Thankfully Australia’s Senate recently passed a motion seeking to ban the dangerous practice.
A report, titled Preventing Harm, Promoting Justice: Responding to LGBT conversion therapy in Australia, was published earlier this week, and highlighted some of the risks that LGBTQ Australians faced.
The report, which was commissioned by La Trobe University and the Human Rights Law Centre, reported back that 10% of LGBTQ Australians were at risk of faith-based so-called ‘conversion therapies.’
Anna Brown, the legal director of the Human Rights Law Centre said: “The conversion movement’s activities are proven to be ineffective and harmful. Telling someone they are broken or sick because of who they are is profoundly psychologically damaging.”
She added: “We urge governments across the country to respond to this harm, particularly the acute vulnerability of children and young people subjected to conversion practices without consent.”
The report found that there were still ten organisations in Australia and New Zealand that were advertising ‘conversion therapy’, and that the practice originated from conservative Christian communities during the 1970s.
The report looked in-depth at the experiences of 15 different people who underwent some form of ‘conversion therapy’. One respondent, known only as Mary, spoke about her experiences during the 1980s.
She reported being subjected to ice baths while people prayed over her, or being chained to her bed and having electrodes attached to her labia.
Although the report highlighted how horrific Mary’s story was, it found that for most survivors “it was the insidious and unrelenting ex-gay messaging that ate away at their wellbeing and self-worth.”
One respondent said that had tried praying the gay away for 15 years, and after it failed they said: “It put me in the darkest place that I’ve ever been … withdrawing completely, crying myself to sleep a lot at night.”
Janet Rice, a senator for the Green Party in Australia praised the report, saying: “Gay and trans conversion practices are grounded in homophobia and transphobia.
“LGBTI+ people don’t need to change, society needs to change. No LGBTI+ person should be made to feel shame or fear on account of their sexual or gender identity.”
The report suggested that adults seeking faith-based advice on their sexuality or gender identity should be free to do so, but that healthcare professionals and others should be banned from carrying out ‘conversion therapy’.
It also stated that ‘conversion therapy’ for children should be banned and that schools carrying out the practice should have funding withdrawn from them. The report’s final suggestion was that awareness needed to be raised within religious communities so they can understand how damaging the practice can be.