Activism

7 Organisations Fighting To Ban Conversion Therapy In The UK

Even as Pride month draws to a close, the fight against conversion therapy needs our continued attention.

2021 demonstration against the use of Conversion Therapy outside UK Cabinet office
SOPA Images/Getty

Even as this year’s Pride Month draws to a close, one important issue that deserves our continued attention is conversion therapy. Although the UK’s LGBTQ+ legislation can be viewed as comparatively progressive, in reality, the cruelties of conversion therapy continue to cast a long shadow, with the official outlawing of the practice in England and Wales only taking place in May 2021.

Stonewall explains that conversion therapy (also known cure therapy or diversity eradication, repression and change efforts (DERC-efforts)) is a treatment that aims to change someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity. “It is based on an assumption that being lesbian, gay, bi or trans is a mental illness that can be ‘cured,’” the organisation writes.

A report from by Stonewall in 2020 explained that conversion therapy can take many forms. For some, it involves religious-based practices (praying or fasting, for example), for others it may take the form of talking therapy, verbal abuse, or behavioural conditioning and, in the most shocking cases, it can involve physical and sexual violence. The National LGBT survey found that at least 2% of the 100,000 LGBTQ+ people they spoke to in 2018 had undergone conversion therapy and a further 5% had been offered it.

As mentioned above, despite the government first pledging to outlaw conversion therapy in July 2018, it took three long years before the practices were totally banned in England and Wales. The government is yet to announce what the punishment for anyone found guilty of conducting conversion therapy will be.

Elsewhere, similar debates are ongoing in Scotland and Northern Ireland. In April 2021, Stormont passed a motion calling for a ban on conversion therapy, but an official outlawing has not yet occurred.

In Scotland, the government has said that it “fully supports moves by the UK government to end conversion therapy and does not support or advocate the practice of conversion therapy in the UK” but debates surrounding what exactly should be banned are still ongoing.

However, as these debates continue to be dragged back and forth through governmental bureaucracy, there are organisations across the UK working tirelessly to change the lives of LGBTQ+ people and take a stand against harmful practices like this. They give support those who have experienced conversion therapy, provide expertise on how it can manifest, and offer advice to loved ones on how best to support someone who has gone through it. In other words, their work is truly vital and you will find details about how to support them below.

GLADD

GLADD is an organisation that represents and advocates for LGBTQ+ doctors and dentists. It was among the signatories on the Memorandum of Understanding on Conversion Therapy, which united medical experts and professional bodies in the fight to make conversion therapy illegal in the UK.

GLADD has continued to petition the government’s equalities office to ban conversion therapy immediately, calling the practices “a violation of existing Human Rights, including the right to life and the right to dignity.” They’ve drawn up an 18-point proposal into why and how the practice can be eradicated, which includes re-thinking the terminology we use when describing it. GLADD have suggested that even the term “conversion therapy” is harmful as it insinuates that it’s possible to ‘convert’ someone’s sexual identity and that there is an illness being cured. Their suggested alternative is diversity eradication, repression and change efforts, or DERC-efforts.

You can support GLADD’s work by following them on Twitter and Instagram and sharing their resources.

Ban Conversion Therapy

Ban Conversion Therapy was created in July 2020 to call upon the UK Government to commit to a full legislative ban. They are a coalition of LGBTQ+ organisations, faith communities, and mental health practitioners all working together to support victims and survivors.

If you’d like to support Ban Conversion Therapy, you can use their “write to your MP” tool to tell your local representative why this practice should be banned.

Stonewall

Over the last three decades, Stonewall has been one of the most influential LGBTQ+ organisations in the UK and beyond. They’ve produced resources on conversion therapy, how it can manifest, and what to do if you think you or someone you love has experienced it. They have also teamed up with Ban Conversion Therapy on the “write to your MP” initiative and continue to advocate for the outlawing of conversion therapy by conducting studies into the harm it’s doing and publicly condemning the practice. You can also donate to Stonewall through their website.

Anti-Conversion Therapy Coalition

The Anti-Conversion Therapy Coalition (ACTC) is a collection of young activists from across Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland calling for legislative change.

“Just because we don’t hear about this issue often does not mean that it is insignificant. This practice is still happening to many LGBTQ+ people across Ireland and the UK,” Leah Pepper, a member of the ACTC Committee, tells me via email. “We can no longer sit back and allow this torture of the LGBTQ+ community to continue.”

Speaking about ways in which people can support their work, Tiernan Mason, another ACTC Committee member, suggests contacting your local TDs, MLAs, or MPs and encouraging them to support any legislation coming up surrounding conversion therapy. You can also sign their petition here and follow them on Twitter to see their progress.

Welsh Humanists

The Welsh Humanists (a branch of Humanist UK) are a secular organisation campaigning on a range of issues, including robust legislation around the ban on conversion therapy.

“Religious conversion therapy is extremely harmful. It can and should be legitimately restricted,” Wales Humanists Coordinator Kathy Riddick says, before adding: “To help push this change through parliament, people should write to their MPs asking them to support a legislative ban on conversion therapy and to write on their behalf to the government minister about what is causing the delay to this necessary change.”

If you’d like to learn more about Humanists UK or donate to their work, you can do so via their website.

End Conversion Therapy Scotland

This is a collective of activists and campaigners who are calling on Holyrood to end “the abusive practice of conversion therapy” by establishing it as a criminal offence. The organisation has submitted a petition to the Scottish Parliamentary Petitions Committee in August 2020, which has been passed on to the Equalities and Human Rights Committee and is now under review.

You can support End Conversion Therapy Scotland by following them on Twitter and sharing their posts to ensure that conversion therapy remains a high priority.

Teachers Against Conversion Therapy

As the Teachers Against Conversion Therapy (TACT) website explains, they are “a group of teachers, educators, parents, and education psychologists concerned about recent attempts to encourage LGBT conversion therapy in schools, particularly in regard to transgender children and young people.”

TACT provide resources on how to support LGBTQ+ children and young people in schools, with a specific focus on those who identity as trans. You can follow their work here.