Several months ago, a friend of mine came out of the closet to their family. They then suffered the fairly jarring experience of being asked by a close family member to attend LGBTQ conversion therapy in the hopes of being “cured”. I don’t need to tell you that coming out can be a difficult and formative time for any person, but to have a response like that from someone you love was understandably devastating.
I did my best to comfort them. I reassured them that since we neither lived in rural Texas, nor the 1800s, it would be hard to locate an LGBTQ conversion therapist – let alone legally receive treatment from one. However, a week or two later it crossed my mind that while I personally view the practice as one that is as archaic as it is damaging, it’s possible that my country might not be quite as accepting as I’d like to think. I took to google, and was horrified to discover that not only is LGBTQ conversion therapy legal in the UK, it’s offered on the NHS. A service of huge importance and infinitely stretched resources is unable to effectively treat many seriously ill people due to lack of funds, but makes available an ineffective and harmful practice.
You don’t need a VERSA writer to tell you that conversion therapy is ineffective. Countless studies say so. Admittedly, some studies from 40 or so years ago showed a few “success story” patients entering heterosexual marriages. However, something tells me that forcing people to marry someone they aren’t attracted to might have something to do with those outrageously high divorce rates the Daily Mail are always banging on about. Putting aside these “alternative facts”, what has been proven is that those who undergo LGBTQ conversion therapy have significantly higher rates of illegal drug abuse, depression and suicidal thoughts.
A campaign video called “Not an illness” will be released this week on multiple Oxford-based social media sites depicting a scripted LGBTQ conversion therapy session. It aims to raise awareness of some of the shameful techniques used by so called professionals to bully people into seeing the world as they do. The video will be accompanied by a link to the government petition to make conversion therapy illegal in the UK. If we get 10 000 signatures then the government have to respond; if we get 100 000 signatures then the issue will be debated in Parliament. It seems to me that a country that legalised gay marriage and took to the streets to protest Trump’s inauguration is not one that would condone this kind of “medical practice”. And unfortunately, offering LGBTQ conversion therapy legally and on the NHS does condone it. The problem can’t be that people don’t care, it’s that people don’t know. So please sign the petition, and please share the video. Restore my faith in humanity, and maybe I’ll write a happier article next time.