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Queer kids are being offered conversion therapy, right now, in the UK. It has to stop

Lily Wakefield March 4, 2021
More than 250,000 healthcare workers back conversion therapy ban

So-called 'conversion therapy' has been described a form of psychological torture.(Pexels)

Dr Igi Moon is a chartered psychologist whose work focuses on psychotherapy, gender, sexuality and emotion. They are also chair of the Coalition for the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) Against Conversion Therapy, which includes 17 major therapy organisations, such as BPS and UKCP, GPs, NHS England and NHS Scotland, and is pushing for a ban on conversion therapy in the UK. 

Moon told PinkNews why a ban on conversion therapy in the UK is vital, and why all healthcare providers “must come together again and fight to stop any of our community being told they need to be ‘cured'”.

Are you a white cis gay man in your mid-60s living in London? Then you may have been given conversion therapy. Against your wishes. Simply because you needed to be ‘cured’.

Are you a Black British transgender woman aged 18 to 24 years old living in London? Or an Asian British cis gay man aged around 16 to 17 years old living in Northern Ireland? Then you are likely to be offered conversion therapy. Right now. In the UK.

As a way of dealing with this you may want to talk it through in therapy with a counsellor or psychotherapist. It is imperative you know you will be safe. But will you?

Later this year all LGBT+ people will hopefully be supporting the government calls for a complete ban against conversion therapy.

Conversion therapies are techniques used to change someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity and can range from corrective rape to spiritual counselling to ‘cure’ them of being LGBT+.

In 2018, the government said it would bring forward proposals to end the practice of conversion therapy after its own LGBT Action Plan in 2018 (the largest LGBT+ survey of its kind in the world with 108,000 responses) told us that five per cent of respondents had been offered ‘conversion’ or ‘reparative’ therapy, and a further two per cent had actually undergone conversion therapy. If you take time to look at the data, it is shocking.

We already know from the survey that a whole population of people aged in their mid-60s who identify as gay men and lesbians have been harmed by conversion therapy and we hope the government will recognise the damage these people from our community have gone through and address these issues.

But the survey also tells us our LGBT+ youth are being offered ‘the cure’ of conversion therapy. This is a live issue affecting our young LGBT+ people and it needs to be stopped. NOW.

We know that religious leaders of all faiths must come together and address this issue regardless of how painful and sensitive.

Because faith organisations are by far the most likely to offer (53 per cent) or conduct (51 per cent) conversion therapy, according to respondents in the survey.

We also know that parents and family members are likely to conduct conversion therapy (16 per cent), so we need to help our young LGBT+ siblings to be aware of this when they are at school. And we need to work with organisations such as Childline to help our young LGBT+ youth know where to turn in a crisis.

However, one shocking finding indicates that healthcare providers or medical professionals also conducted conversion therapy (19 per cent), while a far higher number of trans people reported being given conversion therapy by healthcare providers or medical professionals (29 per cent).

This means that when you see a GP or psychologist or psychiatrist you may be exposed to people who believe you need to be ‘cured’.

This could be by denying treatments such as hormones as part of your gender transition or by a psychotherapist or psychologist believing that being heterosexual or cisgender is preferable to being lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans or asexual.

As chair of the Coalition for the Memorandum of Understanding against Conversion Therapy we are united in speaking out against conversion therapy as unethical and potentially harmful.

As sexual orientations and gender identities are not mental health disorders, it would be totally unethical to offer any treatment to ‘cure’ them.

So, we are pleased to represent at least 250,000 medical and healthcare professionals including psychiatrists, psychotherapists, psychologists and counsellors who are affiliated to officially recognised organisations such as the Royal College of Psychiatrists (RCP), British Psychological Society (BPS) United Kingdom UK Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP), British Psychoanalytic Council (BPC), British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP), Northern Ireland Humanists (NIH) and LGBT led organisations such as cliniQ and Gendered Intelligence. Alongside, we have the full support and attendance of NHS England, NHS Scotland and Stonewall.

We are working tirelessly with the government and MPs such as Alicia Kearns – who is doing an excellent job to outline how legislation will look – to bring in a ban and stop conversion therapy before it does more harm.

We have spent the last six years making sure that anyone who has to meet with a counsellor, psychologist, psychiatrist, psychoanalyst or psychotherapist will know that the organisation their mental health professional is affiliated with has signed up to the MoU and is against conversion therapy.

This document can be read here and I would ask you to check it out. We have asked that all organisations dedicate time to training and curriculum development.

Why? Because, believe it or not, very few therapists, analysts, psychiatrists or GPs are trained in LGBT+ healthcare issues.

We ask our organisations to address this shortfall, and if you look at their websites you can see how they are making sure practitioners uphold the highest degree of training.

We aim to make sure you are well informed about the risks of conversion therapy, that healthcare professionals are aware of ethical issues relating to conversion therapy, that all new and existing therapists are trained appropriately, that evidence into conversion therapy is regularly reviewed and that all of us on the MoU work together to achieve these goals.

As a person who was part of that 80s London scene depicted by It’s a Sin, I trained as a counselling psychologist in the 90s to help the mental health of my community as we faced social prejudice, political hatred and the devastation of HIV/AIDs.

We really must come together again and fight to stop any of our community being told they need to be ‘cured’.

We want to live in safety because to live in safety is our freedom and to have our freedom is the greatest form of equality we can share.

More: conversion therapy, NHS, Stonewall

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