@mermaidsgender

The government must immediately ban conversion therapy’ for trans people

THE FACE spoke to the UK’s leading LGBTQ+ organisations, including Mermaids, Stonewall and Gendered Intelligence, about the practice’s devastating impact and what we can do to help.

At the beginning of April, the UK government announced a ban on conversion therapy for gay and bisexual people in England and Wales. But no such ban was put in place for trans and non-binary people. And, just hours before the announcement, there were talks of the government abandoning plans to drop the ban altogether.

So-called conversion therapy is an archaic, cruel practice, which can leave those subjected to it with severe psychological damage by attempting to cure” them of their sexuality or gender identity. A 2019 study undertaken by JAMA Psychiatry found that people who had undergone conversion therapy were more than twice as likely to attempt suicide.

Yet according to Stonewall’s LGBT in Britain Health Report, five per cent of LGBTQ+ people in the UK have been pressured into seeking such services – a figure that’s even higher for Black, Asian and minority ethnic members of the community. Meanwhile, 20 per cent of trans people are encouraged to go down the conversion therapy route when trying to access healthcare services.

These statistics are worrying. Clearly, conversion therapy holds the potential to put already marginalised trans people at even greater risk of alienation and harm.

The suicide rates amongst young trans people are unmatched by any other marginalised group in our society,” says Dani St James, founder of Not A Phase, a charity dedicated to supporting the lives of trans+ adults across the UK. The news that they are to be further excluded will only have a detrimental effect on these figures. Blood will be on the hands of those that choose to turn a blind eye to this crisis.”

Never once would I have considered what happened to me was a form of conversion therapy – it was just conversation and suggestions, but they held so much power over me and made me hate who I was”

E*

Religious individuals are particularly vulnerable to conversion therapy, which can often be disguised as simple talking therapy.

E*, a gay, non-binary person supported by charity and advocacy group Mermaids, was encouraged by their reverend to confess to being sexually abused as the root cause” of their gender and sexual diversity”. No such abuse had taken place, but the reverend spent hours trying to convince E that they weren’t gay or non-binary, and needed to find the right path” to accepting God.

According to Mermaids, years later, E still struggles with trust issues, maintaining relationships and being physically intimate without feeling guilt and shame. The emotional scars will always be there,” they say. I miss many elements of the church, but looking back, what happened was unacceptable. It caused so much doubt and self-loathing. Never once would I have considered what happened to me was a form of conversion therapy – it was just conversation and suggestions, but they held so much power over me and made me hate who I was.”

It’s now more important than ever to attend protests, be vocal in our support for trans people in the UK and keep applying pressure on the government to U‑turn on excluding them from the conversion therapy ban.

Below, THE FACE spoke to five organisations who are taking direct action about the devastating impact of conversion therapy and what we can do to help.

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A national charity delivering advice, support and information services to lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans communities

“‘Conversion therapy’ is a repulsive practice, which the government’s own research shows causes harm to LGBTQ+ people. This is supported by NHS England and other major bodies in the UK who have all warned that all forms of conversion therapy’ are unethical and potentially harmful.

This is the latest in a long line of betrayals by the Prime Minister and his Government, proving that we cannot trust them to safeguard LGBTQ+ rights. The lack of protection for trans and non-binary people in this latest round of legislation effectively says that their pain and suffering is acceptable.

To be very clear, the rights of marginalised groups facing oppression should never be pitted against each other for political gain. The Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary made personal pledges to ban conversion therapy’. Seemingly, they are happy to go against their word.

We demand that the Prime Minister makes a full apology for his decisions and a full reversal of the current position, to explicitly include trans and non-binary people within the proposed legislation to ban conversion practices. What harms even one of us, harms us all; there can be no LGB without the T.”

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A charity and advocacy group that supports gender variant and transgender youth, while providing inclusion and diversity training

The pain and suffering the trans and non-binary community are already facing as a result of conversion practices will continue for decades to come should the government pursue with its appalling decision. It will exacerbate a mental health crisis in the trans community, where 54 per cent of young trans people already suffer from depression and 72 per cent suffer from self-harm. Transphobic hate crimes in the UK have seen a year-on-year rise and our exclusion from the ban on conversion practices sends a dangerous message to the wider public. The government’s actions mark a dark day in the history of LGBTQ+ rights in this country.

Trans young people exist and it is our human right to be protected from practices which aim to suppress, cure’ or change us. We deserve to live and be free to be who we are. The government’s position must change if it truly supports us.”

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A charity that works to increase understanding of gender diversity and improve the lives of trans people

One way to support trans and non-binary victims of conversion practice is to stay noisy on the issue. The government has tried for years to use trans rights as a culture war’ issue, to drive a wedge between trans and non-binary people and the rest of the community. We know from the response to the backtracking on conversion practices that the community will not be divided and a recent YouGov surveys show that the majority of Britons want a total ban.

Write to your MP, support local groups pursuing direct action, and contribute to LGBTQ+ charities and organisations – especially those serving the trans and non-binary community, who are worst impacted by this situation. It also helps to be aware of the situations in which conversion practices most often take place. We know from the National LGBT Survey that healthcare, faith and family environments are all key risks, particularly for young people and for people of colour.

If you know someone who may have been targeted by conversion practices, there are organisations like Galop and LGBT Switchboard who can provide support and advice. Most of all, you can help by being openly and vocally supportive of the LGBTQ+ people in your life. Conversion practices often work by isolating victims and making them feel as though their identities are unnatural or undesirable. By forming communities of support we can resist this abuse together, with or without the support of the government.”

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A British charity that campaigns and provides services relating to HIV and sexual health

Terrence Higgins Trust and 27 other HIV charities and community groups withdrew their support for the global LGBTQ+ Safe To Be Me conference, due to the Government U‑turn on its initial promise of a trans-inclusive conversion therapy ban. We have seen the devastating impact of conversion therapy on the lives of LGBTQ+ staff and service users, many of whom are living with HIV. The Government’s decision to go back on its promise to ban conversion therapy for all LGBTQ+ people is outrageous and must be reversed.

Trans rights are human rights – progress without or at the expense of trans people is not progress at all. We stand together with Stonewall and the whole LGBTQ+ sector, and will not be divided.”

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A charity with a purpose to stand alongside and defend the rights of everyone living with, affected by or at risk of HIV

Leaving the door open for trans people to be subjected to the horrors of conversion therapy is simply unacceptable. Not only is this ban vital for LGBTQ+ justice, it’s also important for health justice. Hostile attitudes towards trans people make it harder for them to get the healthcare that they deserve, like access to the HIV prevention drug PrEP. This move normalises the marginalisation and exclusion of trans people, which stands in the way of HIV prevention. By offering trans people less legal protection than other LGBTQ+ people, the government risks failing to deliver their promise to end HIV transmissions by 2030.”

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A lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights charity in the UK and the largest LGBTQ+ rights organisation in Europe

By breaking its promise on delivering an inclusive ban on conversion practices, the UK government is abandoning trans people and putting them at risk of further harm. Trans people are nearly twice as likely to be targeted by conversion practices and it is shameful that the UK government is choosing which LGBTQIA+ people deserve protection. We call on the UK government to listen to medical experts – including the BMA and NHS England – and protect trans people from abuse.

Stonewall and the Ban Conversion Therapy Coalition are also organising a protest against the Government’s plan this Sunday (17th April) at 1pm.”

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