‘I was told I was possessed by a demon’: What it is like undergoing gay conversion therapy

The suggestion that religious settings would be excluded from recent plans to ban conversion therapy in England and Wales is a major concern for campaigners and victims alike. Joanna Whitehead speaks to two people who have undergone this experience

Sunday 06 June 2021 12:25
<p>LGBT conversion ‘therapy’ remains legal in England and Wales</p>

LGBT conversion ‘therapy’ remains legal in England and Wales

Depression, anxiety, drug and alcohol misuse, homelessness and suicide are just a handful of the side effects experienced by those forced to undergo conversion “therapy”, according to Human Rights Watch. This dangerous and abusive practice attempts to change, “cure”, repress or erase a person’s sexual orientation and/or gender identity and has been widely discredited by mainstream medical and human rights organisations for decades, including the World Health Organisation, the NHS and the Royal College of Psychiatrists.

And yet, the process remains legal in England and Wales, despite numerous promises from successive government figures for it to be outlawed. In 2018, former Conservative leader Theresa May committed to outlawing this practice, but it wasn’t until 11 May that equalities minister Liz Truss announced that the government would finally prohibit it, following a consultation with the public and key stakeholders that would “protect the medical profession, defend freedom of speech and uphold religious freedom”.

Critics of this announcement, such as Stonewall, have questioned the need for a consultation, stating that a comprehensive bill must be published as a matter of urgency that ends this practice everywhere, without exception. However, the prime minister has been accused of trying to create a loophole in such a ban by suggesting it would not cover prayer in a religious setting.

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