Conversion therapies – what are they and what’s the fuss about? 

By our friends at PinkUk

December 2023

So what’s all this fuss about gay conversion ‘therapies’?

In a series of short articles, our friends at the listing site PinkUk explain what’s going on and why it matters for everyone from the LGBTQ+ communities.

These so-called ‘therapies’ seek to ‘cure’ people of being homosexual or change their gender identity often against their will. They include some approaches that have been used for centuries, although in most cases with very poor evidence to show they work safely.

In the UK, as in many other parts of the Western world, the debate over whether LGBTQ+ conversion therapies are ethical or should be banned has been raging for years. 

So what are they exactly? Why are they so controversial and why has the UK’s current Conservative government failed to honour it pledge made over in 2018 over five years ago to outlaw the practices?

Some of these ‘therapies’ include physically painful and harmful approaches such as electric shock treatments, surgery or chemical castration while other techniques use peer pressure and other psychological approaches that can leave the individual ‘patient’ psychologically traumatised.

You can read about some of the methods used at this article; they are deployed by some faith groups, extreme political movements and governments that disapprove of homosexuality and trans rights.

Conversion therapy is the practice of using therapies of various type to change someone’s sexual I or gender identity to conform to an established usually heterosexual CIS gender (the gender a person at birth).

PinkUk also considers why conversion therapies are a threat to everyone, why they are such a sensitive and politically charged issue and what the political and legal outlook may hold.

However, there are also some strongly-held views in opposition to a ban. For example, some opponents of a ban take a civil liberties approach, claiming it would curtail legitimate free speech including religious instruction. 

Additionally, there are complex issues around young people who are below 18 years old and whether they have capacity to make important life decisions around their gender identity which may be difficult to reverse. 

Some opponents claim that the most dangerous aspects of conversion therapy are already banned or criminalised in the UK under other laws so specifically criminalising them in a new law is unnecessary. However others would say that is a complacent viewpoint and that bespoke legal protections are needed and a human right for those people who are especially at risk.

You can read the articles at PinkUk who may add new information as the situation evolves in the UK and internationally.

Part one: Conversion Therapy, a threat to everyone:

Part two: The politics of conversion therapy:

Part three: Conversion therapy yet another U-turn in the UK:


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