Mon, Jul 09, 2018 - Page 8 News List

UK to ban discredited ‘gay cure’ therapies

Theresa May promises ‘real and lasting change’ following huge nationwide survey

By Peter Walker  /  The Guardian

Revellers in Trafalgar Square in front of the National Portrait gallery take part in London Pride in July last year.

Photo: EPA

The government will appoint a national LGBT health adviser and take measures to end so-called conversion therapy as part of a plan to deliver what Theresa May has promised will be “real and lasting change.”

The proposals form part of an action plan published by the Equalities Office on Tuesday. It follows a UK-wide survey of LGBT people that had more than 108,000 responses, billed as the largest study of its kind.

GOVERNMENT PLEDGES

The 30-page plan contains a series of pledges, including to improve the police response to LGBT hate incidents, more support for LGBT students and teachers and improvements to gender identity services for transgender adults.

The proposals, which will receive an initial £4.5 million (US$5.95 million) in funding, were welcomed by the campaign groups Stonewall and the LGBT Foundation.

Ruth Hunt, Stonewall’s chief executive, said she was “really pleased that the government is listening to the thousands upon thousands of LGBT people who responded to this survey.”

The online poll, which ran from July to October last year, sought views from LGBT and intersex people about their personal experiences and interactions with public services.

Of those with a minority sexual orientation, 68 percent said they had avoided holding hands in public with a same-sex partner, while 70 percent said they had at times not been open about their sexual orientation.

In comments released with the plan, the prime minister said the survey had highlighted where more efforts were needed.

“I was struck by just how many respondents said they cannot be open about their sexual orientation or avoid holding hands with their partner in public for fear of a negative reaction,” May said.

“No one should ever have to hide who they are or who they love. [The plan will] set out concrete steps to deliver real and lasting change across society.”

CONVERSION THERAPY

The survey found 5 percent of respondents had been offered and refused types of conversion therapy — discredited techniques often based around religious views that seek to change people’s sexual orientation.

Another 2 percent had undergone such processes.

The plan promises to end these practices, with the Equalities Office to look into various legislative or non-legislative ways to do so.

The techniques, sometimes called “cure” therapies, are based on the idea that being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender is a mental complaint that can be reversed. They are often modeled on mainstream methods of psychotherapy, and sometimes prayer, and are known to be harmful.

All the major UK regulatory bodies for counseling and psychotherapy have banned members from using such methods, as has the NHS. However, a 2015 study by Stonewall found 10 percent of health and care staff had heard colleagues express the belief that sexuality can be “cured.”

One man who underwent such a process and then took part in sessions to “cure” him said the experience left him suicidal. He told ITV News he underwent a combination of confession and prayers, supposedly to rid him of a gay “demon.”

He then took part in sessions for others, but became depressed and prayed to die. “I wanted God to remove me from the world to lessen my suffering and to lessen the suffering of those around me,” he said.

“At the time I believed this was a demon being cast out of me. And I remember the next day waking up and thinking, I don’t really know what that means now. Does it mean I’m a straight man now? Is that demon gone? Did that demon really exist?”

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