Every LGBT+ person has their own, personal journey. And I’m proud that we live in a country where that journey is becoming a little less bumpy, a little less tough.
That more LGBT+ people can embrace their true selves and live their lives.
But that journey is still far too bumpy for far too many.
The school experience can still be a rough ride. Loved ones may not take it the way you had hoped. The warm embrace of acceptance is still out of reach for many that are struggling with their identity.
It is getting better, but we’ve still have a heck of a way to go.
And it’s that difficult, tortured journey that conversion therapy feeds off.
Here in the UK, we can often fall into the trap of thinking that this doesn’t happen here, that we’ve moved on, that this is a problem for other corners of the globe.
But looking at the Government’s LGBT Survey, 5% of respondents say they’ve been offered conversion therapy, with 2% going through with it.
In a society where we rightly say it’s okay to be LGBT+, there are potentially thousands of people going through the ordeal of conversion therapy.
When we mention conversion therapy, it’s important to know precisely what we’re talking about. It can range from pseudo-psychological treatments to even surgical interventions and ‘corrective’ rape.
While it’s true we do have laws to protect against the extremes of conversion therapy, such as the abhorrent act of corrective rape, it’s the psychological effects we have yet to get a grip of.
The LGBT+ community already suffers significant mental health issues compared to the rest of society, with Stonewall’s health report showing that over 50% of LGBT+ people face depression, rising to 2/3rds within trans people.
In 2017, the charity METRO reported that 44% of the LGBT+ respondents considered suicide, versus 25% of their non-LGBT+ counterparts.
You compound this with the psychological and mental toll that conversion therapy has and you can clearly see how harmful this can be.
You can find countless stories of those having been through conversion therapy, those that are trying to navigate sexuality and think that conversion therapy may provide answers but end up coming out of it the other side with significant mental health issues, potentially even contemplating suicide.
And it’s incredible just how accessible this so called “therapy” is. Over the pandemic, we’ve all become so accustomed to using Zoom, Teams, or Skype for meetings, school work, catching up with friends and loved ones, even here, keeping this House moving.
But it’s also used by those practising conversion therapy. Conversion therapists, from both here in the UK and abroad, reaching into people’s homes on Skype to tell them that being LGBT+ isn’t normal. That being LGBT+ may come from past childhood trauma. That being LGBT+ can be cured.
Can we then be surprised that mental health numbers in the LGBT+ community are so striking?
Can we then be surprised that suicide attempts by LGBT+ people are nearly double that of non-LGBT people?
We must be clear and unequivocal; conversation therapy is wrong.
Just imagine that you’re a young lad growing up in a religiously conservative household, scared to come out, scared to lose the love of your parents, and then see an advert from a conversion therapist that purports to have all the solutions.
You’re desperately seeking solutions to something you don’t understand and something you worry will turn your life upside down.
And while much of it is wrongly wrapped in the arms of religious counsel and comfort, this isn’t right.
Last year, nearly 400 religious leaders, from across the world, united to call for a ban on conversion therapy. Polling shows the majority of religious people in the UK are also united in supporting a ban.
Just last year the Prime Minister said conversion therapy is “abhorrent” and has “no place in a civilised society”. I wholeheartedly agree.
We have come so far as a society, we have a proud history of LGBT+ rights in this country, let’s carry that legacy forward and rightly ban conversion therapy.
This is our opportunity to reaffirm that conversion therapy is wrong and that we will protect our young people from falling for it.
The opportunity to stop it from being advertised, the sole purpose to prey on those struggling with their identity, and to protect those from being sent for overseas intervention.
The opportunity to provide additional mental health support to the LGBT+ community as a whole, but in particular those that have been through the trauma of conversion therapy.
The journey to embracing your sexuality is still far too bumpy for far too many. Even with a ban, we still have work to do in making that better.
But by legislating to ban conversion therapy, we can make real strides in making that journey just a little smoother, and ensuring LGBT+ people can lead the lives they want to leave free from stigma. For the sake of our whole society, let’s do this.