[*Reading about conversion therapy may be difficult, especially if it has affected you so please take care and see the bottom of this post for a link to support.*]
Conversion therapy is a practice that seeks to suppress, 'cure' or change a person's sexual identity and/or gender identity. Conversion therapy calls itself a form of therapy, except that it's not...because it's harmful, dangerous and abusive. It's currently legal in the UK for LGBTQ+ people to undergo conversion therapy, but there are increasing calls for this destructive practice to be made illegal in this country.
Conversion therapy (or ‘cure’ therapy or reparative therapy) refers to any form of treatment or psychotherapy which aims to change a person’s sexual orientation or to suppress a person’s gender identity [Stonewall.org.uk]. Conversion therapy is abhorrent because it tells LGBTQ+ people that there is something 'wrong' with their sexual identity and/or gender identity and that they need 'fixing'.
There is nothing wrong with being LGBTQ+ and there is nothing that needs fixing. The real thing that is wrong and the true thing that needs fixing is the prejudice, stigma and barrage of negative feelings that sadly exist towards LGBTQ+ people. It makes me furious that thousands of people continue to be told that there is something 'bad' about them when this is absolutely not the case. Hearing destructive messages like this— especially from people in positions of authority such as doctors, psychiatrists, psychotherapists, religious leaders etc— can put a huge strain on a person's mental health and well-being.
Conversion therapy can—and frequently does— take in settings in which every person should feel safe, such as physical healthcare, mental healthcare and social care. It can also happen in religious, educational or community settings. I don't think it's right that a professional may push a person to disown, change, suppress or fear their own sexual orientation or gender identity. Stonewall's LGBT in Britain - Health report states that five per cent of LGBT people have been pressured to access services to question or change their sexual orientation when accessing healthcare services. This percentage rises to 9 per cent for Black, Asian and minority ethnic LGBT people aged between 18 - 24 and nine per cent for LGBT disabled people. It's just not okay.
Lasting consequences of conversion therapy include trauma, intense shame, mental health difficulties, dysphoria and difficulties with relationships. The website Ban Conversion Therapy shares stories of people who have experienced conversion therapy, how it made them feel and its agonising impact on all areas of a person's life— from relationships to health, identity and more.
The UK Government has published a consultation to find out what people think about this dangerous practice. This means they are seeking seeking views from individuals and organisations on their proposals to ban conversion therapy. To share your views, take a look at the guidance published on the Ban Conversion Therapy website and have the government consultant page open in another window.
Hopefully nobody is reading this post and wondering why it's here on Talking About BPD. As you know, I keep my posts here closely related to borderline personality disorder (despite having interests in poetry, disability more widely, education, literature, vintage clothing, art etc!). However, I have readers and social media followers who are LGBTQ+ and the thought that someone could be hurt by conversion therapy is horrible. Nobody should have to go through this and I am longing for a world in which every LGBTQ+ person can live without fear or judgment. Too many LGBTQ+ people have a rough deal and it's really not fair at all.
I'm crossing my fingers that conversion therapy becomes illegal in the UK very soon and we will follow in the footsteps of countries including Brazil, Samoa, Fiji, Agrentina and Norway who have implemented bans of various kinds.
If you are one of the thousands of people who have been affected by conversion therapy or something similar, please visit the Get Support section of the Ban Conversion Therapy website for some options. Sending so many kind wishes to anyone who has been hurt and please know I want you to feel safe and welcome whenever you visit Talking About BPD.