Conversion therapy center
Movement Advancement Project | Conversion "Therapy" LawsStatewide BansLocal BansCity and County ListingTable Format
Conversion "therapy" laws prohibit licensed mental health practitioners from subjecting LGBTQ minors to harmful conversion "therapy" practices that attempt to change their sexual orientation or gender identity. These laws do not restrict the practice among religious providers. For an in-depth analysis of these laws, please read our LGBT Policy Spotlight Report: Conversion Therapy Bans. For additional information, please contact the National Center for Lesbian Rights or The Trevor Project.
State law bans conversion therapy for minors (20 states + D.C.)
State partially bans conversion therapy for minors (6 states, 1 territory)
State is in federal judicial circuit with a preliminary injunction currently preventing enforcement of conversion therapy bans (3 states)
No state law or policy (21 states, 4 territories)
Citations & More Information
*NOTE: In November 2020, the11th Circuit Court of Appeals issued a ruling
preventing the enforcement of conversion "therapy" bans in that circuit (Alabama, Florida, Georgia). This map will be updated as that case continues.
*NOTE: States with green stripes are those that have taken state-level action to partially restrict the practice of conversion "therapy," though these states do not fully ban the practice. See the "Citations & More Information" beneath the map legend for additional information about every state.
Movement Advancement Project. "Equality Maps: Conversion Therapy Laws." https://www.lgbtmap.org/equality-maps/conversion_therapy. Accessed 10/20/2022.
Percent of Adult LGBTQ Population Covered by Laws
*Note: These percentages reflect estimates of the LGBTQ adult population living in the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Estimates of the LGBTQ adult population in the five inhabited U.S. territories are not available, and so cannot be reflected here.
48 % of LGBTQ population lives in states that ban conversion therapy for minors
13 % of LGBTQ population lives in states that partially bans conversion therapy for minors
11 % of LGBTQ population lives in states in federal judicial circuit with a preliminary injunction currently preventing enforcement of conversion therapy bans
28 % of LGBTQ population lives in states with no laws or policies banning conversion therapy for minors
Conversion "therapy" laws prohibit licensed mental health practitioners from subjecting LGBTQ minors to harmful conversion "therapy" practices that attempt to change their sexual orientation or gender identity. These laws donot
restrict the practice among religious providers. For an in-depth analysis of these laws, please read our LGBT Policy Spotlight Report: Conversion Therapy Bans. For additional information, please contact the National Center for Lesbian Rights or The Trevor Project.
States in dark green reflect states with state-wide bans, where 100% of the state population is protected. States with green stripes have taken state-level action to partially ban conversion "therapy" (see more below the map). States with orange pins reflect states with local-level bans only, and the orange pin shows the percent of the state population protected by local ordinances. If a state is beige and has no pin, then there are no local or state bans against conversion therapy, and therefore 0% of the state population is protected from this harmful practice.
Percent of the state population protected from conversion therapy
State is in federal judicial circuit with a preliminary injunction currently preventing enforcement of conversion therapy bans (3 states)
Percent of the state population protected from conversion therapy by local ordinances
*NOTE: In November 2020, the11th Circuit Court of Appeals issued a ruling
preventing the enforcement of conversion "therapy" bans in that circuit (Alabama, Florida, Georgia). This map will be updated as that case continues.
*NOTE: States with green stripes are those that have taken state-level action to partially restrict the practice of conversion "therapy," though these states do not fully ban the practice. See the "Citations & More Information" for additional information. If a state partially bans the practice and also has local level ordinances that fully ban the practice (e.g., Wisconsin), the percent of the population that is fully protected is shown in the orange pin. If a state partially bans the practice and has no orange pin, that means there are currently no local ordinances that fully ban the practice.
Movement Advancement Project. "Equality Maps: Conversion Therapy Laws." https://www.lgbtmap.org/equality-maps/conversion_therapy. Accessed 10/20/2022.
- State has this law State bans conversion therapy
- State has this law State partially bans conversion therapy
- State does not have this law State is in judicial circuit with ruling preventing enforcement of conversion therapy bans
|State||Conversion Therapy Law||Year Passed|
|Alabama||State does not have this law|
|California||State has this law||2012|
|Colorado||State has this law||2019|
|Connecticut||State has this law||2017|
|Delaware||State has this law||2018|
|District of Columbia||State has this law||2014|
|Florida||State does not have this law|
|Georgia||State does not have this law|
|Hawaii||State has this law||2018|
|Illinois||State has this law||2015|
|Maine||State has this law||2019|
|Maryland||State has this law||2018|
|Massachusetts||State has this law||2019|
|Michigan||State has this law||2021|
|Minnesota||State has this law||2021|
|Nevada||State has this law||2017|
|New Hampshire||State has this law||2018|
|New Jersey||State has this law||2013|
|New Mexico||State has this law||2017|
|New York||State has this law||2019|
|North Carolina||State has this law||2019|
|North Dakota||State has this law||2021|
|Northern Mariana Islands|
|Oregon||State has this law||2015|
|Pennsylvania||State has this law||2022|
|Puerto Rico||State has this law||2019|
|Rhode Island||State has this law||2017|
|U. S. Virgin Islands|
|Utah||State has this law||2020|
|Vermont||State has this law||2016|
|Virginia||State has this law||2020|
|Washington||State has this law||2018|
|Wisconsin||State has this law||2021|
Data current as of 10/13/2022
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The Lies and Dangers of Efforts to Change Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity
Organizational Positions on Reparative Therapy
Declaration on the Impropriety and Dangers of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Change Efforts
We, as national organizations representing millions of licensed medical and mental health care professionals, educators, and advocates, come together to express our professional and scientific consensus on the impropriety, inefficacy, and detriments of practices that seek to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity, commonly referred to as “conversion therapy. ”
We stand firmly together in support of legislative and policy efforts to curtail the unscientific and dangerous practice of sexual orientation and gender identity change efforts.
American Academy of Child Adolescent Psychiatry
"The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry finds no evidence to support the application of any “therapeutic intervention” operating under the premise that a specific sexual orientation, gender identity, and/or gender expression is pathological. Furthermore, based on the scientific evidence, the AACAP asserts that such “conversion therapies” (or other interventions imposed with the intent of promoting a particular sexual orientation and/or gender as a preferred outcome) lack scientific credibility and clinical utility. Additionally, there is evidence that such interventions are harmful. As a result, “conversion therapies” should not be part of any behavioral health treatment of children and adolescents."
The AACAP Policy on “Conversion Therapies”.
American Academy of Pediatrics
"Confusion about sexual orientation is not unusual during adolescence. Counseling may be helpful for young people who are uncertain about their sexual orientation or for those who are uncertain about how to express their sexuality and might profit from an attempt at clarification through a counseling or psychotherapeutic initiative. Therapy directed specifically at changing sexual orientation is contraindicated, since it can provoke guilt and anxiety while having little or no potential for achieving changes in orientation."
Homosexuality and Adolescence, Pediatrics.
American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy
"[T]he association does not consider homosexuality a disorder that requires treatment, and as such, we see no basis for [reparative therapy]. AAMFT expects its members to practice based on the best research and clinical evidence available."
AAMFT Position on Couples and Families.
American College of Physicians
"The College opposes the use of “conversion,” “reorientation,” or “reparative” therapy for the treatment of LGBTQ persons."
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Health Disparities: Executive Summary of a Policy Position Paper From the American College of Physicians
American Counseling Association
“The belief that same-sex attraction and behavior is abnormal and in need of treatment is in opposition to the position taken by national mental health organizations, including ACA. The ACA Governing Council passed a resolution in 1998 with respect to sexual orientation and mental health. This resolution specifically notes that ACA opposes portrayals of lesbian, gay and bisexual individuals as mentally ill due to their sexual orientation. . . . In 1999, the Governing Council adopted a statement ‘opposing the promotion of reparative therapy as a cure for individuals who are homosexual. ’ . . .
[T]he ACA Ethics Committee strongly suggests that ethical professional counselors do not refer clients to someone who engages in conversion therapy or, if they do so, to proceed cautiously only when they are certain that the referral counselor fully informs clients of the unproven nature of the treatment and the potential risks and takes steps to minimize harm to clients. . . . This information also must be included in written informed consent material by those counselors who offer conversion therapy despite ACA’s position and the Ethics Committee’s statement in opposition to the treatment. To do otherwise violates the spirit and specifics of the ACA Code of Ethics.”
Ethical Issues Related to Conversion or Reparative Therapy.
American Medical Association
"Our AMA… opposes, the use of 'reparative' or 'conversion' therapy that is based upon the assumption that homosexuality per se is a mental disorder or based upon the a priori assumption that the patient should change his/her homosexual orientation. "
H-160.991, Health Care Needs of the Homosexual Population.
American Psychiatric Association
... In 1997 APA produced a fact sheet on homosexual and bisexual issues, which states that “there is no published scientific evidence supporting the efficacy of “reparative therapy” as a treatment to change one’s sexual orientation.”
The potential risks of “reparative therapy” are great and include depression, anxiety, and self-destructive behavior, since therapist alignment with societal prejudices against homosexuality may reinforce self-hatred already experienced by the patient. Many patients who have undergone “reparative therapy” relate that they were inaccurately told that homosexuals are lonely, unhappy individuals who never achieve acceptance or satisfaction. The possibility that the person might achieve happiness and satisfying interpersonal relationships as a gay man or lesbian are not presented, nor are alternative approaches to dealing with the effects of societal stigmatization discussed. ..
Therefore, APA opposes any psychiatric treatment, such as “reparative” or “conversion” therapy, that is based on the assumption that homosexuality per se is a mental disorder or is based on the a priori assumption that the patient should change his or her homosexual orientation.
Position Statement on Psychiatric Treatment and Sexual Orientation).
American Psychoanalytic Association
“As with any societal prejudice, bias against individuals based on actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression negatively affects mental health, contributing to an enduring sense of stigma and pervasive self-criticism through the internalization of such prejudice.
Psychoanalytic technique does not encompass purposeful attempts to ‘convert,’ “repair,” change or shift an individual’s sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression. Such directed efforts are against fundamental principles of psychoanalytic treatment and often result in substantial psychological pain by reinforcing damaging internalized attitudes. ”
Position Statement on Attempts to Change Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, or Gender Expression.
American Psychological Association
"THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, That the American Psychological Association affirms that same-sex sexual and romantic attractions, feelings, and behaviors are normal and positive variations of human sexuality regardless of sexual orientation identity;
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, That the American Psychological Association reaffirms its position that homosexuality per se is not a mental disorder and opposes portrayals of sexual minority youths and adults as mentally ill due to their sexual orientation;
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, That the American Psychological Association concludes that there is insufficient evidence to support the use of psychological interventions to change sexual orientation;
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, That the American Psychological Association encourages mental health professionals to avoid misrepresenting the efficacy of sexual orientation change efforts by promoting or promising change in sexual orientation when providing assistance to individuals distressed by their own or others' sexual orientation…"
Resolution on Appropriate Affirmative Responses to Sexual Orientation Distress and Change Efforts.
American School Counselor Association
"Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered and questioning (LGBTQ) youth often begin to experience self-identification during their pre-adolescent or adolescent years, as do heterosexual youth. These developmental processes are essential cognitive, emotional and social activities, and although they may have an impact on student development and achievement, they are not a sign of illness, mental disorder or emotional problems nor do they necessarily signify sexual activity.
The professional school counselor works with all students through the stages of identity development and understands this development may be more difficult for LGBTQ youth. It is not the role of the professional school counselor to attempt to change a student's sexual orientation/gender identity but instead to provide support to LGBTQ students to promote student achievement and personal well-being."
The Professional School Counselor and LGBTQ Youth.
American School Health Association
“[T]he American School Health Association . . . expects that comprehensive sexuality education in schools will be scientifically accurate and based on current medical, psychological, pedagogical, educational and social research . . . [and recommends] that teachers be well-trained and competent to teach sexuality education as defined by . . . insight into and acceptance of their own personal feelings and attitudes concerning sexuality topics so personal life experiences do not intrude inappropriately into the educational experience.”
Quality Comprehensive Sexuality Education.
National Association of Social Workers
"People seek mental health services for many reasons. Accordingly, it is fair to assert that lesbians and gay men seek therapy for the same reasons that heterosexual people do. However, the increase in media campaigns, often coupled with coercive messages from family and community members, has created an environment in which lesbians and gay men often are pressured to seek reparative or conversion therapies, which cannot and will not change sexual orientation. Aligned with the American Psychological Association's (1997) position, NCLGB [NASW's National Committee on Lesbian and Gay Issues] believes that such treatment potentially can lead to severe emotional damage. Specifically, transformational ministries are fueled by stigmatization of lesbians and gay men, which in turn produces the social climate that pressures some people to seek change in sexual orientation. No data demonstrate that reparative or conversion therapies are effective, and in fact they may be harmful."
Position Statement, "Reparative" and "Conversion" Therapies.
Pan American Health Organization (PAHO): Regional Office of the World Health Organization
Services that purport to "cure" people with non-heterosexual sexual orientation lack medical justification and represent a serious threat to the health and well-being of affected people, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) said in a position statement launched on 17 May, 2012, the International Day against Homophobia. The statement calls on governments, academic institutions, professional associations and the media to expose these practices and to promote respect for diversity.
Statement, "Therapies" to change sexual orientation lack medical justification and threaten health.
Just the Facts Coalition (American Academy of Pediatrics, American Association of School Administrators, American Counseling Association, American Federation of Teachers, American Psychological Association, American School Counselor Association, American School Health Association, Interfaith Alliance Foundation, National Association of School Psychologists, National Association of Secondary School Principals, National Association of Social Workers, national Education Association, School Social Work Association of America)
“The most important fact about 'reparative therapy,' also sometimes known as 'conversion' therapy, is that it is based on an understanding of homosexuality that has been rejected by all the major health and mental health professions. The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Counseling Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, the National Association of School Psychologists, and the National Association of Social Workers, together representing more than 477,000 health and mental health professionals, have all taken the position that homosexuality is not a mental disorder and thus there is no need for a 'cure.'”
Just the Facts About Sexual Orientation and Youth: A Primer for Principals, Educators, and School Personnel.
World Psychiatric Association
“There is no sound scientific evidence that innate sexual orientation can be changed. Furthermore, so-called treatments of homosexuality can create a setting in which prejudice and discrimination flourish, and they can be potentially harmful (Rao and Jacob 2012). The provision of any intervention purporting to “treat” something that is not a disorder is wholly unethical.
WPA considers same-sex attraction, orientation, and behaviour as normal variants of human sexuality. It recognises the multi-factorial causation of human sexuality, orientation, behaviour, and lifestyle. It acknowledges the lack of scientific efficacy of treatments that attempt to change sexual orientation and highlights the harm and adverse effects of such “therapies”.”
WPA Position Statement on Gender Identity and Same-Sex Orientation, Attraction, and Behaviours
Government Positions on Conversion Therapy
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
“Specifically, conversion therapy—efforts to change an individual’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression —is a practice that is not supported by credible evidence and has been disavowed by behavioral health experts and associations. Conversion therapy perpetuates outdated views of gender roles and identities as well as the negative stereotype that being a sexual or gender minority or identifying as LGBTQ is an abnormal aspect of human development. Most importantly, it may put young people at risk of serious harm”
Ending Conversion Therapy: Supporting and Affirming LGBTQ Youth
Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor to the President of the United States
“The overwhelming scientific evidence demonstrates that conversion therapy, especially when it is practiced on young people, is neither medically nor ethically appropriate and can cause substantial harm.
As part of our dedication to protecting America’s youth, this Administration supports efforts to ban the use of conversion therapy for minors….This Administration believes that young people should be valued for who they are, no matter what they look like, where they’re from, the gender with which they identify, or who they love.”
Response to Your Petition on Conversion Therapy
Andrew Cuomo, Governor of New York
“Conversion therapy is a hateful and fundamentally flawed practice that is counter to everything this state stands for. New York has been at the forefront of acceptance and equality for the LGBTQ community for decades – and today we are continuing that legacy and leading by example. We will not allow the misguided and the intolerant to punish LGBTQ young people for simply being who they are.”
Governor Cuomo Announces Executive Actions Banning Coverage of Conversion Therapy
Chris Christie, Governor of New Jersey
“…on issues of medical treatment for children we must look to experts in the field to determine the relative risks and rewards. The American Psychological Association has found that efforts to change sexual orientation can pose critical health risks including, but not limited to, depression, substance abuse, social withdrawal, decreased self-esteem and suicidal thoughts. I believe that exposing children to these health risks without clear evidence of benefits that outweigh these serious risks is not appropriate.”
Gov. Christie Signs Bill Banning Gay Conversion Therapy On Minors
Kate Brown, Governor of Oregon
"There are many things that young people need, but breaking them down based on their sexual or gender identity is not one of them — and in fact, it's inexcusable. Our young people deserve acceptance, support, and love. To the young people who question their identities, suffer from bullying, or struggle with what it means to come out, today is your day. Your voices have been heard."
Oregon Gov. Emotionally Signs Conversion Therapy Ban Into Law
Jerry Brown, Governor of California
"These practices have no basis in science or medicine and they will now be relegated to the dustbin of quackery."
Gov. Jerry Brown bans gay-to-straight therapy for minors
August 12, 2018, 11:41
It sounds like a horror that has remained in history, but the “treatment” of sexual orientation remains legal in most countries of the world, writes The Guardian.
Matthew Shurka was 16 years old when he sat next to his father and told him he was gay. Raised in a conservative suburb of New York, the youngest child of a non-religious Jewish family and the only son, he was "terrified. " But in that tense moment, the reaction was good. “He said, ‘I love you. I'm going to be by your side no matter what," says Shurka. "He created security, that's what my father does... He said, 'Don't worry, we'll figure it out.'"
Video of the day
He meant that he would try to "cure" his son. Shurka's father began to communicate with psychotherapists in New York. Within a week, he found someone who insisted that homosexuality does not exist, that everyone is born heterosexual, and "same-sex attraction" is the result of childhood trauma or dysfunctional family relationships.
“It was believed that, since I was still young, I had the maximum chance of overcoming it,” Shurka says, “I was told how difficult my life would be if I made a coming-out (coming-out is an open and voluntary recognition by a person belonging to a sexual minority - ed.). I was told that girls can attract me just as much as boys. This was in 2004. I have never met a real homosexual. I was scared. I wanted to do whatever it takes." Shurka added that his father believed that he was supporting him.
Too many people are subjected to conversion therapy every year. Join #BornPerfect and help put a stop to this dangerous practice: https://t.co/aNWGHTpTuk @glaad #TheMiseducationofCameronPost pic.twitter.com/Hi3r7T5AFz— Mathew Shurka (@MathewShurka) August 3, 2018
Shurka underwent conversion therapy for five years. He was treated by four therapists in four states, it cost $35,000. He was advised to use Viagra during sex with women. He was told that he represented a "classic case" of a man with too many female role models and was advised to avoid his mother and sisters. “As part of my treatment, I didn’t talk to them for three years,” says Shurka, who at the same time lived with them under the same roof.
He was told that he was a "classic case" of a man with too many female role models and was advised to avoid his mother and sisters. “As part of my treatment, I didn't talk to them for three years,” says Shurka
How did his mother react? “[She] argued that no therapy can be good if it involves separating a child from its mother,” he says. “But my father was so determined to succeed that he insisted that we do anything.”
How did this affect Shurka? “I knew that my feelings would not go away. I blamed myself for not trying very hard. My depression was severe. I gained 27 kilos. I was suicidal all the time,” he describes the effects of the “treatment.”
Conversion Therapy Camps
Two films about conversion therapy will be released in the US this year, which is remarkable given that most people probably see it as a horror left in history in a time when homosexuality was criminalized, but as medications usually offered electroshock therapy. The Miseducation of Cameron Post , for which Shurka consulted, is an adaptation of Emily M Danforth's novel about lesbian Chloe Grace Moretz who is sent to a reform camp. It is based on the true story of a 16-year-old girl published on the Myspace website about how she was sent to a similar place.
Movie starring The Lost Boy is based on the memoir of Garrard Conley, the son of a Baptist pastor who was enrolled in the Love In Action program. Both stories are set in the 21st century. And it's not just happening in the US Bible Belt.
When Shurka was 19, he attended a reform camp on the weekends, the camp was called Journey Into Manhood , where Jack and the Beanstalk was a fairy tale about choice used to restore manhood. “In order to bring your seeds back from the giant in the clouds,” he says wryly, “they tried to teach you to enjoy sports and other activities.” One event involved each of 80 men who had the same trauma that supposedly made them homosexual. The rest then had to repeat it, but change the outcome in order to rewrite the history of man. Journey into Manhood launches programs in Poland, Israel and the UK. The site says that this “experimental weekend program for men involved in conflict because of their same-sex preferences” was offered outside the US for the first time in 2007 in England.
An underestimated problem
Conversion therapy—sometimes referred to as "healing" therapy, reparative therapy, ex-gay therapy, or sexual orientation change efforts—is any treatment that aims to change a person's sexual orientation or suppress their gender identity. It's a nebulous term that encompasses a variety of methods that can be extremely dangerous, from the 60-day "gay cure" app available on iTunes and Google Play back in 2013, to spiritual interventions, conversational therapies, drugs, and, less commonly, , extreme physical methods such as electroshock therapy, disgust methods and "corrective rape". All of these practices share the unethical assumption that being LGBT is a medical condition. In other words, a psychological disorder.
Journey Into Manhood Camp Advertisement
“That we still have this battle 45 years after the American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from its diagnostic manual is incredibly disturbing.” says Carolyn Reyes, coordinator of the #BornPerfect campaign to end conversion therapy, launched in the US in 2014 by the National Center for Lesbian Rights. According to her, homosexuality was removed from the list of APA diagnoses at 1973 (although not completely removed from his Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders until 1987), conversion therapy is still practiced throughout the world. Malta was the first country in Europe to ban it - just two years ago.
This is a vague term that covers a variety of methods that can be extremely dangerous, from the 60-day "homosexual cure" app available on iTunes and Google Play back in 2013, to spiritual interventions, conversational therapies, drugs, and and, more rarely, extreme physical methods such as electroshock therapy, disgust methods, and "corrective rape".
It remains legal in the UK, where, according to a nationwide survey released in July as part of the government's LGBT action plan, 2% of 108,000 LGBT respondents have received conversion therapy, and 5% have been offered it. . In 2015, the charity Stonewall found that one in 10 health and welfare workers witnessed colleagues express their belief that sexual orientation can be "cured". Survey conducted in 2009more than 1,300 mental health professionals showed that more than 200 people were offering conversion therapy.
However, the desire to stop this practice is growing. The UK government recently announced its intention to ban it, following a vote by the Church of England that condemned the practice. All major counseling and psychotherapy organizations, as well as the National Health Service, have signed a memorandum of understanding condemning the practice.
“The survey showed the government something that many people have known for a long time,” says Labor MP Ben Bradshaw, who repeatedly raised the issue with MPs last year. “It's more widespread than people realized. It's easy to announce a ban. The hard part is drafting legislation and implementing it.”
Consequences of "treatment"
In the US, anyone can provide conversion therapy to adults, but 13 states have passed bills that state that a licensed professional cannot offer it to minors. A report released in January by the Williams Institute's sexual orientation think tank found that 698,000 LGBT adults in the United States have received conversion therapy at some point in their lives, and approximately 20,000 adolescents will receive it from professionally licensed health care until the age of 18.
Leandro Ramos is Program Director at All Out, an organization that campaigns for LGBT rights around the world. He is in Brazil, where a ban on conversion therapy was defeated last year. He calls the "so-called gay treatment" a "global epidemic". Such an impact can only be destructive. It is believed that it increases the frequency of suicidal thoughts by about nine times. Depression, anxiety, substance abuse, loss of faith, high-risk sexual behavior, guilt, isolation, and self-hatred are all common consequences.
"Conversion therapy teaches people that they can't be healthy or right," says James Guay, a conversion therapy survivor working with the LGBT community in West Hollywood. Much of his work with clients involves "deprogramming from the cult experience". He says that the realization that there is nothing to fix can take a lifetime.
Conversion therapy teaches people that they can't be healthy or right
However, in the UK and elsewhere, conversion therapy has historically been under-reported, under-appreciated or dismissed altogether. When one campaigner whose partner killed himself after being advised to see a psychiatrist for "treatment" met with the Home Secretary, who at the time was Amber Rudd, her response was, "Why can't we just tell people so they don't do it?"
Paul Twocock, director of campaigns, strategy and research at Stonewall in the UK, says: “People [who have had transformational therapy] don't show up very often at Stonewall. This is marginal and underground activity.” Exactly how common conversion therapy is is unknown.
Migrant Conversion Therapy
Bisi Alimi grew up in a mixed Christian/Muslim family in Lagos, Nigeria, and became a Christian convert at the age of 15. “As soon as I thought I might be gay, I felt it was wrong,” he says. When two friends offered to help him, he agreed to tell the pastor about it. “They tried to help me, to be honest with them,” he says, starting to cry. “They loved me.”
The conversion therapy lasted seven days, during which Alimi, who was 17 at the time, was locked in a dark room and forced to fast and pray around the clock. “I am not allowed to eat or go out,” he says, using present tense verbs. “I only have access to water and olive oil for anointing. Pastors pray with me all night. I am constantly reminded of what happens to people like me in hell.”
Two weeks later, Alimi made his first suicide attempt. “I was destroyed,” he says. How did he manage to get away? "I'm not sure I've ever left," he says quietly, "I'm married now (with a man - ed. ), but I still kind of go back to that time."
Alimi, who is a gay rights activist and British citizen, claims that conversion therapy is an "epidemic" in some black, Asian and ethnic minority communities. “We have to be brave enough to say it,” he says. “We are talking about the lives of young people who were taken to their country of origin [or their families] for conversion therapy. These are British citizens who have been taken out of the UK to go to Nigeria, Ethiopia and Uganda. We can ban it here, but what laws will protect them?”
What evidence does he have that this is happening to LGBT people from black, Asian, and ethnic minority communities? “People come to me,” he replies, “Black Africans have told me they were forced to go through it here in London in Pentecostal churches.”
Conversion Therapy and Religion
For Jane Ozann, a leading gay activist in the Church of England—and the person who petitioned the General Synod to condemn conversion therapy—recognizing that it is now almost exclusively carried out by faith groups is important. A study she did last year found that 217 of 553 LGBT believers who answered her questionnaire had experienced conversion therapy. At the time, almost half were under the age of 17. “Part of the hopelessness of the campaigners was that people just didn't believe us,” she says. “Some of us are trying to convince the church, the government, and even the LGBT community that this is a significant problem. It goes on in secret and it's the most vulnerable people who get hurt."
Jane Ozanne became sexually active at the age of 40 and is now a leading gay activist in the Church of England / Photo: Sam Atkins
Ozanne herself is a survivor of conversion therapy. Raised in a conservative community in Guernsey, she joined a charismatic group of evangelical young men called God Squad as a teenager. When she began to like women in her 20s, she spent years undergoing conversion therapy. “I've spent thousands trying to make myself something that won't cause me to change it,” she says. “You don't talk about it in the 'real' world. I am an Oxbridge graduate. I held a very important position [in the Anglican Church]. You would think that I should have known better, but the world I was in believed it with me."
What kind of conversion therapy did she have? “A prayer ministry, a healing ministry, a deliverance ministry,” she says, referring to spiritual interventions sometimes referred to as “praying away the gay.” “I was appointed to the council of the archbishop. I didn't want people to know that I was struggling with it, so I went to Germany to continue the course. I literally went around the world asking all the key people in the evangelical world to help me. If there was a T-shirt that said, “I have tried every conversion therapy,” I would have to wear it,” she laughs. The impact on her physical and mental health was enormous. “It landed me in the hospital twice because I just couldn't handle the stress. I had a huge amount of undiagnosed pain that eventually led to extreme levels of stress. Then I had a mental breakdown.”
If there was a T-shirt that said "I've tried every conversion therapy" I would have to wear it when she was 40 years old. “It's amazing what love does,” she recalls of her first relationship with a woman. “The transformation was incredible. Many of my friends immediately disowned me and it was difficult for my family, but the few brave ones who saw me could not call it bad or evil.
“There are people going through this right now,” she continues, “If you are part of a community that teaches that it is a sin to be gay, you will do anything to try to change. And this is not only a Christian problem. This happens in the Muslim faith, the Sikh faith... many black Pentecostal communities will send their child back to Nigeria or Uganda where "corrective rape" therapy takes place. I often compare it to female genital mutilation: it happens in the backyard, done by well-meaning people who cause deep harm. It takes a lifetime to recover."
Sally Hitchener is an Anglican minister and founder of Diverse Church, a community that supports 1,000 young LGBT Christians in the UK. “My experience with members of our organization is that it was popular in recent times,” she says. “In the nineties and zero in every city in the UK there was a church that did this. People were sent to the US in round-the-clock camps with multi-directional exposure, she says. “One young man I worked with was told that he had something malignant inside and promised that it could be pulled out. I know people who were asked to take off all their clothes in large groups, who then yelled at them."
God knows how many future bishops, priests and nice old ladies we've lost because we didn't let them be who they are
Sunday, during regular church services. People who should encourage faith do the opposite. God knows how many future bishops, priests and sweet old ladies we have lost because we didn't let them be who they are."
Shurka eventually found the courage to quit conversion therapy. “Today I have a great relationship with my mother, father and sisters,” he says. He is in "the safest relationship of my life" with a man. His new religion is activism. How did he do it? “I never met someone who changed,” he says. “In the end, I just left. This was six years ago. I have been in a lot of pain for a long time. It was an incredible adventure to find out that everything was fine with me.” 9Read more news trying to heal LGBT people
“Sleep with a man and everything will pass”
At 20, Mark* admitted to himself that he was a transgender man. He never identified himself with his biological sex, but did not attach much importance to this. From the age of 13-14, in a circle of friends, he spoke about himself using masculine pronouns. “At school, I didn’t have time to analyze myself and my life: more than 20 different subjects, 5-6 electives, university courses - in general, I only had enough time to study. From problems he went into forum role-playing games, he recalls. “When I first asked the question “maybe after all ...?”, The very thought caused me a sharp denial. ”
At that time, Mark had been immersed in the topic of radical feminism for two years and was a transphobe, like his inner circle, including his girlfriend. (Some radical feminists hold transphobic views. They are called TERF - trans-exclusionary radical feminist - "Dash" ).
By the age of 20, Mark became disillusioned with his chosen profession and the university, which he spent so much energy on entering. He had suffered from depression and suicidal thoughts for several years. As a result, Mark had a nervous breakdown, and he confessed everything to his relatives - he told both about his transgender identity and about the girl. Relatives did not say anything bad. The nervous breakdown was accompanied by reactive paranoia. It seemed to Mark that he was being watched, that he had superpowers, that he was the reincarnation of famous historical figures. He saw secret signs in everything.
“The symptoms are similar to the delusions of schizophrenia, but as I later found out from other specialists, they were not. There should be more persistent symptoms and hallucinations, and not just psychosis due to several weeks without sleep and overwork, ”says Mark. He was sent to specialists only when he suddenly began to tell his relatives that he hated them and tried to run away from home. First it was a psychologist, then a psychiatrist, whom Mark went to once a month for two years.
“When I mentioned that I was dating a girl, the psychologist began a long lecture about how homosexuality is a whim and a deviation from the norm at the same time. That same-sex sex cannot be compared in terms of the sensations of contact between a man and a woman: supposedly, some kind of hormonal magic happens from the penis in the vagina. He said that I needed to sleep with a man - and everything will pass, ”recalls Mark, who did not take anything out of this conversation except a feeling of heaviness and disgust.
The psychiatrist suggested that Mark had schizophrenia, but he prescribed "acute psychotic disorder" in his medical record. “He prescribed pills to relieve delusional symptoms. The delirium passed, and the course of treatment continued. My mother and I came to the session together, even though I was an adult. I couldn't say anything to her. She could complain to the doctor about my excessive irritability, and he prescribed a new drug, ”says Mark. He did not get better from the drugs: he had no strength, and instead of neutralizing apathy and extremely low mood, antidepressants only made things worse.
The doctor forbade Mark to communicate with the girl, go to her and generally leave the city until the treatment stops. At the same time, he offered to take the pills for life. When Mark decided to go to the girl on New Year's Eve, the doctor threatened to hand over his documents to the PND so that he would be locked up there upon his return. But he went anyway, and the threats remained threats.
At the age of 22, Mark moved to another city, and life began to improve: “Personal boundaries appeared. I realized what I like to eat and what clothes to wear - at home I had no choice even in such basic things. He found a job. But in the new team, he was addressed in the feminine gender - this caused him severe discomfort and panic attacks. He told a girl about his transgender status and turned to specialists for help, including Dmitry Isaev, a well-known psychiatrist and psychotherapist.
At the age of 23, Mark started his trance transition. He told his relatives that he was changing documents for men's. “I was given a large-scale scandal all in turn. At first, the father allegedly accepted, then got drunk and sent a foul language - since then we have not communicated. For my grandmother, I am a leper, like my girlfriend. Only his mother accepted Mark, but not immediately - after a year and a half. On the recommendation of her son, she went to a specialist who explained everything to her.
Now Mark has completely changed his documents and started hormone replacement therapy. He lives with a girl and plans to marry her.
“Knowing how others have gone through conversion therapy, my version was mild. I had no doubt that the doctors to whom my relatives took me were delusional. But they were the first ones I encountered in this area, and they greatly discredited other specialists in my eyes,” Mark says. — For a year I decided to seek a diagnosis from a good specialist on the recommendation. I still feel distrust, although there are no objective reasons to doubt his competence. It always seems to me that with the help of pills they want to turn me into a vegetable and erase my personality.
“My parents thought I was bewitched”
Ramil is 25 years old. All his childhood was spent in a small Kazakh village. He was the only boy in a large family. In the ninth grade, Ramil fell in love with a new school teacher. “He was ten years older than me. A large man with thick hair, large black eyes and full lips. In his classes, I always sat in the front rows. Couldn't do anything. I just looked and admired, - Ramil recalls. - I realized that I like men, but then I did not know what this phenomenon is called, where it comes from and how many people like me. There was no Internet in our village, but in my house there was no computer or phone.”
After graduating from school with honors, Ramil went to study in a city many hundreds of kilometers away from home. One day, he saw gay porn on the phone of a neighbor in a hostel and began to ask what it was. So Ramil learned about LGBT and finally understood who he was and what it was called. In his first year, he began dating men, and at the end of his second year, he fell in love with a guy with whom he had been together for seven years.
After graduating from the university, Ramil went to work in a village in a neighboring district. There he began to rent a room with a pensioner, and on weekends he returned to the city to his boyfriend. Half of the salary Ramil sent to his parents, they were unhappy, asked for more money and called home.
A few months later, on New Year's Eve, Ramil's father unexpectedly came to pick him up. He began to collect his things in a suitcase and said that they were leaving immediately for home. Ramil did not understand what was happening, he tried to stop his father - he even called the district police officer, who said that nothing would be done without a statement. Ramil decided not to write a statement, because, according to the district police officer, his father would have been arrested for 15 days. After the district police officer left, his father beat Ramil, took his laptop, money, some of his clothes and left. As it turned out, not for long.
Three weeks later he came back for his son. This time with her mother: she was crying, and Ramil could not refuse her. Together they went to the station, but already at the train Ramil realized that he was making a mistake. He asked for help from the local police, complained that his parents wanted to take him home against his will: “They replied that I was an adult and should figure it out myself. I was 22 years old at that time, but my parents did not listen to me! So my parents told the cops I was mentally ill and they helped put me on the train. I think they just didn't want problems."
Ramil dropped his hands, he withdrew into himself. At home, he just lay in his room and did not talk to anyone. His father begged him to stay at home for at least a month and promised that if he did not like it, he could leave. After 10 days, Ramil decided to run away. After dinner, while everyone at home was sleeping, he climbed out the window and took a taxi to the city. “My main mistake was that I got off at the bus station, got into a minibus and left for the regional center,” says Ramil. There are only a few taxi drivers in our village, so my parents quickly understood where I was going. My cousin worked near the bus station and, at the request of my parents, began to question the drivers and show them my photo. They said which minibus I took.” They caught up with him halfway and brought him home again. He was severely beaten, his documents and phone were taken away.
It turned out that the parents decided that Ramil was sleeping with a pensioner from whom he rented an apartment, and that she had bewitched him. “I don’t understand at all how they could come up with this ... Then, of course, they read correspondence with a guy and with friends on my phone,” he says.
The next day, Ramil's parents took Ramil to a Muslim healer: “She covered me with a white cloth, walked around, saying something and brandishing a silver dagger. I was funny. I knew that I was absolutely healthy, that no one had bewitched or cursed me. This went on for three days. Then, just in case, my father found a Russian healer who worked with different religions. She looked into Ramil's eyes for several minutes without stopping, and then told her father that she did not see anything bad, dark in her son. That he is a man who lives by his own rules and will always do his own thing. Ramil remembered these words and says that they became his credo.Illustrations: Rita Cherepanova
Father was not convinced by this. He persuaded the healer to "treat" her son, to make him a "normal person." Ramil did not care, he only regretted that he could not regain his former happy life. He went to the healer for a week, drank two liters of charmed water a day, burned salt wrapped in black cloth - did everything to get rid of him.
Parents found a job for their son in a nearby town. But even there Ramil was under supervision, this time - uncles. He managed to get his phone back and contact his boyfriend: “I told him everything. He was, of course, shocked. Then I went to the police, but the application was not accepted, because we are nobody to each other ... In general, then I decided to pretend to be “healthy”. I started talking to my parents. Smiled. I pretended that I was not offended by anyone - and after a few weeks my parents believed.
In the summer, Ramil went to town with his cousin, allegedly to support her in the exam, and ran away again. I took with me only an identity card and some money that I could save. The mobile phone was switched off immediately. This time he did not go directly, but changed from one minibus to another so that he could not be tracked. Two days later he got to his boyfriend. When Ramil turned on the phone, he saw dozens of missed calls from relatives, but did not call anyone back.
One day he received a call from the village district police officer, to whom his parents applied with a statement about the loss. Ramil replied that his parents knew perfectly well where he was and with whom, and that he would write a statement himself if they did not leave behind. From that day on, his parents left him alone. Once a month, mom asks him how things are and that's it.
Everything that Ramil experienced did not pass without a trace. He became a sociophobe: “I am afraid of people. It seems to me that there are enemies around. If your loved ones treat you so horribly, then what can you expect from the rest.
Other ways LGBT+ people are trying to “correct”
The Russian Orthodox Church also believes in the possibility of “correcting” a person's sexual orientation. The clergy consider homosexuality to be a disease "which can be healed by faith in God, repentance and prayer." “Pastoral experience of working with people who have a homosexual orientation shows that in very many cases a person can either completely get rid of it, or build his life in such a way that it does not prevent him from being a full-fledged family man,” said in 2018 the then chairman Metropolitan Hilarion of the Department for External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate.
The Pentecostal Protestants whom Galina* approached had similar views. Galina was not going to "correct" her sexual orientation and she had no problems with her family. In the church, she sought salvation from suffering after breaking up with her partner. It was there that several of her friends were able to overcome drug addiction, they said that God would heal her soul, and Galina would feel better. “Before that, I somehow did not think about the issues of religion. The church was in our area. I thought that it definitely wouldn’t get worse - and I went, ”she says.
However, in the church they said that all Galina's sufferings are from homosexuality, which is a sin, that "this is not from God - it is the devil who has perverted the concepts of love", and advised her to pray harder, find a man and marry him. Although Galina understood that men did not attract her, she suffered from a strong sense of guilt imposed in the church. The first two years after joining the church, she did not date anyone, then she found a girlfriend and hid her relationship from the Pentecostals. Three years later, she decided to leave the church: “I realized that I can’t do this anymore, that I won’t break myself and rebuild myself. They began to write to me in all instant messengers: come, we will help you, the devil is tempting you. I didn't answer. Then they began to write to my mother, ”recalls Galina. In the end, she was left behind, but the feeling of guilt and feelings of her own “wrongness” continued to torment the woman for some time.Illustrations: Rita Cherepanova
It happens that a person cannot accept his homosexuality and wants to “heal” himself. This is what happened to Alexander. He decided to seek salvation in a monastery. “My family is not religious. My mother didn’t want to let me go, she cried, but it was useless to dissuade me,” he recalls. Alexander became a worker. He was always afraid that someone in the monastery would guess about his orientation, but fell in love with a monk and returned home. Alexander was able to accept himself only a few years later, after moving to St. Petersburg, when he learned about the existence of Christian LGBT communities.
Magomed Askhabov was “treated” with torture for seven months in the Khasavyurt rehabilitation center, where he was placed by his parents. Askhabov was suspended from the window bars for 2-12 hours. The “patients” of the center were handcuffed to each other: they had to eat, go to the toilet and sleep together. Human rights activists helped Askhabov leave Russia. He has already filed a complaint against the center with the Investigative Committee and the prosecutor's office.
"Conversion therapy" is used not only by homosexuals and trans persons, but also by intersex people who are born with genitals, gonads or a set of chromosomes that cannot be unambiguously attributed to male or female. So it was with Olga*. Doctors could not accurately identify her gender: the newborn's genitals were closer to female - grade 4 on the Quigley scale. But Olga's father dreamed of a son, so she underwent several "normalizing" operations, and in the "gender" column they wrote "male". Parents hid the story of her birth from Olga and raised her as a boy. However, Olga did not feel like a boy and sometimes spoke of herself in the feminine gender. For this, she was punished and demanded to behave "like a man." It was forbidden to play with girls with dolls or family, cook, embroider - do something that "only girls can do. "
Before school, her parents sent Olga several times to a “special sanatorium” where there were only boys. “We were forced to live according to a strict routine. Any manifestation of emotions was punished by slaps in the face and standing on the nightstand without moving, she says. “Memories of that place give me panic attacks. It’s still scary, although there is no reason for fear for a long time.”
At the age of 13, Olga's breasts began to grow. “Classmates laughed at the guy with the “tits”. I was scared, but at the same time I felt that it should be so, that it was right, ”says Olga. Her mother took her to the doctor, who prescribed injections of "vitamins". The girl believed her parents and doctors and went to the clinic for injections once every two weeks. And at the age of 20 she quit because "no one said what they were for." Turns out it was testosterone.
It was only at the age of 23, when Olga was tested by a geneticist, that she learned the truth about herself. But even after that, some gynecologists and therapists tried to “treat” her: “I was told that I need to continue to inject testosterone and remove the breast. They sent me to a psychiatrist, who decided that I was a trans person and advised me to lie down in the hospital, “think” - it’s all in my head. Like, since they said a boy at birth, then it is so. Over the past few years, Olga has been observed only by paid specialists who know who intersex people are.
“'Behavioral therapy' — perhaps that's what they did to me as a child — it broke me as a person. I was taken away from being the freedom of who I was born, - Olga says with pain. “Normalizing” operations should be prohibited. Doctors should not ask: "Who do you want?". This is not a computer game where you can save, and if anything, just reload. These are living people, any choice for which is not only immoral, but also dangerous. People themselves must understand who they are. And if they can’t do it themselves, but really want help, get it. Physicians should talk about all the risks, consequences and possible options.”
Man and law
Pseudo-scientific practices aimed at “treating” and “correcting” the sexual orientation or gender identity of LGBT people are called “conversion” or “reparative therapy”. The UN equates such "therapy" with torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. In 2021, France became the third European country to ban conversion therapy. Malta did it in 2016, and Germany did it in 2020.
LGBTQ+ lawyer of the Vykhod initiative group Ksenia Mikhailova says that there are no grounds for providing medical assistance due to a person's sexual orientation. Previously, the reason for "treatment" could be the diagnosis of "egodystonic disorder", when a person was clearly aware of his sexual orientation, but wanted to change it. However, it was excluded from the 11th revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11), which entered into force this year.
It is illegal to provide psychiatric medical care to a person without a mental disorder because of a non-existent diagnosis, says the lawyer.