LGBT+ Glitterati and Together LGBTQ official response to the UK government consultation on banning conversion therapy
To what extent do you support, or not support, the government’s proposal for addressing physical acts of conversion therapy? Why do you think this?
So called "conversion therapy" practices are a barbaric and regressive form of abuse, which causes untold harm and lifelong trauma to those who experience it. It should be banned in all forms immediately.
Within our organisation two of our members have experience of conversion therapy, one in a religious setting, and one in a health setting, both at a young age and encouraged by their families.
My own personal experience was of being taken to the GP by my father, who asked the doctor if he could "cure" me of my apparently obvious homosexual tendencies. I was 5 years old. The doctor was unable to help my father, but this didn't discourage my father from trying to beat it out of me instead.
It is imperative that the UK Government listens to LGBT+ voices on this issue, and moves ahead with a comprehensive ban on all conversion therapy practices, in line with the many democratic nations who have outlawed such abusive and harmful attempts to coercively change a person's sexuality or gender identity.
One of the major propagators of harmful conversion therapy practices are religious groups: however it is important to note that in 2020 a group of over 370 religious leaders from across the world called for a ban on conversion therapy practices. As such, there is broad consensus within the religious community that a ban is necessary and that conversion therapy practices are morally wrong.
In spite of this, a small number of outliers may still seek to practice forms of conversion therapy in a religious setting, for moral and ethical reasons linked to faith.
We must be firm and clear that all forms of conversion therapy are wrong, and a ban should be comprehensive, with no leeway to allow unscrupulous practitioners to continue harming and abusing conversion therapy victims in faith based settings.
To what extent do you support, or not support, the Government's proposal for addressing physical acts of conversion therapy?
All coercive attempts to change a person's sexuality or gender identity are harmful. The use of any physical acts in an attempt to change a person's sexuality or gender identity is abusive, traumatic for the individual and proven to be pointless, as no clear evidence base exists to show that such abuse results in the desired outcome. The most likely outcome is trauma and harm to the individual subjected to such practises – as such, any violent or physical attempts to change a person's sexuality or gender identity should be proscribed in law by any tolerant and inclusive society.
The Government considers that delivering talking therapy with the intention of changing a person’s sexual orientation or changing them from being transgender or to being transgender either to someone who is under 18, or to someone who is 18 or over and who has not consented or lacks the capacity to do so should be considered a criminal offence. The consultation document describes proposals to introduce new criminal law that will capture this. How far do you agree or disagree with this?
How far do you agree or disagree with the penalties being proposed?
Do you think that these proposals miss anything?
Our concern, as an LGBT+ led community organisation, is the wording and possible misinterpretation of the proposed laws as set out.
Primarily the use of the phrase "changing them from being transgender or to being transgender" - which is open to negative interpretations, as evidenced by reporting on the issue by The Times, under the headline "Urging change of gender to be criminalised" .
The loose wording of the proposals allows for the misinterpretation of the intention of the law. We cannot allow a law intended to protect members of the LGBT+ community to be misappropriated to further the oppression and discrimination our community members face.
To be clear, there is absolutely no evidence that conversion practices operate to change a person from being cisgender to transgender. It is a non existent scenario, in exactly the same way that no one is being "recruited" or "seduced" into a "gay lifestyle".
The language of the proposals is open to a harmful interpretation, disturbingly reminiscent of the language of Section 28:
"A local authority shall not intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality".
The untold damage that Section 28 wreaked across a generation of queer people should be evidence enough to give the government pause, and to ask you to reflect on the hazardous use of language in this proposal.
Let us be clear – society is a hostile and unwelcoming place for many in the LGBT+ community, and especially so for members of the trans and non-binary community. The pressure to conform to cisgender heterosexual norms is the prevalent driver for conversion practices, and no evidence supports the idea people are being targeted by coercive attempts to turn them gay, queer or transgender.
Charities and groups that support people who are trans, non-binary and gender diverse should in no way be limited or diminished in their ability to support their service users, or fear being criminalised for providing that support by the enactment of a poorly worded piece of legislation.
What may be seen as "promotion" by some, is simply affirmation and essential lifesaving support to those who need it.
We cannot agree to a wording that is so open to interpretation, and the phrase "changing them from being transgender or to being transgender" should be excised, in favour of "changing someone's gender identity" - with clarity provided in guidance that the law is intended to protect and support LGBT+ people, who are the only recorded victims of abusive conversion practices.
In addition, we fundamentally reject the notion that a person, of any age, can consent to abusive conversion talking therapies. Informed consent can not be given to a practice that has no evidence base to support its use, and is proven to cause trauma and harm to those subjected to it. Quite simply, you cannot consent to your own abuse. Whether entered into willingly or not, conversion practises do not work. Talking therapy that aims to change a person's sexuality or gender is ineffective and in many cases causes intense harm and trauma to the subject.
A Memorandum of Understanding on conversion therapy was signed by 20 health, counselling and psychotherapy organisations, all major, expert bodies in the UK, expressly banning talking therapies that attempt to change a person's sexuality or gender identity. As such, no quarter should be given to the idea that a person can enter into conversion therapy practices willingly. The practitioner would risk being struck off from their professional body, and no respectable therapy practitioner would offer such services.
A ban must not allow a loophole whereby vulnerable individuals, struggling to come to terms with their sexuality or gender identity, in a society that is increasingly hostile towards members of the LGBT+ community, are offered a fruitless and harmful opportunity to consent to their own misery and abuse by dubious practitioners working outwith the regulatory frameworks of all the UK trusted health and counselling bodies.
We thoroughly reject the suggestion anyone can consent to conversion therapy practices and urge the government to make any ban total, and protect all members of our community, even those who aren't yet able to accept themselves and may seek it out. They, most of all, need your protection as they are the ones who are most at risk.
The consultation document describes proposals to introduce conversion therapy protection orders to tackle a gap in provision for victims of the practice. To what extent do you agree or disagree that there is a gap in the provision for victims of conversion therapy?
To what extent do you agree or disagree with our proposals for addressing this gap we have identified?
It is correct to ensure that individuals are safe from the possibility of being subjected to conversion therapy overseas. We fully support the government's efforts to address this issue and would encourage these provisions to be included in any legislation being brought forward.
Ensuring charities do not support conversion therapy
Charity trustees are the people who are responsible for governing a charity and directing how it is managed and run. The consultation document describes proposals whereby anyone found guilty of carrying out conversion therapy will have the case against them for being disqualified from serving as a trustee at any charity strengthened. To what extent do you agree or disagree with this approach?
It is important that there are serious repercussions for those found to be promoting the unethical and dangerous practice of conversion therapy. Holding a trustee position within a charity is a position of privilege. It is hard to justify offering such privilege to those who are guilty of abusing and harming others, and limits on the appointment of charity trustees should be placed.
A firm message must be sent to organisations and groups that may seek to justify and promote forms of conversion therapy, driven by an ideological belief, be it faith based or philosophical; that see the status of LGBT+ lives as lesser, who are critical of gender or sexuality, and believe our very existence to be "up for debate", questioned and actively opposed. It must be made clear that any charity trustee promoting harmful, immoral and illegal conversion therapy practices should seen as unfit to hold such a position.
Recognition by authorities of conversion therapy as a problem
To what extent do you agree or disagree that the following organisations are providing adequate action against people who might already be carrying out conversion therapy?
Police strongly disagree
Crown Prosecution Service strongly disagree
OTHER statutory service strongly disagree
More awareness and training needs to be given to services charged with enforcing any ban on conversion therapy practices. Understanding the insidious and at times innocuous-seeming nature of some conversion therapy practices is key for any service intent on enforcing a ban. LGBT+ groups should be consulted widely in order to establish best practice, and community liaison should be at the core of any approach in tackling a ban. The experiences of LGBT+ victims should be prioritised and the views of our community centred in any discussion on conversion therapy, as it is primarily LGBT+ community members who are the victims of abusive conversion therapy practices.
To what extent do you agree or disagree that the following organisations are providing adequate support for victims of conversion therapy?
Police strongly disagree
Crown Prosecution Service strongly disagree
OTHER statutory service neither agree nor disagree
Police are often unsympathetic and lack engagement with reported LGBT+ hate crime and hate incidents. There is a great deal of mistrust and scepticism in the LGBT+ community in regard to the justice system.
Many LGBT+ people feel let down and unable to rely on the police and courts, and hate crimes often go unreported.
It is likely the same pattern will play out with enforcement of any ban on harmful conversion therapy practices.
The police and prosecution services in the UK need to work on rebuilding confidence with minority communities and fostering trust. More action needs to be done to tackle rising hate crime and intolerance towards the community. Many LGBT+ people would not feel comfortable relying on the police and justice system for support due to the toxic environment of anti-LGBT+ rhetoric that exists within the UK, and the lack of clear leadership and decisive action in banning conversion therapy and taking action against spiralling hate crimes.
Do you think that these services can do more to support victims of conversion therapy?
As an organisation Together LGBTQ+ would suggest more community dialogue, more listening to LGBT+ organisations and community leaders, and more visible and decisive action in support of community members who are victims.
Repeatedly delaying legislation to tackle conversion therapy has caused further harm and mistrust within the community.
It is likely the best services to support victims are community-led services, such as Galop and similar organisations, that can work in collaboration with police and prosecution services while providing peer-led support for victims.
There is a duty on public authorities to consider or think about how their policies or decisions affect people who are protected under the Equality Act 2010. Do you have any evidence of the equalities impacts of any proposals set out in the consultation?
While respect must be given to freedom of expression, freedom of association and the right to hold religious and philosophical beliefs that may be critical of gender or sexuality, those rights must not conflict with the right of LGBT+ community members to live a life unimpeded by abuse and harmful attempts to coercively change their sexuality or gender. It is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim that freedom to practice conversion therapy within a religious, moral or philosophical belief framework is curtailed, as the aim is to allow people to live freely and without molestation or trauma inflicted on them by harmful attempts to change who they are. Simply put, LGBT+ people deserve to live their lives freely and in peace. Feb 2022 - Together LGBTQ & LGBT Glitterati