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Conversion therapy

Conversion therapy

Conversion therapy is any form of so-called treatment which attempts to change sexual orientation or reduce attraction to others of the same sex. It is a pseudoscientific practice based on a theory and assumptions that being lesbian, gay, bi or trans is a mental illness that can be cured. Conversion therapy promotes the notion or belief that there is something wrong with being LGBT+ in the first place which there is not.

No one should be told their identity is something that can be changed or cured.

  • In the UK, all major counselling and psychotherapy bodies, as well as the NHS, have concluded that conversion therapy is dangerous and have condemned it
  • Facebook and Instagram have banned the promotion of conversion therapy in ads
  • More than 370 religious leaders from around the world called for a ban

Origins of conversion therapy

In 1899, German psychiatrist Albert von Schrenck-Notzing announced at the first International of Hypnotism conference that he had turned a gay man straight. He reported that his homosexual patient required 45 hypnotic sessions over four months to reverse his homosexual desires. Little did he know, Albert had kicked off a phenomenon often referred to today as "conversion", "reparative", or "gay cure" therapy.

In 1920, Sigmund Freud wrote of a lesbian patient whose father wanted to see her converted to heterosexuality. Freud echoed modern psychologists by responding that changing sexual orientation was difficult and unlikely. Offering to see the woman, Freud later broke off the therapy due to her hostility. In 1935, Freud went even further, writing to a woman who wanted her homosexual son converted that homosexuality "is nothing to be ashamed of, no vice, no degradation; it cannot be classified as an illness."

Because conversion therapy is not a mainstream psychological treatment, there are no professional standards or guidelines for how it is conducted. Early treatments in the 1960s and 70s included aversion therapy, such as shocking patients or giving them nausea-inducing drugs while showing them same-sex erotica, according to a 2004 article in the British Medical Journal.


It's difficult to find ANY reliable evidence that sexual orientation can be changed and medical bodies warn that conversion therapy practices are ineffective and seriously harmful. Nevertheless, its advocates provide anecdotal reports and stories of so-called "ex-gays" claiming some (a degree) of success in becoming heterosexual.

In the US, Joseph Nicolosi, Sr (now deceased) claimed to have "assisted hundreds of clients with their goal to reduce their same-sex attractions and explore their heterosexual potential." Thankfully, no one as high profile in the UK has done likewise but it would be foolish to think that the dark art of conversion therapy has been eradicated here.

Government's journey to banning conversation therapy

Both Theresa May and Boris Johnson promised to ban conversion therapy though many argue the UK government is dragging its feet. The campaign to ban conversion therapy is being stepped up and in March 2021, Equalities Minister Liz Truss said the government will bring forward plans to ban gay conversion therapy "shortly". Define shortly?
Liz Truss promises ban on gay conversion therapy | BBC News | 12 Mar 2021

The ban for England and Wales was announced in the Mat 2021 Queen's Speech - but it will be preceded by a consultation. It will consider religious freedoms and how to protect accredited professionals in a move welcomed by some groups. Jayne Ozanne, a former government equality adviser who underwent conversion therapy, agrees."We've had three years of talking," she said. "What we really need is action that will protect young and old LGBT people right now, not this Groundhog Day of constantly being told that we're going to consult and listen."
Conversion therapy ban: Campaigners dismayed over delay | BBC News | 12 May 2021

Government U-turn (March 2022)

In an ITV News exclusive, on 31 March 2022, the government abandons its pledge to ban so-called conversion therapy, according to a leaked document shared with ITV News. The briefing is titled “Conversion Therapy Handling Plan” and admits that there will be a “noisy backlash from LGBT groups and some parliamentarians when we announce we do not intend to proceed.” But the Downing Street document seen by ITV News states: “The PM has agreed we should not move forward with legislation to ban LGBT conversion therapy.”
 Exclusive: Government ditches ban on conversion therapy, according to leaked document | ITV News | 31 March 2022 | 9:45pm

However, two hours later, ITV News reports "Gay conversion therapy will be scrapped in government U-turn after ITV News report." The articles goes on to say "Boris Johnson has been forced to stage a hasty U-turn after an announcement that ministers were abandoning plans to ban conversion therapy sparked a furious backlash. But the "new plans will only apply to gay - and not trans - conversion therapy, ITV News understands."
Gay conversion therapy will be scrapped in government U-turn after ITV News report | 1 Apr 2022 | 12:18am

LGBT+ organisations abandon the government's 'Safe To Be Me' LGBT conference (April 2022)

Though the government has promised to ban conversion therapy, it has decided to exclude conversion therapy for transgender people. LGBT+ groups and sponsors are now withdrawing from the government's 'Safe To Be Me' conference scheduled for 29 June-1 July 2022, which coincides with the 50th anniversary of the first London Pride marches.

Stonewall and 80 groups pull out of government LGBT+ conference over conversion therapy failure | Pink News | 4 Apr 2022
Conversion therapy ban: Over 100 groups quit government LGBT conference | BBC News | 4 Apr 2022
‘It’s a Mess’: Sponsors Pull Out of UK Government’s LGBTQ Conference | Vice | 31 Mar 2022
UK government to host its first global conference on LGBTQ+ rights | The Guardian | 16 May 2021
'Safe To Be Me' LGBT conference cancelled after boycott | BBC News | 5 Apr 2022
Labour and Tory MPs slam government for ‘sickening waste’ as LGBT+ conference cancelled amid furore | Pink News | 6 Apr 2022
LGBTQ+ conference cancelled over conversion practices furore | The Guardian | 5 Apr 2022

Statement on Safe To Be Me conference | Stonewall | 4 Apr 2022
An LGBT+ Sector As One: #BanConversionTherapy | LGBT+ Consortium | 4 Apr 2022

Conversion therapy ban not included in King's Speech (November 2023)

It will come as no surprise to some that the government did not include a ban on conversion therapy in the King's speech (7 November 2023). First promised in 2018 and despite multiple assurances and several prime ministers, it's very unlikely the ban will become law before the next general election. The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) said they were "disappointed" and the government said they are "carefully considering" the issue. Jayne Ozanne, who chairs the Ban Conversion Therapy Coalition said “To break your flagship promise to a community that has seen a significant rise in hate crime is a total moral failure.” she continued “To do so after five years of posturing, with minimal engagement with victims of ‘conversion therapy’, shows just how callously the government treats LGBT+ lives."
Conversion therapy ban not included in King's Speech | BBC News | 7 Nov 2023

NO MORE LIVES LOSTSign the petition 

Ban Conversion Therapy was created in July 2020 calling on the UK Government to commit to a full legislative ban. A coalition of LGBT+ and faith communities and organisations, and mental health practitioners united in calling for the Government to Ban Conversion Therapy and support victims and survivors.

Petition: No more lost lives to conversion therapy  


Conversion therapy | Wikipedia
Gay conversion therapy | HuffPost
The lies and dangers of efforts to change sexual orientation or gender identity | Human Rights Campaign (US)

"David Matheson said he regrets perpetuating the idea that being gay is a disorder. “It is horrifying to think that I was part of a system that held people like me down,” he said. One of the leading figures of the controversial ‘gay cure’ therapy movement in America made headlines all around the world last week when he publicly came out as gay. In an exclusive interview with Channel 4 News, David Matheson, 57, admitted the practise which nearly 700,000 Americans have undergone, is not only built on a harmful philosophy, but should be banned." Channel 4 News

 ‘Gay conversion therapist’ comes out: exclusive interview | Channel 4 | 31 Jan 2019 | 13m 17s


'Darkest period of my life': Gay conversion therapy in Italy | BBC | 2 June 2024
Conversion therapy ban to finally be debated in parliament – but not because of the government | Pink News | 10 Nov 2023
Humanists UK welcomes Private Member’s Bill to ban conversion therapy | Humanists UK | 9 Nov 2023
Conversion therapy ban not included in King's Speech | BBC News | 9 Nov 2023
Reported missing: ‘conversion therapy’ ban in King’s Speech | Humanists UK | 6 Nov 2023
LGBTQ conversion therapy ban will not be included in King’s Speech | Pink News | 6 Nov 2023
Government set to ditch conversion therapy ban after ‘intense’ lobbying by anti-trans MP | Pink News | 22 Oct 2023
Sunak to push ahead with delayed ban on gay and trans conversion practices | The Guardian | 19 Oct 2023
Conversion therapy: Equality watchdog calls for ban | BBC News | 18 Oct 2023
UK slams LGBTQ+ conversion therapy but no ban in sight | Openly | 20 Jul 2023
Tory MPs condemn delay to ban on LGBTQ+ conversion practices | The Guardian | 17 Jul 2023
Conversion therapy ban will be hard to police, says victim | BBC | 5 Mar 2023

'Safe To Be Me' LGBT conference cancelled after boycott | BBC | 6 Apr 2022
Boris Johnson doubles down on excluding trans people from conversion therapy ban | Pink News | 6 Apr 2022
Boris Johnson backtracks over LGBT conversion practices ban after backlash | The Guardian | 31 Mar 2022
Stonewall and 80 groups pull out of government LGBT+ conference over conversion therapy failure | Pink News | 4 Apr 2022
BBC News - Conversion therapy: Government plans for ban scrapped | BBC | 1 Apr 2022
Gay conversion therapy will be scrapped in government U-turn after ITV News report | 1 Apr 2022 | 12:18am
Boris Johnson slammed for ‘despicable betrayal’ after dropping conversion therapy ban | Pink News | 31 Mar 2022
 Exclusive: Government ditches ban on conversion therapy, according to leaked document | ITV News | 31 March 2022 | 9:45pm
New Zealand bans conversion practices in vote hailed as ‘win for humanity’ | The Guardian | 15 Feb 2022
Gay man recalls ‘terrifying’ exorcism in church basement: ‘I had to cancel my agreement with Satan’ | Pink News | 4 Feb 2022 
Charting conversion therapy’s harrowing history – from its barbaric roots to present day cruelty | Pink News | 4 Feb 2022
France bans barbaric conversion therapy – no ifs or buts – while UK dithers and delays | Pink News | 26 Jan 2022
‘Gay gene’ testing apps aren’t just misleading – they’re dangerous | The Conversation | 25 Nov 2021
Ireland moves a step closer to long-awaited conversion therapy ban | Pink News | 31 Dec 2021
Banning conversion therapy | Closed consultation | Updated 9 December 2021 | GOV.UK
BBC News - Conversion therapy: MP warns of loophole in proposed ban | BBC | 26 Nov 2021
Does the government’s plan to allow ‘consensual’ conversion therapy undermine its proposed ban? | The Conversation | 2 Nov 2021
Human rights lawyers call on UK government to ban ‘conversion therapy’ | The Guardian | 1 Oct 2021
C of E bishop backs prosecution of those who defy ‘gay conversion’ ban | The Guardian | 9 Jun 2021
Forced marriage is an ‘evil’ form of conversion therapy – and it’s still happening today | Pink News | 24 Jun 2021
 Why the ban on conversion therapy has to include religious groups | The Conversation | 25 May 2021
The double lives of gay men in China’s Hainan province | The Conversation | 11 Mar 2021
 Three UK government LGBT advisers quit with rebuke of 'ignorant' ministers | The Guardian | 11 Mar 2021
Ministers 'must quickly ban LGBT+ conversion therapy' | BBC | 9 Mar 2021

Senior faith leaders call for global decriminalisation of LGBT+ people | The Guardian | 16 Dec 2020
Gay conversion therapy: Hundreds of religious leaders call for ban | BBC | 16 Dec 2020
Instagram and Facebook to block LGBT 'conversion therapy' services | BBC News | 9 Jul 2020
Charities backing ‘gay conversion therapy’ need to be investigated, say campaigners | Civil Society | 17 Jun 2020
Calls to ban LGBT 'conversion therapy' in UK | BBC News | 5 Jun 2020
UK’s first Chick-fil-A has closed for good after fierce backlash | Pink News | 30 Mar 2020
Utah becomes latest state to ban discredited LGBTQ 'Conversion Therapy' | 22 Jan 2020

'Cluck off': UK's only Chick-fil-A outlet to shut in LGBT rights row | The Guardian | 21 Oct 2019
 The day I met a ‘gay conversion therapist’ | BBC | 16 Sep 2019
Google removes anti-gay ‘conversion therapy’ app after pressure from LGBT+ rights groups | The Independent | 29 Mar 2019

The cruel, dangerous reality of gay conversion therapy | Wired | 7 Jul 2018
UKCP actively campaigns against all forms of conversion therapy | UK Council for Psychotherapy | 4 Jul 2018
'Global epidemic’ of LGBT conversion therapy | The Guardian | 8 Aug 2018
Proposed ban is a positive step but the battle remains to be won | The Conversation | 4 Jul 2018
What is gay conversion and is it legal? Here is everything you need to know about it | | 3 July 2018
'Gay conversion therapy' to be banned as part of LGBT equality plan | BBC News | 3 July 2018
Will a UK ban on gay conversion therapy work? | NewStatesman | 2 July 2018
Gay conversion therapy's disturbing 19th-century origins | History | 22 Jun 2018
10 ridiculous and laughable cures for homosexuality | 19 Aug 2014
Conversion therapy: she tried to make me 'pray away the gay' | The Guardian | 27 May 2011

What’s it like to have “gay conversion therapy”? | BBC Radio 4 | 3 Sep 2019 | 21m 13s 

Banning 'gay cure' therapies under the LGBT action plan | BBC News 24 | 5 Jul 2018 | 6m 7s
Is this the end for gay conversion therapy? | BBC Newsnight | 9 Apr 2015 | 5m 27s


Boy erased | Trailer | 2018
Latter days | Trailer | 2004

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