UK LGBT+ activists struggle to ban conversion therapies

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This content was published on Dec 10, 2021 – 07:50


‘Conversion cures life’, denouncing associations and ex-victims fighting in the UK to ban this practice which aims to change the sexual orientation or gender identity of an LGBT person, sometimes at the cost of severe suffering.

A bill, the subject of a public consultation lasting several weeks, seeks to ban it in the case of minors and adults who do not consent.

Lenny Morris, head of the non-governmental organization Gallup, told AFP that these treatments cover a “wide range of verbal, psychological, physical and sexual abuse” against gays and transgender people.

People often think of American “gay camps”, but “this kind of abuse often happens behind closed doors in the UK, in people’s homes or within communities,” he said.

“Its most common form in the West is religious settings,” adds Jane Ozan, a lesbian and Anglican Church figure who since 2015 has fought against the “terrible torture” she has faced for two decades.

At first he dealt with clergymen who “prayed” for him to get rid of his homosexuality and with “Christian psychologists who researched his past, sexual experiences, and relationships with his parents,” he explains.

“They put pressure on the victims, leaving them in a state of shame and self-loathing,” he told AFP.

Because this was not enough, this Christian evangelist turned to “people with a special gift” who were supposed to “liberate her from the demon of homosexuality” with an “exorcism”.

In other cases, the situation is even worse as some are subjected to “severe beatings” or “corrective violations” of their “orthodontics,” he said.

– trauma –

According to government figures, 5% of LGBT people have been offered conversion therapy in the UK, and 2% have undergone it. These numbers are “not representative,” according to Morris, given that many LGTB+ interviewees only think of “anti-gay camps” and “have no sympathy for the experience.”

She advocates the urgency of outlawing these “abuses”, because “survivors have experienced severe psychological, emotional and sometimes physical trauma” that affects “for years” their emotional relationships and sexual lives.

Working with the Bishops’ Council, Ozan has lobbied the Church of England to formally ban the practice since 2017. Large associations of psychiatrists and psychologists also spoke out against them in 2015, calling them “immoral and dangerous”.

But conversion therapies are still practiced.

The bill, which the government introduced at the end of October, would punish such practices in minors with up to five years in prison. But in the case of adults, it will only apply if they do not give their consent freely.

– ‘She could have killed me’ –

The text was hailed as a “step forward” by Galop and other LGTB+ associations, but the last paragraph of it was heavily criticized, because according to Morris there can be no “informed consent” in conversion therapies.

He explains that these “almost always occur within an unbalanced power dynamic, of the father/son, and the religious/loyal leader.” He stresses that “people who” agree “are often financially and emotionally dependent” and “disapproval can lead to social ostracism”.

Ozan asserts that she was pushed by her background and upbringing. “As an evangelical Christian, I really believed that the person she was — a woman who is attracted to women — was a sin and an unacceptable thing,” she admits.

“I voluntarily passed by her. I agreed, but she almost killed me,” adds this convinced believer, still in shock years later, recalling her twice hospital stay in serious condition, before deciding to publicize her homosexuality and “accept who she is.” he is “.

He insists that “for this reason there should be no exit door” in the text. This will be reformulated in light of the consultations, and will be discussed in Parliament in the spring of 2022.

“Banning is only the first step,” Ozan adds. He stressed that “to completely eradicate this phenomenon requires education.”

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