So-called ‘conversion therapy’ includes all practices that have the pre-determined intention to change, ‘cure’, or suppress a person’s sexual or romantic orientation and/or gender identity.
This may be committed by family members, community members or groups, religious leaders or organisations, health workers, counsellors/therapists, or other practitioners within the ‘well-being sector’. So-called ‘conversion therapy’ can also be referred to as ‘conversion practices’, because these practices often don’t look like ‘therapy’. Conversion practices can include physical, psychological, medical, psychiatric, spiritual, religious or cultural interventions, among others.
This abuse can be perpetrated by anyone, in any setting or any community. It might happen in someone’s own home, someone else’s home, or in a community, religious, or therapeutic space. Conversion practices are not necessarily tied to religion or to specific cultures, but in some cases, they can be.
So-called ‘conversion therapy’ practices can include:
- Verbal abuse
- Psychological abuse
- Physical abuse
- Sexual abuse
- Being prayed over or exorcised, or someone being made to eat or drink something to ‘cleanse’ or ‘purify’ them
- Being shamed in front of others
- Being locked up or denied food/water
- A person or group of people controlling or limiting someone’s movements, access to resources, behaviour, contact with others, or gender expression
- Forced marriage or threats of forced marriage
- A range of other types of abuse
These experiences can be deeply damaging. Not only are they abusive, they can also harm the victim’s sense of self and identity with repercussions that can last for many years.
It’s important to be able to talk about or explore your identity with someone you can trust, but that space should always be supportive, and you should never feel forced to be someone you’re not.
It’s important to be able to talk about or explore your identity with someone you can trust, but that space should always be supportive, and you should never feel forced to be someone you’re notGovernment Equalities Office, 2021
Conversion Therapy Definition
So-called ‘conversion therapy’, sometimes referred to as conversion practices, includes all forms of abuse that have the pre-determined intention to change, ‘cure’, or suppress an individual or group of individuals’ sexual or romantic orientation and/or gender identity.
So-called ‘conversion therapy’ can be perpetrated by anyone, in any setting, or any community. It might happen in someone’s own home, someone else’s home, or in a community, religious, or therapeutic space. Conversion practices are not necessarily tied to religion or specific cultures, but in some cases they can be.
This abuse could come from a family member, a community or religious leader, a romantic partner, a therapist or medical practitioner, or another individual in a person’s life.
Even though the name might give the impression that so-called ‘conversion therapy’ only happens in therapy or counselling spaces, that’s not the case. A more accurate term you may have heard is ’conversion practices’.
In some cases of so-called ’conversion therapy’, a person can be made to believe they have asked for or consented to what is happening to them. They may even be told that the only way to live a happy and fulfilled life is to change their sexual or romantic orientation and/or gender identity. However, we can’t choose who we are and we can’t consent to abuse.
What are the impacts of conversion therapy?
Conversion practices can have lifelong impacts on a person, including:
- Mental: Increased psychological distress, anxiety, depression, flashbacks, self-harm risks, damaged well-being/self-esteem, increased risk of suicide, dysphoria, feelings of guilt or shame regarding the experience(s), fear of mental health support
- Physical: Difficulty sleeping, eating disorders, injuries from sexual or physical violence and/or assault, mobility problems, or medical problems connected to the abuse
- Social: Challenges with intimacy, feeling lost about who to talk to, or fear of communicating what has happened to you, feeling like you must hide your identity, avoiding spaces or events that support your sexual or romantic orientation and/or gender identity
- Economic: Having your education delayed or disrupted, losing access to transport, homelessness, loss of employment or obstruction of employment opportunities
- Community: Isolation from the community which supports your sexual or romantic orientation and/or gender identity, effects from isolation from your community (whether that be your family, culture, or religion)
You might find that these impacts don’t fit with your experience, but that doesn’t mean you haven’t experienced or been offered conversion therapy. You don’t have to be sure about what’s happening to you or identify with any of these impacts in order to contact us.
If you think you or someone you know is experiencing or has been offered conversion therapy, you can get in touch for support and information.