People who have undergone conversion 'therapy' celebrate it being banned

Photo by Alex Douglas, Courtesy of Vicky Beeching

Theresa May has vowed to eradicate ‘abhorrent’ gay conversion therapy as part of a much wider LGBT+ action plan.

The prime minister published the results of the world’s largest LGBT+ survey and a resulting government plan aimed at addressing discrimination and health inequality.

The women and equalities minister, Penny Mordaunt, writing exclusively for The Independent said the ‘gay cure’, as it’s been referred to, is ‘abuse of the worst kind and must be stamped out'.

Results of the mammoth survey, which analysed 108,000 LGBT+ individuals across the UK, suggested that five per cent had been offered ‘therapy’ from faith organisations, healthcare providers and family members. Two per cent had undergone these procedures, which Mordaunt says can ‘range from pseudo- psychological treatments to in the most extreme cases, surgical interventions and “corrective rape”'.

With news of the prime minister’s pledge, people who have undergone conversion therapy share their experiences, and come out to celebrate.

Writer and equality campaigner Vicky Beeching, who underwent a ‘frightening exorcism’ when she was younger, tells indy100 that her experience with the practise left her ‘deeply damaged’.

Conversion therapy, or 'gay cure' therapy, is a practice that takes many forms. Some are more dramatic, like the loud and rather frightening exorcism I voluntarily underwent at the age of 16.

Some are more subtle, like the years of quiet but equally harmful 'prayer ministry' I received in my 20s from Christians who told me that being gay was always caused by childhood trauma or sexual abuse. They assured me God could make me straight if I surrendered to the 'healing process'.

Despite the fact I had no such abuse in my past, they were certain they could help me remember some forgotten trauma, which was a horrendous suggestion to plant in a person's mind. All of it left me deeply damaged, culminating in two nervous breakdowns and an auto-immune disease that ended me up in hospital.

Because of all the shame that these therapies drummed into me, it took me until the age of 35 to eventually accept that I was gay, come out, and begin to live a fully confident and authentic life.

Speaking to the Human Rights Campaign, Alex recalls that after she came out as gay to her parents, they signed over their parental rights to a couple who ran a conversion therapy ‘camp’ and claimed they could convert her to being straight.

[I would have to] wear a backpack full of rocks to feel the physical burden of being gay… face the wall for 18 hours straight…

Conversion therapy is banned in 13 states in the US, and 10 states have laws banning the practise on minors.

Beeching added that she is relieved the process is finally being banned in the UK outright:

 I am so glad to hear that the government is going to crack down on these practices and examine what is happening behind closed doors.

I'm living proof of the damage these therapies can do. I'm living a happy and fulfilled life now, but there are still moments where the damaging effects of conversion therapy still haunt me. We need to ensure that no further lives are harmed by these horrendously homophobic practices.

Jayne Ozanne, a prominent evangelical Anglican and the founder of the Ozanne Foundation, also told indy100 she is ‘thrilled’ that the government is finally doing something about the ‘harmful practise’:

I am thrilled that the government have finally understood the extent of this harmful practice, which happens in backrooms by untrained religious officials trying all forms of deliverance and healing 'ministries'.

My own research has shown that it is vulnerable teenagers who are most likely to be subject to this, and the impact can cause lasting trauma throughout their whole lifetime.  It is time that this mediaeval practice is banned once and for all, and that people are instead encouraged to fully embrace who they have been created to be.

​Gay Nigerian campaigner Bisi Alimi is ‘delighted’ that the British government is stepping in the right direction, but warns that this is just the beginning.

As someone who has gone through the horror of conversion therapy, I am delighted to hear that the British government is taking a proactive step to ban conversion therapy.

However, as exciting as this news is, I want to ask the government to look into the practice within the black communities in the UK. Also, I want to see a commitment from the UK government to make it a criminal offence for parents to take their children out of the UK to other part of the world for conversion therapy.

What I know based on stories shared with me by many people, is that parents are taking their children to countries where conversion therapy is legal and making their kids go through this horror, and it will be great to see this process seen as a criminal offence.

Ruth Hunt, chief executive of Stonewall, also added that she welcomed the action plan:

This survey is important because the reality of this needs to be revealed.

We’re pleased the government has not only asked, but listened. 

Having a central action plan to help tackle this widespread inequality is essential and it’s a welcome demonstration from government on how serious they are about changing the lives of LGBT people.

More: The 7 most important things from the government's plan to improve LGBT+ lives

More: Christian equality campaigner Vicky Beeching talks conversion therapy, mental health and church discrimination

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