On Conversion Therapy

Written on 08/10/2021
Jayme Tucker

(Trigger warning for medical trauma, medical abuse of LGBTQ+ individuals, and violence)

On June 22nd, 2021, the House of Commons voted on a bill to ban conversion therapy. It passed by a vote of 263 to 63 and awaits approval from the Senate. But what is conversion therapy, and why is it such a gutting betrayal that self-professed Conservative ‘allies’ voted not to ban it?

Conversion therapy sprung from early 20th century practices designed to specifically cure men of homosexuality. Lobotomies, testicle transplants, hypnosis, and electroshock treatments were common ‘treatments’ for what was considered a medical condition.

In 1952, homosexuality was listed as a mental disorder by the American Psychiatric Association in the first Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Shortly after, aversion therapy became the go-to ‘cure’ for homosexuality. It used electroshock therapy to create negative associations with same-sex attraction. In 1973, the APA removed homosexuality from the DSM, and aversion therapy became less widely used, though instances of electroshock and psychiatric aversion therapy persist through the ‘90s to today.

Modern conversion therapy can and has been offered by life coaches, licensed professionals, unlicensed ministries and more. It can include anything from talk therapy and prayer to more extreme instances of physical violence, exorcisms, deprivation, group shaming, and corrective rape. 

The United Nations Human Rights Commission found that conversion therapy inflicted severe and lifelong suffering, pain, and psychological damage. A study undertaken by the Family Acceptance Project and published by the Trevor Project found that the suicide rate of LGBTQ+ youth who underwent conversion therapy was 48% compared to the 22% of their peers who did not.

Conversion therapy has never been shown to be effective, and many survivors suffer from PTSD and trauma from their experiences. No clinical studies have shown that it works and that sexual orientation is not a choice that can be changed.

To date, 33 states still allow conversion therapy, and only a handful of municipalities and jurisdictions in Canada ban it. Conversion therapy has been shown to be incredibly harmful to the young people and adults it claims to cure and to hear that a member of parliament has voted against banning it while also claiming to be ‘pro-LGBTQ+’ is a harsh blow to their constituents and a reminder of what performative allyship looks like.

Next week we’re going to take a step back to the LGBTQIA2s+ and dive into asexuality.

(Image Credit: Unknown/Twitter)