‘I still have flashbacks’: the ‘global epidemic’ of LGBT conversion therapy

Conversion therapy – sometimes referred to as “cure” therapy, reparative therapy, ex-gay therapy or sexual-orientation change efforts – refers to any treatment aiming to change a person’s sexual orientation or suppress their gender identity. It is a nebulous term, encompassing what can be a range of highly damaging practices from an app offering a 60-day “gay cure”, available on iTunes and Google Play as recently as 2013, to spiritual interventions, talking therapies, drugs and, more rarely, extreme physical measures such as electric shock treatment, aversion techniques and “corrective rape”. All share in common the false, unethical assumption that being LGBT is a condition that requires curing. A psychological disorder, in other words.

“That we’re still having this battle 45 years after the APA [American Psychiatric Association] removed homosexuality from the diagnostic manual is incredibly disturbing,” says Carolyn Reyes, coordinator of the #BornPerfect campaign to end conversion therapy, which was launched in the US in 2014 by the National Center for Lesbian Rights. As she says, homosexuality was removed from the APA’s list of diagnoses in 1973 (although not completely excised from its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders until 1987), yet conversion therapy continues to be practised all over the world. Malta was the first country in Europe to ban it – only two years ago.

It remains legal in the UK, where a nationwide survey published in July as part of the government’s LGBT action plan found that 2% of the 108,000 LGBT respondents had undergone conversion therapy and 5% had been offered it. In 2015, the charity Stonewall found that one in 10 health and social care staff had witnessed colleagues express the belief that sexual orientation can be “cured”A 2009 survey of more than 1,300 mental health professionals found that more than 200 had offered conversion therapy. Read more via the Guardian