I am committed to ensuring that LGBT+ people can live in safety and dignity, and I completely agree with you that LGBT+ conversion therapies must be banned. I firmly believe conversion therapies are exploitative and damaging. Being LGBT+ is a fundamental part of an individual’s identity, and it should never be treated as a sickness. Indeed, all major UK therapy professional bodies and the NHS oppose conversion therapy.
I was glad to read that the government will include conversion therapies targeted at the Trans community in its plans for a ban. I will work with Labour colleagues to ensure they keep their word on this, as I have been worried by the rhetoric towards trans people from some government ministers. Even just last month, we saw a number of senior government advisors on LGBT+ issues resign, with one saying “There’s precious little patience I have left for the government at this point, but with what remains: get your act together. Use the panel for what it was intended and actually prohibit conversion therapy. Stop deporting LGBT refugees. Drop the trans culture war.” For me, as a starting point, treating people how they would like to be treated, and giving people basic respect and dignity not just when it comes to their sexuality, but also when it comes to their gender identity, should be the bare minimum.
I am very worried about the harm caused to LGBT+ people by conversion therapies. It is deeply concerning that the Ozanne Foundation’s 2018 Faith & Sexuality Survey found that over 58% of people who had experienced attempts to change their sexual orientation had suffered from mental health issues, including anxiety and depression. Worryingly, two-thirds of those who had experienced mental health issues had experienced suicidal thoughts, and nearly a third had attempted suicide.
Conversion therapies must urgently be banned. The UK government has left people waiting since July 2018 when they committed to bringing forward proposals to end conversion therapy in the UK. I am deeply disappointed that, nearly three years later, we are still waiting.
LGBT+ people are experiencing harms from conversion therapies every day. The longer we wait for action, the longer they are denied legal redress. I firmly believe we need to introduce legislation, such as protection orders for people who are vulnerable to pressure to suppress, deny or forcibly change their sexuality or gender identity. Crucially, introducing legislation to ban conversion therapy would allow statutory services to work together to support people in need.
In March 2021, the UK Government said it will shortly be bringing forward plans to ban conversion therapy. I assure you I will monitor developments on this important issue closely.
More widely, I welcome the fact that Instagram and Facebook have blocked the promotion of conversion therapy on their sites, and I hope other social media companies will follow suit.