The UK Will Ban LGBT Conversion Therapy in Major Policy Updates!

In a raft of new announcements relating to the LGBT community, the UK government has said that it will officially ban so-called gay and trans conversion therapy.

The announcement is part of a £4.5 million initiative to tackle anti-LGBT discrimination and improve the lives of the LGBT community. After public consultation with over 108,000 members of the LGBT community, it now believes that anti-LGBT “cure” therapies are a pressing concern.

This is a significant u-turn as, prior to this, the government had maintained that, while it did not support gay conversion therapy, it believed that government action was not warranted.

British Prime Minister Theresa May said in a statement that she was “struck by just how many respondents said they cannot be open about their sexual orientation or avoid holding hands with their partner in public for fear of a negative reaction.”

She goes on to say, “No one should ever have to hide who they are or who they love.”

It’s hard to get an accurate count of how many so-called conversion therapy attempts are made in the UK. This is partly because the practice is outside of recognized medical guidelines, so isn’t tracked, and also because it is often attempted by religious services.

The consultation made clear that around five percent of the population sample had been offered conversion, while a further two percent had undergone conversion attempts.

Position statements made by, for example, the British Association for Counselling and The Royal College of Psychiatrists and the Church of England, have all made clear that attempts to change someone’s sexual orientation is not only unwarranted, but it can be dangerous. There is no scientific nor, actually, religious backing for such harmful conversion attempts, so the government can be reassured that it is on safe ground with this ban.

How will the conversion therapy ban be implemented?

The government hasn’t yet announced exactly how it will go about this conversion therapy ban, but the scale of the problem may yet present an issue.

It’s one thing to reinforce what registered medical bodies have already said and ban licensed therapists from engaging in this practice, but by its nature many conversion therapies are offered outside of the boundaries of a professional setting.

How the government might tackle religious practitioners offering gay conversion therapy remains to be seen.

One way might be to take an example from New Jersey and California that have used fraud laws to prevent money being exchanged for such services. This could, at the very least, prevent people profiting off this damaging practice.

As we have seen in the United States, the religious right rarely takes policy moves like this well, and it seems likely there could be attempts at legal action when this change is made.

However, unlike in the United States where the First Amendment provides for certain relative protections for therapists and their speech, the UK’s laws do not extend free speech into a clinical setting. As a result, and with all major medical bodies backing this move including many religious psychotherapy and therapeutic organizations, it is unlikely a legal challenge would gain traction.

Other LGBT Action Plan Highlights

Among the other changes announced in this major plan for improving LGBT rights is the much-called-for reworking of gender identity affirmation and care processes. Trans people have said these are cumbersome, intrusive and overly-medicalized.

“The survey highlighted the dissatisfaction with gender identity services in particular,” Minister for Women and Equalities Penny Mordaunt said during her speech announcing these changes. “Waiting times were too long. Access to care was difficult. The result was suffering and damage to mental health and wellbeing. We want to fix this. Next year NHS England will be deciding how gender identity services for adults can be modernised, to allow higher quality outcomes and greater flexibility.”

The only way to truly modernize these services, though, is to allow for self-determination of gender identity and to reduce, wherever possible, the current red tape that prevents trans people from accessing timely services.

As nations like Argentina and Ireland have shown, self-affirmation based on consistent gender presentation is not just a plausible way of affirming someone’s identity, but that it works in practice too. Both nations have had this kind of self-affirmation in force for a number of years now.

Whether these and other changes the government has announced will add up to a meaningful difference for LGBTQIA people in the UK will depend on how quickly they are implemented and how fully those commitments extend. There can be no compromise on basic human rights, and it would be refreshing to see the British government act on that premise.

Photo credit: Thinkstock.


Coo R
Coo Rabout a month ago

can't come soon enough - this "therapy" is abuse.

Marie W
Marie W3 months ago

Thanks for sharing.

Dave f
Past Member 8 months ago


Chad Anderson
Chad Anderson8 months ago

Thank you.

Joan E
Joan E8 months ago


Clare O'Beara
Clare O'Beara8 months ago


Janis K
Janis K9 months ago

Thanks for sharing.

Latoya Brookins
Latoya Brookins9 months ago

I bet those who support conversion therapy to turn gay into straight would support turning humans into Cybermen.

Danii P
Past Member 9 months ago

Thank you.

Danii P
Past Member 9 months ago

Thank you.