Campaigns | Conversion therapy

Conversion therapy

Criminalising a vaguely defined practice of “gender identity conversion therapy” would make it harder to provide responsive, precautionary care.

A campaign to ban “conversion therapy” came out of nowhere to dominate the priorities of organisations such as Stonewall and Mermaids, and prompt protests and petitions.

But when you ask what people actually mean by “conversion therapy”, you get very different answers. And when you look for evidence that there is a problem in the UK, it is remarkably thin. The demand for a ban seems to have made it from the margins to the mainstream without any evidence.

Sex Matters has investigated the history of the conversion-therapy campaign, and continues to lobby for a better understanding of the issues involved.


  • Lords debate conversion therapy

    On Friday 9th February 2024 Baroness Burt’s Private Member’s Bill proposing a ban on “conversion therapy” was debated in the House of Lords. Twenty-nine peers spoke against it and fifteen in favour. This was the first time some important arguments had been heard in Parliament. While those in favour...

    21st February 2024

  • Banning “conversion therapy” in relation to gender identity is not just unnecessary but dangerous.

    Conversion therapy… again

    The proposal to legislate to criminalise “conversion therapy” is back again, this time as a private members’ bill introduced by the Liberal Democrat Baroness Burt. It is being debated in the House of Lords today. Private members’ bills don’t usually become law, but they do give a chance to...

    9th February 2024

  • Let’s talk about modern conversion therapy

    No conversion therapy in the King’s speech

    Sex Matters welcomes the news that the government has not committed to bringing forward a bill to ban “conversion therapy” in the King’s speech today.  We think that any bill which criminalises forms of talking in relation to gender identity would: What next? We note that those who have...

    7th November 2023

  • Ban modern conversion therapy

    It’s time to ban modern conversion therapy

    The campaign to ban “conversion therapy” focuses on historic abuses, like this one that happened in 1964: “During the appointments, I was taken to a dark room and strapped to a wooden chair. Doctors gave me painful electric shocks while images of women were projected on the wall in...

    25th October 2023

  • "We think Squires’ legal analysis in this advice is fundamentally flawed."

    Converting minds or bodies? 

    A riposte to the Good Law Project’s published advice on conversion therapy

    16th August 2022

  • Conversion therapy? Differential diagnosis? Gender exploratory therapy?

    What is conversion therapy?

    Stella O’Malley of Genspect explains… “Gay conversion therapy” is the term given to attempts to change a person’s sexual orientation from gay to straight. This includes demeaning and painful practices such as electric shocks, forced watching of pornography and, in extreme cases, “corrective rape”. Such abhorrent practices are now...

    15th June 2022

  • Sex Matters briefing for conversion therapy debate

    On Monday 13th June there will be a Westminster Hall debate on introducing “gender identity” into the planned government bill to ban gay conversion therapy. This is a debate following a public petition. It is not a government motion, but a government Minister will respond. This is Sex Matters’...

    11th June 2022

  • “Conversion” therapy or just therapy?

    On 23rd May 2022 an article appeared in the i news stating that Dr Az Hakeem was under investigation for attempting to “practise transgender conversion therapy”. Dr Az Hakeem is a psychiatrist now in private practice after more than 15 years working in the NHS. He is Fellow of...

    8th June 2022

  • Good ideas that address complex issues are not handed down to us on stone tablets. Good ideas need time, space and the application of intelligence to be formed.

    Reading University VC speaks up for academic freedom

    On 25 April 2022 Dr Holly Lawford-Smith, of the University of Melbourne, gave a seminar at Reading University’s school of law. She analysed Australia’s recent legislation banning conversion therapy, and questioned the rationale for including gender identity alongside sexual orientation. “We champion freedom of expression but…” When local LGBTQ+ organisations learnt...

    23rd May 2022

  • Has your MP fallen for a simple slogan?

    Was your MP one of the ones who posed with a sign about banning conversion therapy? It is worth writing to them urgently. Make sure they hear the other side. Use our form to send them Dr Hilary Cass’s interim report and Sex Matters’ report on the “Ban Conversion...

    16th May 2022

  • A misguided campaign

    No ban on talk therapy for gender-distressed children in Queen’s Speech

    It has been confirmed in the Queen’s Speech that the government intends to pursue a limited ban on “conversion therapy” aimed at practices intended to change sexual orientation but not to include in this therapy to resolve gender distress. But the “ban” campaign continues to promote simplistic slogans about...

    11th May 2022

  • How did a campaign to criminalise the most effective treatment for gender-distressed children make it from the margins to the mainstream with no evidence?

    What is behind the campaign to ban conversion therapy?

    The campaign to ban “conversion therapy” has come out of nowhere, to suddenly dominate the priorities of organisations such as Stonewall, Gendered Intelligence, Mermaids, GIRES and the LGBT Foundation. There have been protests and petitions, and these groups pulled out of a planned international conference on human rights when...

    4th May 2022

  • Sex Matters’ statement on conversion therapy law

    Sex Matter praises decision to abandon fatally flawed “Conversion Therapy Bill”.

    31st March 2022

  • "Where a clinical intervention is given, the same ethical, professional and scientific standards have to be applied as to any other clinical condition."

    The Cass Review’s interim report is out

    The report shares initial conclusions that reflect many of the concerns raised by Sex Matters.

    12th March 2022

  • Responses to the government consultation on banning conversion therapy

    The government's consultation on conversion therapy has now closed, and the responses are being analysed. More than a thousand people used the form on our website to send the government their own responses to the consultation.

    11th February 2022

  • It’s not too late to talk to your MP!

    Sex Matters supporters have been speaking to their MPs about the proposed legislation on conversion therapy. Their reports from face-to-face and telephone meetings highlight the need for a proper review of the proposals.  Supporters who have managed to speak to their MPs tell us that some have been surprised...

    2nd February 2022

  • Logos of organisations listed

    Organisations unite to praise the EHRC

    Twenty different campaigning groups from across the UK have come together in a statement of response on the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s recent communications – with the UK Government about conversion therapy and with the Scottish Government about reform of the Gender Recognition Act. The EHRC has come...

    31st January 2022

  • ‘The consultation document contains no clear definition of what will amount to “conversion therapy” caught by its proposals, nor of the meaning of “transgender”...’

    The EHRC steps up

    Sex Matters welcomes its statements on Gender Recognition Act reform and conversion therapy.

    26th January 2022

  • Myths and truths on conversion therapy

    Equalities Minister Mike Freer says that he wants to “bust myths” about the government‘s plan to ban conversion therapy. The good news is that he says that he wants to take care to get the legislation right: “This Government has no intention to stop parents, clinicians, teachers, or anyone...

    21st January 2022

  • The speakers in Middle Temple

    Opposing the return of gay conversion therapy: a lawyer’s view

    On 16 November 2021, writes Sex Matters Chair Naomi Cunningham, I gave a talk at the Middle Temple LGBTQ+ Forum’s inaugural annual dinner, to an audience of barristers and Bar students, and their guests. Middle Temple is one of the four ancient Inns of Court: aspiring barristers must join...

    16th January 2022

  • Conversion therapy: take action

    The government’s plan to “ban gender identity conversion therapy” is ill-considered. It will: threaten parents, teachers, therapists and youth workers with prosecution if they do not affirm that a child is “born in the wrong body” make it harder for children experiencing gender issues to access supportive, exploratory mental health...

    5th January 2022

  • Take action. Respond to the consultation.

    Conversion therapy consultation extended!

    We asked you to tell your MP to #presspause on the conversion therapy consultation. Thousands of you did, they listened, and we’ve got what was needed: an extension of eight weeks.  The next step is to get as many people as possible to respond to the consultation and we...

    9th December 2021

  • Where is the easy reading version of the conversion therapy consultation?

    With just three days to go on the consultation on banning “conversion therapy” there is still no sign of the promised “easy reading” version of the consultation document which was promised to “follow shortly” six weeks ago.  This is a consultation which is particularly relevant to people with learning...

    7th December 2021

  • Conversion therapy: calling for legislation without evidence

    Last week at an event at Middle Temple, Sex Matters Chair Naomi Cunningham highlighted the lack of evidence for harm from “gender identity conversion therapy” (a broad and undefined term being used to promote rushed legislation). Jayne Ozanne, the chief promoter of this proposed legislation, called this “offensive and...

    22nd November 2021

  • Have you emailed your MP ?

    Nearly 2,000 people have emailed their MP to say #presspause on #conversion therapy ban Here are the ones with the biggest postbags so far. Numbers count, so keep sending Lucas, Caroline 39 Kyle, Peter 18 Zeichner, Daniel 18 Starmer, Keir 17 West, Catherine 15 Eshalomi, Florence 15 Heald, Oliver...

    19th November 2021

  • Conversion therapy update

    1500 people have already used our 2 minute form to write to their MPs asking them to #presspause on the government’s conversion therapy consultation. Many people have written that it’s the first time they’ve contacted their elected representative about anything and hundreds have shared deeply personal reasons for their...

    17th November 2021

  • Press pause on conversion therapy law

    The Government is consulting on its proposal to introduce a new law banning “conversion therapy”. They are aiming to introduce a Bill to parliament in time to celebrate this as an achievement at their “Safe To Be Me: Global Equality Conference” in June 2022. They are therefore undertaking a...

    14th November 2021

  • GEO research finds no evidence for banning transgender “conversion therapy”

    The UK government is proposing making it an offence for therapists to question the gender self-identity of children or vulnerable people. They asked a research team from Coventry University to study the evidence on "conversion therapy". This is our rapid review of that evidence.

    3rd November 2021

  • What does the National LGBT Survey Show about Conversion Therapy

    Is there evidence of an urgent epidemic of conversion therapy?

    One piece of evidence that is often cited in support of a ban on “conversion therapy” is the the Government’s LGBT Survey undertaken in 2017. 108,000 people responded. 2% of all respondents reported having previous undergone conversion therapy and a further 5% said they had been offered it. A...

    6th October 2021


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