No Straight Answers: Conversion therapy debunked, by a therapist (who happens to be Trans)
Author: The Queer Therapist
No Straight Answers: A fiercely queer guide to love, life and mental health.
Chris Grant, The Queer Therapist, is a trans non binary psychotherapist, sex and relationship therapist, Diversity, Inclusion and Equality Consultant and health content writer who specialises in trans and queer mental health, sex and relationships.
Brought to you by GLUE Magazine, No Straight Answers is a fiercely queer, non-normative column that looks at love, life and relationship through a queer lens.
You can follow The Queer Therapist on their social channels @theqtherapist
Whether you have lived through it, know someone who has experienced it or you’ve just heard about it in mainstream news, the impact of conversion therapy on our queer community cannot be underestimated.
We have all seen conversion therapy headlining news in recent weeks following Boris Johnson’s decision to exclude trans people (and others) from the conversion therapy ban.
The good news is that parliament will now consider a debate on a full ban after a petition to include all LGBTQ+ people reached +100,000 signatures!
But how did we get to this place? What really is conversion therapy? And how, as a queer community, are we supposed to deal with this public and blatant attack on our human rights?
Let’s start with the basics
What is conversion therapy? “Conversion therapy includes medical, psychiatric, psychological, religious, cultural or any other interventions that seek to change, “cure”, or suppress the sexual orientation and/or gender identity of a person.” – BanConversionTherapy
Essentially, conversion therapy covers a whole spectrum of actions and approaches. At the most extreme end it can include; physical violence, food deprivation and “exorcisms”. Horrific, but true.
More commonly though conversion therapy involves more subtle actions such as, trying to stop or suppress someone from being LGBTQIA+, trying to imply to someone that they are confused about their feelings or framing them as impressionable, rather than accepting they are the expert of their life.
Basically, conversion therapy is any kind of process that attempts to deny or or suppress the LGBTQIA+ identity of that person. It is an abuse of power and a violation of our human rights.
How does it harm?
Well, not to state the obvious, but anyone who is forced, coerced or shamed into having therapy to suppress or ‘cure’ being LGBTQIA+ is having their core identity and sense of self eradicated or denied. This is not only immediately harmful but can cause lifelong trauma and damage.
It has been proven time and again that those subjected to conversion therapy are at greater risk of developing mental health problems, often severe, and sometimes with lifelong effects. We are talking about depression, anxiety, suicide ideation and attempts, social isolation, and damaged relationships.
What about our rights?!
Being LGBTQIA+ is part of who we are and many argue conversion therapy is a violation of article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
Article 3 – Prohibition of torture. No one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
It is our government’s duty to provide protection to individuals from serious harm. This protection must apply to all people in the UK. This means the full LGBTQIA + community!
But they are banning it, right?
Yes, and no.
Yes, they have announced a “ban” on conversion therapy in the UK, but a ban is not a ban until it is applied to everyone and in short, the current proposal does not.
So, why then is the UK government announcing it and expecting praise without actually doing the work?
They have refused to acknowledge the direct rise in transphobia as a result of this public announcement and let’s not forget their complete lack of an apology for the legacy and real harm delaying this ban has caused.
Anyway you look at it, conversion therapy should never have existed in the first place.
Unfortunately, there is a whole history of ablest, homophobic and colonialist reasons as to why it does. This is not news, yet it has taken the UK government (the 5th wealthiest country in the world) until 2022 to finally acknowledge that it might not be ok to subject people to abuse and call it “therapy”.
But, and it’s a big but, they are only acknowledging that we should not subject LGB people to this kind of psychological abuse.
The issue is clear, the current proposals do not protect everyone in the LGBTQIA+ community who may be at risk of conversion therapy.
In fact, the existing proposals clearly exclude asexual, intersex, trans, gender queer and non-binary people.
Why would therapists practice it if they know it’s wrong?
In short, they won’t. But, like most aspects of human nature, it very much depends on the therapist.
It would be untrue of me to say there aren’t homophobic, transphobic, biphobic, acephobic and generally anti-LGBTQIA+ therapists out there. Unfortunately, there are.
But equally there are many many queer, bi, ace, gay therapists and many more who are LGBTQIA+ inclusive and they have been working to get conversion therapy banned.
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 by signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU).
The primary purpose of the MoU is the protection of the public through a commitment to ending the practice of conversion therapy in the UK – this includes all LGBTQIA+ people!
Your therapist should..
Respect who you are – that is fundamental.
They need to meet you where you are at on your gender or sexuality journey and should not bring heteronormative and cisnormative assumptions into the space.
They need to show cultural humility and should seek out appropriate training when working with our queer community. If you are in any doubt, seek out a queer or LGBTQIA+ therapist and remember it is your right to be treated with care, respect and dignity.
The bottom line
The government’s decision to apply the ban to some LGBTQIA+ identities and not others means it is NOT a ban at all.
We need all of the LGBTQIA+ community to come together with our straight allies to make a stand.
Conversion therapy needs to be made illegal for everyone, everywhere. Nothing less than a total ban will be accepted.
Sign the petition quickly and simply by clicking here.
Email your local MP quickly and simply (the template does it all for you) by clicking here.
For more, follow The Queer Therapist on their social channels @theqtherapist.
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