No one should be told their identity is something that can be cured.
Yet many lesbian, gay, bi and trans people are being poorly treated by health and social care services, including by staff who believe that sexual orientation or gender identity is something that can be ‘cured’.
In fact, our Unhealthy Attitudes (2015) report found that 10 per cent of health and care staff have witnessed colleagues expressing the belief that lesbian, gay and bi people can be ‘cured’ of their sexual orientation.
On the basis of this and wider evidence, we are calling for central government to publicly condemn this practice and take further steps to ensure the practice is unavailable.
We are also calling for health and social care leaders and regulators to communicate a clear message to psychotherapists and counsellors that trying to ‘cure’ lesbian, gay, bi and trans people is both harmful and dangerous.
What is ‘conversion therapy’ or ‘cure’ therapy?
Conversion therapy (or ‘cure’ therapy or reparative therapy) refers to any form of treatment or psychotherapy which aims to change a person’s sexual orientation or to suppress a person’s gender identity. It is based on an assumption that being lesbian, gay, bi or trans is a mental illness that can be ‘cured’. These therapies are both unethical and harmful.
In the UK, all major counselling and psychotherapy bodies, as well as the NHS, have concluded that conversion therapy is dangerous and have condemned it by signing a Memorandum of Understanding (PDF). We are working to make sure that this covers gender identity too.
How often does it happen?
Evidence suggests that lesbian, gay, bi and trans people continue to experience these harmful therapies.
Our Unhealthy Attitudes research found that one in 10 health and social care staff have witnessed colleagues express the belief that sexual orientation can be ‘cured’, which rises to 1 in 5 among health and care staff in London.
A 2009 survey of over 1,300 accredited mental health professionals found that more than 200 had offered some form of conversion therapy, with 35 per cent of patients referred to them for treatment by GPs and 40 per cent treated inside an NHS practice.