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Conversion Therapy

Conversion Therapy

Human Rights Day 2020: Stand Up for Human Rights

Manchester is famed for its vibrant Gay Village. It offers a unique atmosphere with plenty of restaurants, bars, pubs and clubs, and is also home to Sackville Gardens, a park situated off Canal Street. The park is home to a life-size bronze memorial to computer pioneer Alan Turing. Alan Turing was an English mathematician, a pioneer of theoretical computer science and artificial intelligence. During WW2, he was instrumental in breaking the German Enigma code.

In 1952, after he had reported a petty burglary to the police, Turing found himself at the centre of an investigation for "acts of gross indecency" after he revealed he had had a male lover in his house at the time of the crime. He was given two options. Faced with the prospect of imprisonment and the potential loss of the mathematics post he held at Manchester University, Turing accepted the alternative of "chemical castration" - a hormone treatment that was supposed to suppress his sexual urges.

In 1954, at the age just 41, Turning was found dead. He died from eating an apple laced with cyanide. It is widely believed he killed himself as a result of the barbaric treatment - a form of gay conversion therapy. A plaque at his statue's feet reads "Father of computer science, mathematician, logician, wartime codebreaker, victim of prejudice". 66 years on from Turing's death, and 30 years since the World Health Organisation declassified homosexuality as a psychological disorder, the practice of conversion therapy is yet to be outlawed in the UK.

Human Rights Day 2020

Human Rights Day is observed every year on 10 December. This year’s Human Rights Day theme ‘Recover Better - Stand Up for Human Rights’ focuses on the need to ensure that Human Rights are central to recovery efforts in a post-Covid world. As a result of the pandemic, many failures have been exposed and exploited. The COVID-19 pandemic is a global challenge that has exacerbated the inequalities prevalent in all regions of the world. LGBTQ+ people who are already victims of violence and discrimination on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity have been severely affected by the pandemic.

2020 provided Manchester Pride with an opportunity to shine a spotlight on some of the most fundamental and pressing human rights issues affecting the LGBTQ+ community. With one week's notice we moved our Manchester Pride Conference online, we held the first ever Human Rights Forum as part of Alternative Manchester Pride, lent our support to both the Black Lives Matter movement and the Trans community.

This Human Rights Day, Manchester Pride is joining the many organisations who have been raising awareness of and calling for an end to gay conversion therapy in the UK for decades. 

Our vision is a world where LGBTQ+ people are free to live and love without prejudice, and our Mission is to work with LGBTQ+ people helping them to live free from discrimination and to feel safe in their own environment, and to educate people on how to recognise, understand and prevent discrimination against LGBTQ+ people. One significant barrier to living and loving without prejudice is the continued, legal practice of Conversion Therapy. We are Standing Up for Human Rights by calling for an end to the harmful practice. 

What is Conversion Therapy?

Conversion therapy is a dangerous practice that targets LGBTQ youth and seeks to change their sexual or gender identities. Despite all major UK therapy professional bodies and the NHS rejecting it and stating that it is dangerous, some practitioners continue to conduct conversion therapy. It's pseudoscientific practice based on a theory and assumptions that being lesbian, gay, bi or trans is a mental illness that can be cured. Treatments today could include psychotherapy, isolation, humiliation and even exorcism. The International Rehabilitation Council for Torture deem conversion therapy as torture - read their full statement here.

Conversion therapy grew in popularity in the 1960s and ’70s, when homosexuality and transgender identities were considered mental disorders and ‘cures’ included counselling, physical punishment and even surgical intervention. The latest report on Conversation Therapy for the Human Rights Council showed that globally, conversion therapy has also been attempted through beatings, rape, electrocution, forced medication, confinement, forced nudity, verbal offence and humiliation and other acts of physical, psychological, and sexual abuse. Because conversion therapy is not a mainstream psychological treatment, there are no professional standards or guidelines for how it is conducted.

Conversion therapy often happens in secret in closed-off religious communities, and in many cases results in lasting damage for the people subjected to these ‘treatments’. Conversion therapy can result in lasting mental scars, self-harm, and even suicide. Victims of conversion therapy are in most cases, vulnerable youths, and are therefore more likely to face discrimination from their families or communities because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

What is the UK government doing about Conversion Therapy?

In 2018, the British Government pledged to ban Conversion Therapy as part of its LGBT equality plan. Then Prime Minister, Theresa May said at the time, “We can be proud that the UK is a world leader in advancing LGBT+ rights, but the overwhelming response to our survey has shone a light on the many areas where we can improve the lives of LGBT+ people. In June of 2020, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the practice was "absolutely abhorrent" and "has no place in this country’.  

In July 2020, an open letter was co-signed by public figures and musicians and was sent to the Minister for Women and Equalities Liz Truss. It was sent by the Ban Conversion Therapy group and featured support from over 85 celebrities, religious figures, musicians and Chief Executives. Celebrities to co-sign the letter include Sir Elton John, Dua Lipa, Paul Weller, Dustin Lance Black, Munroe Bergdorf, Little Mix’s Jade Thirlwall, Wolf Alice and Stephen Fry. A petition - calling for the Government to make running conversion therapy in the UK a criminal offence was signed by over 255,000 people in 2020.

Facts about Conversion Therapy:

The National LGBT Survey, conducted by the government in 2017, found that 2pc of respondents had undergone conversion therapy in an attempt to ‘cure’ their sexuality or gender identity.

In a separate survey conducted by the Ozanne Foundation in 2018 revealed nearly 70pc of respondents who had undergone conversion therapy in the UK had experienced suicidal thoughts. Minors are especially vulnerable, and conversion therapy can lead to depression, anxiety, drug use, homelessness, and suicide.

To date, three European countries have so far banned the controversial practice; Albania, Germany and Malta. Outside of Europe, nationwide bans also exist in Samoa, Taiwan, Uruguay, Ecuador, Argentina, Brazil and Fiji. In the United States, conversion therapy is banned in 20 states, including New York and Washington, alongside a number of territories and cities.

5% of LGBTQ+ people have been pressured to access services to question or change their sexual orientation when accessing healthcare services. This number rises to nine per cent of LGBT people aged 18-24, 9% of Black, Asian and minority ethnic LGBTQ+ people and 8% of LGBTQ+ disabled people.

One in five trans people (20%) have been pressured to access services to suppress their gender identity when accessing healthcare services.

Research conducted by Stonewall also found that one in 10 health and social care staff have witnessed colleagues express the belief that sexual orientation can be “cured”, which rises to one in five among health and care staff in London.

Some respondents had been offered harmful treatments such as conversion therapy, most often by faith groups but also by healthcare professionals – despite condemnation of this treatment by major counselling and psychotherapy bodies and the NHS.

How can you help in the fight to ban Conversion Therapy in the UK ?

You can share this post or our social content on your social media channels or with friends to help raise awareness of conversion therapy. On December 10th, Human Rights Day, you can share a tweet, a Facebook post or an Instagram post highlighting the issue and calling for an end to conversion therapy in the UK.

The Ban Conversion Therapy campaign was founded by Harry Hitchens and Matthew Hyndman to bring public attention to the issue of conversion therapy in the UK and ensure a comprehensive ban which fully protects the LGBTQ+ community. Their website has many resources and information on how to get involved, from sharing tweets to contacting your local politicians.  

You can also read more about the experiences of LGBTQ+ people who have undergone conversion therapy, in order to better understand what it is and how it has affected to so many people.

'The day I met a ‘gay conversion therapist’ - Radio DJ and Podcast Host James Barr interviewed by BBC

Gay conversion therapist comes out - Exclusive interview with Channel 4 News

Trans conversion therapy survivor: 'I wanted to be cured so asked to be electrocuted' - Carolyn Mercer on undergoing trans conversion therapy in 1964

Filming TV drama brought back the terror of being gay in the '60s - Pete Price, a well known Liverpool DJ, describes undergoing'conversion therapy in the 60s

'I thought being straight would make me happy' - A lesbian Orthodox Jew on undergoing conversion therapy

This is the horrific, traumatising reality of Muslim conversion therapy and why it needs to be banned immediately - Fiyaz Mugha urges the prime minister to consider the harm of Muslim therapies

If you’ve been affected by Conversation Therapy, or any of the above information, please contact one of the following organisations:

Stonewall UK 0800 0502020
Mermaids 0808 801 0400
LGBT Foundation 0345 3 30 30 30
Samaritans 116 123
Switchboard LGBT+ helpline 0300 330 0630
Mind 0300 123 3393
Mindline Trans+ 0300 330 5468
Age UK 0800 169 6565
Childline 0800 1111
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