MPs have condemned the contents of a leaked memo that suggests the government is rowing back on its promise to ban the ordeal of conversion therapy – but only for LGB people
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There was anger in the House of Commons after the government fudged a promise to ban conversion therapy.
After immediate public pressure and from MPs after a leaked memo, the government U-turned again – but will not outlaw conversion therapy for trans people, according to ITV.
Tory MP Alicia Kearns condemned any possible government decision to exclude trans people from the ban.
She tweeted: “If true, I’m pleased the Prime Minister has listened to our colleagues. However, we cannot exclude our trans friends.”
The controversy comes in the same week that an MP came out as trans for the first time. Tory MP Jamie Wallis, who will continue to use he/him pronouns, revealed he had been diagnosed with gender dysphoria as a child.
LGBTQIA+ charity Stonewall said 5% of trans people have been pressured to take part in conversion therapy.
In different forms, conversion therapy has caused severe damage to the mental health of people simply for their sexual orientation, including one British war hero.
What is conversion therapy?
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Conversion therapy, also known as ‘cure’ therapy, is when members of the LGBTQIA+ community are told that their identity is something that can be cured.
Specifically, it means any kind of treatment or therapy that attempts to force a person to change the gender they identify with or their sexuality.
Before its double U-turn the government had said: “There is no justification for these coercive and abhorrent practices and the evidence is clear that it does not work: it does not change a person from being LGBTQIA+ and can cause long lasting damage to those who go through it.”
Negative views on homosexuality are often based on people who are gay being branded ‘un-Christian’, due to common conflicts between religion and sexuality.
It is often extremely religious people who attempt to ‘convert’ a loved one or fellow worshipper.
One brave survivor, George, told Ban Conversion Therapy: “They called in the pastor from another church since this was his ‘speciality’. I was naïve. I had no clue this was actually conversion therapy or what it would entail. It involved the laying on of hands and intensive prayer, the casting out of demons, being forced to describe my homosexual experiences and to repent publicly.”
Conversion therapy can vary in its severity, but even short sessions can cause damage to the victim’s mental health.
Another survivor said: “I was then sent somewhere throughout the winter. I don’t know exactly where we were, but the conditions there were bad: we didn’t have much food or water, and the conversion therapy tactics were much more extreme We were made to watch porn and kicked every time we reacted.
Who was Alan Turing and did he go through conversion therapy?
Few people can claim to have been part of a team that saved the lives of millions, but British mathematician Alan Turing can due to his work on the Enigma machine during the Second World War.
Some estimates of Turing’s work on the Enigma code machine, the technology used to intercept German military messages, say it shortened the war by two years and may have saved 14 million lives.
In 1952, Turing reported a burglary to the police, but became the center of an investigation into “acts of gross indecency”. Homosexuality was outlawed at the time and Turing, when discovered to have a male lover living with him, faced imprisonment for his crimes by him.
He instead chose chemical castration, leading to his suicide via a cyanide-laced apple in 1954.
Now the face of the £50 note, the UK government apologized for Turing’s ordeal in 2009 and to the gay men convicted for being homosexual.
Modern forms of conversion therapy are often not as extreme in terms of physical damage, but Turing’s ordeal remains a reminder of why so many are calling for it to be banned in any form.
In 1990 the World Health Assembly stopped recognizing sexual orientation as a mental disorder, although conversion therapy still exists in the UK over 30 years later.