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Conversion Therapy: What is it And Why Does it Need to Be Banned?

Despite being in parliament for the last 5 years, 'conversion therapy' is still legal in the UK and deeply affects the LGBTQIA+ community, but what is it, and why does it need to be banned?

Please be advised this article contains references to triggering topics such as homophobia, transphobia and suicide.

What is conversion therapy?

Conversion therapy is ‘any intervention that seeks to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. This can be through psychotherapy or even physical intervention with or without the person’s consent.

This does not mean supportive and healthy counselling and therapy, as this is often needed to help people of the LGBTQIA+ community come to terms with their sexual orientation and gender identity, helping them work through their emotions and difficulties.

Many times, this ‘conversion therapy’ is carried out by religious or even mental health professionals. According to a national LGBT survey conducted in 2018, from the 7% of LGBTQIA+ community who have undergone or been offered conversion therapy, over half of them were approached by a faith group.

When surveyed in 2009, 200 mental health experts surveyed offered conversion therapy as an option however it is important to note that this survey has yet to be updated in the last 14 years.

Why is it harmful?

Whilst being legal, ‘conversion therapy’ is extremely harmful to the participants, amplifying the shame felt by a community that has been adversely affected for many years. The American Psychiatric Association clarified that the potential risks include depression, anxiety, self-destructive behaviour and self-hatred.

Another study further found that transgender people who had undergone ‘conversion therapy’ were more than twice as likely to attempt suicide, with that number jumping 4 times more likely when undergone under the age of 10.

What is the government doing?

In 2018, Theresa May first brought the idea of banning 'conversion therapy' into the parliamentary conversation and, in July 2020, Boris Johnson lamented the practice as ‘abhorrent’ with ‘no place in society’ however, since then, there has been no official government legislation, despite repeated promises to the LGBTQIA+ community that it will be banned.

In 2022, the government u-turned on an initial decision not to ban ‘conversion therapy’ after it received much backlash, however, this planned ban did not include the ‘conversion’ of transgender community. The advocacy group Stonewall states that 13% of members of the transgender community have at one time been offered or undergone 'conversion therapy'.

In 2023, the government changed their stance on this once again, saying that the ban would once again be a full ban, including gender identity 'conversion therapy'. Having said in the past it was "difficult work" and they did not want to have “unintended consequences” in helping young children deal with their gender identity, some health professionals say that this ban can be enforced in a way that stills allows for explorative therapies.

Some countries already have a full or partial ban in place, including in Brazil, Switzerland and Germany.

What does a ban mean?

Some people’s objections to this ban have included personal and religious beliefs, but also an encroachment on the freedom of speech and personal liberty. However, this ban does not include the ability to believe and express your beliefs and morals but bans the ability for people to adversely affect the LGBTQIA+ community by physically or emotionally harming them through 'conversion therapy'.

What can you do to help?

Although the government has announced that there will be a full ban of conversion therapy, there is, at time of writing, not a clear and concise timeline for this being implemented and at present is still fully legal.

If you would like to push the government to make a clean time frame for this being implemented, Stonewall has created a place for you to find your MP and write an email to them, encouraging people to let their local MP know how the general public feels about this situation.

If you would like more information on difficulties that the LGBTQIA+ community faces, please visit Stonewall to see how you can get involved.


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