October 2023

Content note: this briefing document includes statistics of and references to experiences of conversion practices. Please read with your wellbeing firmly in mind, and please reach out for support.

National Campaign – Overview

  • Conversion “therapy” or practices are any interventions with a predetermined outcome aimed at changing, suppressing, or “curing” a person’s sexual orientation and/or gender identity. Sticking to this precise definition is useful as it avoids misinformation and misappropriation of the cause.
  • This definition specifically excludes things like gender affirmative care and any form of genuine therapeutic explorations, which do not have predetermined outcomes but are based on letting individuals safely explore identity.
  • This definition also provides a level of clarity around ambiguous religious and cultural practices that may try to get exemptions from protective legislation and policies.
  • The BCT (Banning Conversion Therapy) coalition has led on national responses, including setting up a useful briefing sheet for MPs based on their legislative asks.
  • Primary legislative concerns are around the following:
  • Ban needs to be trans inclusive (i.e., affecting both gender identity and sexual orientation), based on international standards set in places like Canada, France, and New Zealand. The latest draft of the bill is reported to be inclusive of gender identity, but this has not yet been confirmed by the Government.
  • Ban cannot have a consent loophole for anyone as conversion practices are, by nature, coercive and abusive. Such a loophole would likely increase the burden of proof for survivors, adding to their trauma and making it harder for other survivors to come forward. Similar legislation for other practices (e.g., FGM) do not allow for a consent loophole.
  • Ban must not provide exemptions based on religious or cultural practice. This is a stance supported by several major faith and cultural organisations as well as LGBTQ+-specific groups.
  • There is strong and consistent public support for a full and inclusive ban, as evidenced by a 2022 YouGov study. Equity and rights are fundamental to human existence, not based on majority consensus, but it is noteworthy that such a significant majority are clearly supportive of a ban that protects against all forms of conversion therapy practices.
  • A bill to ban conversion therapy has been drafted for months but it now sits with the PM and secretaries of state to take it forwards. It is unlikely that the bill will be passed before the next general election and there has been no information or communication to counter this belief.
  • In Scotland, it is unlikely that any legislation will be passed before the next Scottish elections in 2026. Representatives from Northern Ireland also feel it is unlikely legislation will be passed before their next elections.

Situation in Manchester – Overview

  • LGBT Foundation Helpline has received multiple calls from local survivors asking for support, despite our Helpline and services not having an explicit conversion practice element. This included 11 new calls in the 2020/2021 period when conversion practice legislation was being publicly discussed.
  • Dedicated Galop survey around sexual violence shows that at least 23% of LGBTQ+ respondents have been made to undergo some form of conversion practice in their lifetime. While there is no specific regional breakdown, this does explicitly include respondents from the North-West of England.
  • The vast majority of calls to the LGBT Foundation Helpline were from people who underwent these practices under some form of coercion and made it very clear that they would not have given consent if they knew that the process would be “inhuman torture”.
  • Survivors spoke about instances happening within religious or cultural settings, where the perpetrators were protected by a lack of understanding of what constitutes “conversion practice/therapy” by statutory bodies and support services.
  • Some calls to the Helpline consisted of people who had been recently recommended or had recently considered conversion practice based on public perception and societal pressure, once again citing a lack of guidance from statutory bodies and support services.
  • In June 2022, a church group was denied planning permission to set up a new place of worship based on their prior history with conversion practices – an encouraging development in terms of GM response but a reminder that these practices continue to be promoted even now.

GM Pledge and Next Steps

  • The Greater Manchester (GM) pledge is committed to ending all conversion practices in the city-region, which specifically refers to a full and inclusive ban covering both sexual orientation and gender identity.

Signatories for the initial pledge are:

  • Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester
  • Kate Green, Deputy Mayor of Greater Manchester
  • Bev Craig, Leader, Manchester City Council
  • Dr Paul Martin, Chief Executive, LGBT Foundation
  • Carl Austin-Behan (in his former role as LGBTQ+ Advisor to the Mayor)
  • Paul Dennett, City Mayor, Salford City Council
  • Mark Fletcher, CEO, Manchester Pride
  • Lisa Harvey-Nebil, Chief Executive Officer, The Proud Trust
  • Tim Sigsworth, Chief Executive, AKT
  • Darren Knight, Chief Executive, George House Trust

Update in November 2022:

  • At the monthly meeting of the GMCA, all members, including the leaders of each of the ten boroughs, agreed to pass the End Conversion Therapy Pledge. With this, the GMCA demonstrated its commitment to a trans-inclusive, loop-hole free definition of conversion therapy and its intention to implement this definition to end conversion therapy across the city-region.

Update in October 2023:

  • In the absence of and continual delays around a national ban, the work on this Pledge is still important in GM.

Notes for best practice:

Community responses to the national parliamentary consultation as well as direct calls to LGBT Foundation’s support services highlight the following necessities:

  • Public buy-in and clarity from statutory services and public bodies.
  • Understanding that these practices are not simply a relic of the past but are continuing even today.
  • Recognising that these practices are not just concerned with healthcare spaces (which is the popular understanding of them) but also happen in social and interpersonal settings, particularly religious and cultural settings.

The precedent for regional action:

  • There have been regional bans that have been instituted across the world where national legislatures have not acted. A recent example is in Madras, India, where local authorities have actively criminalised conversion practices aimed at both sexual orientation and gender identity. Thus, there is global precedent for the GMCA to take direct action even before the national Government does.
  • Within the UK, devolved Governments are already pursuing dedicated legislation in the event that Westminster does not take this up in the next legislative agenda. Thus, there is national pressures within the UK for regions to lead by examp