Letter to Elizabeth Truss MP on LGBT+ Conversion Therapy

Your LGBT+ Campaigns Group and Student Leader team have sent the following letter to Elizabeth Truss MP, regarding a ban of LGBT+ conversion therapy. 

Dear Elizabeth Truss,

As a campaigns group in charge of representing and fighting for the rights of the LGBT+ students at the University of Lincoln, we are writing to you regarding the current situation of conversion therapy being used in the UK. In April 2020, a petition was set up with the aim to ‘make LGBT+ conversion therapy illegal in the UK’. On May 21st, the Government response was that ‘the Government is committed to ensuring all citizens feel safe and protected from harm’. This was followed by a statement from the House of Commons that ‘the Government did not make a specific commitment to making conversion therapy illegal’ and a survey asking people to detail why conversion therapy should be illegal. After the UK Council of Psychotherapy in 2014(1) deemed conversion therapy as ‘unethical, harmful and successful’ and a promise from the Government in 2018 to ban conversion therapy (2), we urge you to take action against the promotion and use of LGBT+ conversion therapies in the UK. Below, we have outlined arguments against the use of conversion therapy and its damages, which we hope you will take into consideration. 

Stonewall (3) defines conversion therapy (sometimes referred to as ‘cure’ therapy) as ‘any form of treatment or psychotherapy that aims to change a person’s sexual orientation or to suppress a person’s gender identity’. It is based on the false assumption that being LGBT+ is a mental illness that can be cured, even though the government hasn’t recognised homosexuality as a crime since 1967. It must be noted that when talking about transgender conversion therapy, treatments to affirm one’s gender identity do not, under any circumstances, count under the above definition of conversion therapy. As of May 2020, the United Nations (4) states that ‘practices [which] aim (or claim to aim) at changing people from […] trans or gender diverse to cisgender’ are counted under the definition of conversion therapy. Considering the current state of transgender rights in the UK, this should be taken into account and transgender conversion therapy should be taken just as seriously as conversion therapy against Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual+ individuals. 

Considering that conversion therapy operates under the assumption that being LGBT+ is a mental illness, it is unsurprising that almost all major medical associations, including the NHS, agree that it doesn’t work, and instead just results in severe damage to the mental health of individuals subject to this practice. A 2007 American Psychological Association report (5) found that ‘results of scientifically valid research indicate that it is unlikely that individuals will be able to reduce same-sex attractions or increase other-sex sexual attractions through [sexual orientation change efforts]. They state that these ‘therapeutic’ practices result in an increased risk of depression, anxiety and self-destructive behaviour, as well as reinforced feelings of self-hatred. In a 2014 report, the UK Council for Psychotherapy also suggested that these practices do not work as they are often grounded in religion, rather than any sort of medical practice or understanding of sexuality. This just scratches the surface on the damage that conversion therapy practices cause and should alone, demonstrate why it should be banned. 

As mentioned above, all major therapy bodies in the UK disprove of the practice and hence are united in speaking out against conversion therapy. Below are quotes from several therapy bodies on their opinions on conversion therapy. These have been taken from the 2014 report by the UK Council for Psychotherapy that was requested by the Department for Health (1).

•    UK Council for Psychotherapy – ‘it is exploitative for a psychotherapist to offer treatment that might ‘cure’ or ‘reduce same sex attraction, as to do so would be offering a treatment for which there is no illness’
•    The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy – ‘there is no scientific rational or ethical reason to treat people who identify with a range of human sexualities any differently from those who identify solely as heterosexual’
•    The British Psychological Society – ‘as same-sex sexual orientation … are not diagnosable illnesses, they do not require any therapeutic interventions to change them’
•    The British Psychoanalytic Council – ‘the BPC does not accept that a homosexual orientation is evidence of disturbance of the mind or in development. In psychoanalytic psychotherapy, it is the quality of people’s relationships which are explored whether they are heterosexual or homosexual’
•    The Royal College of Psychiatrists – ‘the Royal College of Psychiatrists believes strongly in evidence-based treatments. There is no sound scientific evidence that sexual orientation can be changed. Furthermore, so called treatments of homosexuality create a setting in which prejudice and discrimination flourish’

While every major UK therapy body has condemned the use of conversion therapy, a 2009 survey of over 1300 accredited mental health (6) professionals found that more than 200 had offered some form of conversion therapy. 35% of patients referred to these mental health professionals were sent to them by GPs and 40% were treated inside an NHS practice. This is an issue that runs deep and needs more than just a statement. It’s an issue that needs a direct change in policy and needs firm condemnation from the Government in order to eradicate its use. Noting the response to the April 2020 petition, the promise to ban conversion therapy in 2018 and the 2014 report, it is clear that the Government needs to make this more of priority. It is not enough to just say you’ll make change. We need actions, not words. If the UK Council for Psychotherapy deemed conversion therapy ‘unethical, harmful and unsuccessful’, why is this practice still allowed to continue? In the 6 years since this report, there has been no meaningful debate or legislation introduced to combat these practices and protect LGBT+ UK citizens and this needs to change. 

Moving forward, your government needs to do more to protect the rights of LGBT+ citizens and, in this case, introduce legislation to ban this type of therapy because of its clearly damaging effects on the LGBT+ community. We hope that you understand the urgency of this request and the need for you and your government to do more immediately. LGBT+ people deserve to feel protected by their Government.

Kind Regards,

University of Lincoln Students Union, LGBT+ Campaigns Group 
Natasha Kirchin -   Officer
Ki Loveday Edwards -   Secretary
Annie Jones  -  Intersectionality Lead
Riley Wade -   Gender Lead
Ethan Day  -   Communications Lead
Samuel Neal  -  Publicity Lead

University of Lincoln Students Union, Executive Committee (Student Leader Team)
Georgia Petts - VP Education/Chair of the Executive Committee
Abi Brown - VP Activities
Amina Akugri - VP International
Lucy Krogdahl - VP Wellbeing and Community
Bailey Marchant - VP Campaigns and Environment

(1)  https://www.psychotherapy.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/ukcp-conversion-therapy.pdf
(2)  https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/gay-conversion-therapy-uk-ban-government-a9520751.html
(3)  https://www.stonewall.org.uk/campaign-groups/conversion-therapy
(4)  https://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Issues/SexualOrientation/ConversionTherapyReport.pdf
(5)  https://www.apa.org/pi/lgbt/resources/sexual-orientation?tab=1
(6)  https://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/apr/06/gay-conversion-therapy-nhs-health-minister

You can see the full signed letter, as sent, here