Conversion therapy, also known as conversion practices, is a term covering a wide range of abuse and violence experienced by LGBT+ people when others try to change, alter, ‘cure’ or suppress their LGBT+ identity.
The practice of conversion therapy can take various forms but often 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, using psychological, physical, or spiritual interventions. It is based on the assumption that being lesbian, gay, bi or trans is a mental illness that can be ‘cured’.
These therapies are widely considered ineffective, unethical and harmful for anyone who undergoes the process.
This kind of abuse happens to LGBT+ people from all backgrounds. Sometimes, so-called conversion therapy is connected to a religion, or to the perpetrator’s cultural background or personal beliefs, or it might happen in a medical or mental health setting.
Does it work?
In a word: no. There is absolutely no evidence to suggest conversion therapy works. In fact, data suggests that the practice is dangerous.
Research shows that conversion therapy is strongly linked to negative mental health outcomes, including depression, increased substance abuse, and more serious attempts of suicide, among other serious concerns. Additionally, those whose families or religious groups support conversion therapy may feel a harmful sense of rejection. They may feel shame and a negative stigma about how they identify. They may also suffer from fractured relationships or broken religious connections resulting from the non-acceptance of their identity. Such feelings of rejection can have damaging effects on mental health.