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Conversion Therapy - Facts, Effects, Controversies, And Disputes


Have you heard about conversion therapy?

This controversial therapy refers to any form of treatment or psychotherapy that aims to change an individual’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.

It has been widely discredited by numerous medical and mental health organizations. In addition, this type of therapy has been shown to cause harm.

Moreover, it has been linked to an increased risk of depression, anxiety, and suicide, especially in marginalized communities.

So, why are there still people believing in conversion therapy - and even advocating it?

COPYRIGHT_WI: Published on https://washingtonindependent.com/conversion-therapy/ by Jaya Mckeown on 2023-02-15T09:48:47.293Z

Bachmann Won't Discuss 'Ex-gay Therapy' Claims

Conversion Therapy Meaning In English

Conversion therapy is also known as:

  • “reparative therapy”
  • “sexual orientation change efforts”
  • “ex-gay therapy”

It refers to any form of treatment or therapy (such as psychotherapy) and aims to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

This type of therapy is based on the premise that being lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender is a mental illness or disorder that needs to be cured.

Conversion therapy dates back to the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when homosexuality was first classified as a mental disorder by the medical community.

During this time, various forms of therapy aimed at “curing” homosexuality were developed and widely used.

According to a Facebook post by Focus Features, a California-based movie industry company (est. 2002):

Over 700,000 people in America have been subjected to conversion therapy, the dangerous and controversial ex-gay treatment.

- Focus Features

In the decades that followed, such treatments became increasingly discredited and were eventually denounced by leading medical and psychological organizations as unethical and ineffective.

A guy on a sofa with hands clasped in plain maroon T-shirt and black denim pants having gay counseling
A guy on a sofa with hands clasped in plain maroon T-shirt and black denim pants having gay counseling

Conversion Therapy Discord

There is widespread disagreement about the efficacy and ethics of conversion therapy, with various organizations, medical bodies, and governments taking opposing positions on the issue.

The idea that conversion therapy can help members of the LGBTQ+ community has been thoroughly discredited by numerous professional organizations, including the following:

  • American Medical Association (AMA)
  • American Psychological Association (APA)
  • World Health Organization (WHO)

They have stated that there is no scientific evidence to support the effectiveness of conversion therapy and that it can actually cause harm.

Studies have shown that conversion therapy can lead to:

  • increased rates of depression
  • anxiety
  • suicide
  • decreased self-esteem
  • decreased self-worth

It can also cause harm to familial and social relationships and lead to feelings of isolation and shame.

On the other hand, proponents of conversion therapy argue that it can be helpful for individuals who are struggling with their sexual orientation or gender identity, and that it is a matter of personal choice and freedom.

Supporters of conversion therapy are often religious organizations or individuals who hold strong anti-LGBT beliefs.

They argue that being LGBTQ+ is a personal choice and can be changed with therapy, prayer, and spiritual guidance.

The debate around conversion therapy continues, with some countries, states, and territories banning the practice altogether, while others allow it to continue under certain circumstances.

LGBTQ+ individuals in a pride march in Reno, Nevada, with a banner that says ‘CommUnity Pride Parade’
LGBTQ+ individuals in a pride march in Reno, Nevada, with a banner that says ‘CommUnity Pride Parade’

Memorandum Of Understanding On Conversion Therapy In The U.K.

In the U.K., there is no nationwide ban on conversion therapy, but several organizations have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to oppose the practice.

A memorandum of understanding is a non-binding agreement between organizations to work towards a common goal.

In February 2018, a group of medical, psychotherapy, and counseling organizations signed the U.K. Memorandum of Understanding on Conversion Therapy, which committed the signatories to not engage in or promote the practice of conversion therapy.

The MoU defines conversion therapy like this:

Any form of treatment or psychotherapy which aims to change an individual’s sexual orientation or to suppress gender identity.

- U.K. Memorandum of Understanding on Conversion Therapy

The organizations that signed the MoU include the following:

  • National Health Service
  • British Medical Association
  • Royal College of General Practitioners
  • U.K. Council for Psychotherapy

The signing of the MoU was seen as a positive step towards ending conversion therapy in the U.K.

Still, it is important to note that the said U.K. MoU on conversion therapy is not legally binding and does not impose any penalties on organizations or individuals who continue to engage in the practice.

In recent years, there has been growing pressure on the U.K. government to ban conversion therapy, with several members of parliament calling for a ban and several campaign groups advocating for the rights of LGBTQ+ individuals.

However, as of 2021, the U.K. government has not yet passed legislation to ban conversion therapy.

A gay with hands folded near the face and a lesbian lying on a bed covering face with both hands
A gay with hands folded near the face and a lesbian lying on a bed covering face with both hands

Movies About Conversion Therapy

The table below shows some of the films that tackle conversion therapy:

Movie TitleYear of Release/Major Cast
Boy Erased2018 (Nicole Kidman)
But I’m a Cheerleader1999 (Natasha Lyonne)
Consenting Adult1985
Fair Haven2016
I Am Norman2020
Save Me2007
The Miseducation of Cameron Post2018 (Chloe Grace Moretz)
They/Them2022 (Kevin Bacon)
This Is What Love in Action Looks Like2011
Trapped: The Alex Cooper Story2019

UnErased - The History Of Conversion Therapy In America

One documentary that explores the history of conversion therapy is UnErased: The History of Conversion Therapy in America.

The film is about:

  • the origins of conversion therapy
  • its evolution over the years
  • its religious roots
  • the use of various techniques such as electroconvulsive therapy and behavioral modification
  • its rejection by the medical and scientific communities

The documentary also highlights the experiences of survivors of conversion therapy, who recount the trauma and harm they endured as a result of these practices.

The film is a powerful reminder of the ongoing need to protect the rights and dignity of all people, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

People Ask

Because of the harmful effects of conversion therapy, it is illegal for minors, according to a map created by FamilyEquality.org, in 20 states in the United States, such as the following:

  • California
  • Colorado
  • Illinois
  • Nevada
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • Utah

In 21 states such as the ones mentioned below, there is no law that bans conversion therapy:

  • Arizona
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • Nebraska
  • Ohio
  • Tennessee
  • Texas

As of 2020, per Statista, conversion therapy is still legal in different parts of the world, including:

  • Egypt
  • France
  • Malaysia
  • Peru
  • Russia
  • Saudi Arabia
  • South Africa

As of 2021, the following countries a banned conversion therapy for minors:

  • Argentina
  • Brazil
  • Chile
  • Ecuador
  • Germany
  • Malta
  • Taiwan

What Is LGBTQ Counseling?

LGBTQ counseling, also known as LGBTQ-affirmative therapy, is a type of counseling or therapy that is specifically designed to support and help individuals who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and/or queer.

This type of therapy recognizes and respects the unique experiences and challenges faced by individuals in the LGBTQ community.

Final Thoughts

Despite all the arguments presented backed by scientific studies, conversion therapy has continued to be practiced in various forms, often by religious organizations and conservative groups.

In recent years, there has been a growing movement to ban conversion therapy, with several countries and several US states passing laws to outlaw the practice.

The mainstream medical and psychological communities now recognize that being lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender is not a mental illness.

Instead of supporting conversion therapy, people are encouraged to focus on promoting respect for all individuals, regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.

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About The Authors

Jaya Mckeown

Jaya Mckeown - Jaya moved to Boston from New York to pursue a master's degree in corporate communications at Emerson College. This experience, combined with her undergraduate degree in psychology and teaching, has equipped her with valuable skills that she employs on a daily basis in real estate negotiations, homebuyer and seller education, and successful promotion of the team's listings. Jaya's clients often characterize her as meticulous, proactive, and enjoyable to be around.

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