Let me start by saying unequivocally that the suggestion being LGBT can be “cured” is both morally and medically wrong and the concept of conversion therapy has no place in our society. Being lesbian, gay or bisexual is not an illness to be treated or cured. I am encouraged that this view is shared by the head of the NHS, the Royal College of Psychiatrists, the UK Council for Psychotherapy, the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy and the British Medical Association. Each of these bodies have concluded that such therapy is unethical and potentially harmful to those with a non-heterosexual identity.
That said, ending conversion therapy is a complex issue which requires careful thought, not least because the understanding that the NHS and other organisations have reached about conversion therapy has a potentially problematic interplay with gender identity services offered by, for example, the NHS.
The Government Equalities’ Office commissioned a large-scale LGBT survey in 2017. Sadly, 2 per cent of respondents to the national LGBT survey said they had undergone conversion therapy in an attempt to ‘cure’ them of being LGBT. A further 5 per cent said they had been offered it. Unfortunately, in this survey, what conversion therapy entailed was not defined, so the results should be read with that caveat. Nor were the respondents asked whether or not the conversion therapy referred to in their answer was offered in the UK.
I welcome the firm commitment to preventing these activities from continuing. Led by colleagues in the Government Equalities Office, I understand the Government will consider all options to end promoting, offering or conducting conversion therapy. The main objective is to protect people who are vulnerable to harm or violence, whether that occurs in a medical, commercial or faith-based context. I am clear that this will not prevent LGBT people from seeking legitimate medical or spiritual support from their faith leader in the exploration of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
I am positive about the steps that have been made so far in the UK to achieve LGBT equality, and am confident that this good work will continue.