Ending conversion therapy is not up for debate
The UK government are asking for people’s thoughts on a practise that drives queer and trans people to suicide. Affirmation of their existence is a basic human right -- not a hot topic.
Film still from The Miseducation of Cameron Post
We do not have the luxury of choosing who our caregivers are. We are born and raised into a society that doesn’t extend beyond the confines of where those who purport to look after us allow it to. Eventually, as we grow older and gain independence, that changes, and we are permitted to go out and make our own decisions; be our own people.
But those initial years of infancy into early teenhood are still, undeniably, shaped by the decisions our caregivers make for us. If children today identify as queer or trans and vocalise that, their caregivers have the legal right to put them through conversion therapy, in an effort to “reverse” the effects of their identity, forcing them to live as straight and/or cisgender instead. Commonly tied to strict religious beliefs, methods implemented to make this happen include aversive conditioning, like electric shock therapy, being deprived of food and liquids and chemically induced nausea, hypnosis, and masturbation reconditioning.
It took the British government three days after the end of Pride month to pose an unnecessary, damaging question to the British public, hashtags and all, on Twitter: “How does #conversiontherapy affect the #LGBTQ community? Should it be made illegal? What would that mean to you?” Rightful fury at the ignorance of this stance ensued.
That the government chooses to take a bi-partisan approach to the subjuguation and brainwashing of queer and trans people is not surprising: this is the same government that seeks to end the right for trans children to access puberty blockers, making transition easier and less degrading mentally later down the line. It’s the same government that believes in the lies of trans-exclusionary radical feminists and the fantastical idea that their safety would be compromised should trans women be allowed to use bathrooms assigned to their gender, despite experts stating this is “based either on a flawed understanding of what it means to be transgender or a misrepresentation of the law”. It’s the same government who, just this week, revelled in their success to end freedom of movement. The Conservative party do, and always will, eradicate the rights of minorities to embolden the rich, white, cishet upper classes. What we are witnessing is the violent, deadly suppression of LGBTQ+ people.
There are, at present, three countries in Europe that have banned conversion therapy: Malta, Germany and, as of May 2020, Albania. Elsewhere, a general rule of ‘disagreeing’ with the practise creates a cloak of mystique around it. That doesn’t halt conversion therapy. Instead, it simply forces the masses into inaction under the impression that it no longer happens in contemporary Western society.
That inaction -- one that, it shouldn’t be forgotten, many privileged queer people are privy to as well -- is both directly and indirectly leading to suicides within the LGBTQ+ community. A 2018 study by the religious gay rights The Ozanne Foundation has shown that, of those who go through conversion therapy in religious circles, 68.7% subsequently experience suicidal thoughts. 59.8% of those people experience depression and anxiety that warrants prescribed medication.
We are turning our back on a subsection of the LGBTQ+ community who are routinely told that their existence is an abomination, and that they are in the wrong body. And we allow it to happen through our own ignorance, by believing this doesn’t go on anymore. In 2020, we have the opportunity, both in the UK and around the world, to end that for good. A recent petition signed by over 180,000 people called for the government to address the legal status of conversion therapy. The government’s response was concerning, calling it “a very complex issue”.
It’s now been transformed, not into direct action that is urgently called for, but into a new survey questioning how conversion therapy affects the LGBTQ+ community, and if it should be made illegal. The statistics are clear. The evidence exists. The safety and wellbeing of queer and trans people is not up for debate. While the British government sends out surveys that ask for the public’s opinion on conversion therapy -- as if any other than ‘It is abhorrent, is killing people and should be criminalised’ is worth listening to -- LGBTQ+ youth are being gaslit and brainwashed into denying their true existence.
Though this survey undoubtedly exists to provide a platform for TERFs and homophobes who feel threatened by innocent people who pay them no mind, we cannot ignore it. Answer it truthfully. Cite the statistics. Queer youth across the country are relying on you.