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 the front of me. I still remember clearly the pain of those shocks and the tears that ran down my face.“
But practices like this don’t happen any more in the UK.
Today’s modern conversion therapy involves children and vulnerable people being told that if they don’t fit in as a girl or a boy, woman or man, there is something wrong with their body and they need to be fixed with hormones and surgery.
Those treatments can leave them sterile and without sexual function. And they will never fulfil the impossible promise of changing their sex.
The government is being urged to legislate to ban “conversion therapy”, but it is not talking therapy that should be banned: what should be banned is rushing children and vulnerable people into physical interventions.
Sex Matters is publishing a policy proposal for legislation on modern conversion therapy today.
What is modern conversion therapy?
Modern conversion therapy means treating someone with medication or surgery to modify their sexual characteristics, when they:
- are too young or vulnerable to make a fully informed decision
- have confounding mental-health issues that have not been not addressed
- are acting due to internalised homophobia or misogyny
- have unrealistic expectations that treatment can actually change their sex
- think other people can be forced to accept them as the opposite sex, based on a misrepresentation of the law
- have not been given full information about the effects of the treatment.
Our proposal includes model legislation that would outlaw all medical or surgical treatment of minors to modify their sexual characteristics, and treatment performed on anyone who has not had the full implications of the treatment explained to them. We want to make it a specific offence not to provide adequate information and ensure informed consent, or to take a child abroad to get around the prohibition of modern conversion therapy.