3 Reasons the UK Government Should Regulate Against Gay Cure Therapies Now

Last week the UK government concluded that while it in no way supports so-called “cure therapy” being tried on gay people, it would not be creating new regulations to dissuade from the practice.

Prior to a recent debate in Parliament on the issue of gay cure therapies and the danger they pose to the public, Jane Ellison of Public Health England announced that the government currently isn’t looking to use its lawmaking powers to bolster efforts to prevent therapists working outside of therapeutic guidelines and trying to cure LGBT identity:

“I fully understand the concerns about so-called gay conversion therapy as they’ve been expressed, but the Government has no current plans to ban or restrict it via legislation. We don’t either have a plan currently to introduce statutory regulation of psychotherapies, but I say that in the knowledge that is a position that is challenged and one to which I will go away and reflect [upon] after the debate.”

This failure to act is surprising given that Prime Minister David Cameron had previously appeared open to creating regulations to prevent gay cure therapies being offered, particularly on the NHS. It may be that the government is not looking to do this right now, but remains open to it in future. That delay is unacceptable, however, and here’s why:

1. Cure therapy isn’t therapy at all. 

All major medical bodies including the British Medical Association have condemned gay cure therapies as harmful and ineffective. More than that, they have said that the correct response to anxiety surrounding sexual orientation or gender identity is to attempt to work with the patient to reduce those feelings via affirmation of their identities and discussion of the fears of prejudice, intolerance or perceived religious morality that may underpin those feelings. This means that any therapist offering to change someone’s sexuality or gender identity isn’t offering therapy, they are offering a quack practice that is based on their own private beliefs or, at the very least, it exposes a severe lack of professional conduct.

2. Taxpayer money could still be being used to provide conversion therapy.

Last year a YouGov poll for the rights group Stonewall found that 10 percent of health and social care workers had witnessed a fellow worker expressing a belief that it is possible to cure lesbian, gay or bisexual people. The poll, which was based on a sample of over 3,000 workers from across the UK, also found that 20 percent of staff heard fellow staff make disparaging remarks about trans people, with slurs like “tranny” and “she-male” being used to discuss trans people.

It should be highlighted that most of the major regulatory bodies overseeing therapy in the UK have made it clear that therapists will be censured should the act outside of conduct guidelines and attempt to provide such therapies. Care2 previously reported on how the UK’s largest Christian counseling outfit, the UK’s Association of Christian Counsellors (ACC), created a formal policy against cure therapy. At the time several religious conservative groups said they were opposed to this decision and indicated they still supported sexual orientation change efforts. 

As Conservative MP Mike Free said in Parliament last week: “It remains possible for people within the UK to be referred by an NHS professional to a psychotherapist for a so-called ‘gay cure’. I think it’s important to debunk the thought that such so-called cure therapies might be gentle … they are not gentle therapies. We all agree it’s harmful, we all agree it shouldn’t be done, and yet we can’t get it banned.”

That would mean that taxpayer money could be funding efforts to change someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity. That cannot be allowed to continue.

3. There is a legitimate government interest in protecting people from fake cures. 

As above, no politician speaking on this issue seems to doubt that gay cure therapy is harmful. The reason why many governments, and not just the UK’s presiding Conservative party, appear leery of banning LGBT “change” efforts is that they fear using regulations might undermine the free agency of counseling and therapy to do its work.

In an ideal world these agencies would be able to police themselves and yet, even giving the benefit of the doubt that they are making every attempt to do so, cure attempts persist and often under the guise of so-called religious counseling. On the other hand, the government has moved swiftly, and even against expert advice in some cases, to ban other perceived public health risks, for example so-called legal highs.

The government therefore has shown a desire to intervene in other spheres where it perceives public health to be at risk, and particularly where it concerns legal minors, so why not here when it readily concedes that gay cure therapies are quack therapies and that they can cause significant harms?

The government has not produced any rationale for failing to intervene this time around. The sad truth is though, that while we wait for the government to act, more people–and particularly young people–continue to be at risk.

Photo credit: Thinkstock.

48 comments

Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus3 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Kathryn Irby
Past Member 3 years ago

This reminds of the ignorant State of Alabama, which actually implemented the so-called "conversion therapy." What a Joke! Thanks for posting.

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Sen Heijkamp
Sayenne H3 years ago

Thanks for sharing

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Kathryn Irby
Past Member 3 years ago

The so-called "conversion therapy" is the most ignorant concept I've ever heard of! It figures that the State of Alabama actually tried to implement it!! LOL! Thanks for posting.

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Only Me
Only Me3 years ago

Timothy W. "Any decent person" is a euphemism for "my blindly homophobic opinion".

History is littered with people whom Jenn C would regard as “indecent”, Alan Turing and Pyotr Tchaikovsky, for example. But fortunately there have been some highly “decent” people, too, like Fred and Rosemary West. Perhaps, on reflection, this interpretation of "decency" might be overrated!

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Timothy W.
Timothy W3 years ago

Jenn C, How would you know what a decent person has yearnings for? Did a decent person explain those yearnings to you?

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A J L.
Alex L3 years ago

This is persecution. All that may accomplish is a broken spirit and a broken heart.

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Nick L.
Nick L3 years ago

So the UK health system will pay for Trans* surgeries making it one of the best places in the world to be born as Transgender.... but it wont ban gay conversion therapy... ok then...

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Nick L.
Nick L3 years ago

So the UK health system will pay for Trans* surgeries making it one of the best places in the world to be born as Transgender.... but it wont ban gay conversion therapy... ok then...

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sandra vito
Sandra Vito3 years ago

Thanks

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