion therapy treatment and calling for training professional psychotherapists to stop the spread of harm of the conversion therapy.

 In July 2017, the Conference of Archbishops of the Church of England agreed to pass the 2015 Memorandum of Understanding and joined the British government to ban conversion therapy. In December 2020, other senior religious leaders also joined to ban “conversion therapy”.

In 2017, the General Synod of the Church of England passed the Memorandum of understanding issued in 2015 and stressed the harm of conversion therapy treatment and the importance of a complete ban on conversion therapy treatment by British government.

Subsequently, the top leaders of the mainstream religious groups joined the ranks at the end of the year, calling on the British government to completely ban conversion therapy treatment.

In addition to the bans in England and Wales, a support fund will also be provided for victims of this practice.

  Northern Ireland endorsed a non-binding motion calling for a ban on “all types ” of homosexual conversion therapy.

The Scottish government “fully supports the British government’s move to end conversion therapy.”

 The British government should make comprehensive recommendations to end the all forms of conversion therapy against gender identity and sexuality across the UK.  This must include legislative injunctions that prohibit all conversion therapy practices in the public and private fields, for example, religion, healthcare and so on.

End Conversion Therapy Scotland is calling for a complete ban Credit: End Conversion Therapy Scotland

What should the UK government do?

  According to Lestyn, one of the representatives of Stonewall Wales, regardless of their age and background and no matter if they are willingly or are forced to undergo conversion therapy, the LGBT community must receive the protection they deserved. No matter in whatever form or under whatever occasion, advertising and promotion of conversion therapy are supposed to be prohibited.

 People who have received conversion therapy out of their sexuality or gender identity should be offered the same level of protection regarding the legislative ban.

  Equally important, conversion therapy for intersex and asexual people will also be included.

The comprehensive prohibition of conversion therapy treatment must take into account services to protect the rights and interests of transgender people, namely, all people whose gender identity is different from the gender identity specified at birth. Such bans will not and should not exclude safe and supportive therapies, enabling people to explore and better understand and accept their sexual orientation and gender identity.

 Real protective measures should distinguish between conversion therapy and safe and supportive therapies, and this measure should be done by certified and qualified professional experts.

This measure helps people better explore and understand their sexual orientation and gender identity, supporting and promoting people to accept their sexual orientation and it is different from conversion therapy for altering people’s sexuality.

All medical and mental health providers, social workers, counsellors, psychotherapists and psychotherapists and related professionals, as well as all religious organizations must receive expert safeguarding training to identify those who may be at risk or are undergoing reversal treatment and help them in a timely and active manner.

Regulatory standards should be formulated through professional practice guidelines for practitioners in medical, psychological, social care, counselling, and psychotherapy. 

Regulatory standards must also be developed to cover pastoral care and spiritual guidance aimed at improving mental health.

Finally, the British government should also formulate policies and methods to address conversion therapy, specifically targeting people with intersex characteristics, first released the results of the collection of evidence (2019) of gender characteristics changes in the Government Equality Office.

“ The role of a therapist should always be to, to listen, and discuss and help anyone who’s going to them to seek help, you know, it’s at the best of times it can be something that’s very stigmatized and embarrassing. Regardless of why you’re going to a therapist so for a therapist that’s turn around and say that they’re what they’re feeling is wrong what they’re feeling is more sinful or whatever, if that’s, that’s just wrong completely that’s,” says Eoin.

“I feel like education from a young age, is going to be the key. it’s going to be key for, I suppose, achieving more equal status for the LGBT community, I mean, there’s many, especially in countries that have been deeply religious for many years like UK and Ireland.”

“If you look at perhaps one of the brightest minds over the past century Alan Turing was a member of the LGBTQ community, and was persecuted for, you know it, I fundamentally believe it’s there, it’s where education and learning at a young age.”

“the old sort of thing people like to say is the fear of the unknown, you know, so I feel like a lot of homophobia stems from a lack of knowledge, lack of understanding. And because they don’t see it as normal to them. You know that. They don’t like it, whereas I feel you know, if you’re educated in what it is from an early age, and no go around there will be a lot of opposition to that from a from a lot of very conservative people who, like, who will say oh you’re forcing it on people, which is, you know, the number one argument that they like to use for everything was just we,” says Eoin.