We must end the practice of so-called conversion therapy - Lorna Slater

​The publication of the Scottish Government’s consultation on banning conversion practices was a milestone moment for equality.
Minister for Green Skills, Circular Economy and Biodiversity, Lorna SlaterMinister for Green Skills, Circular Economy and Biodiversity, Lorna Slater
Minister for Green Skills, Circular Economy and Biodiversity, Lorna Slater

Everybody has the right to be themselves and to live freely and safely as the people they are. Conversion practices aim to take that right away.

Conversion practices, sometimes referred to as conversion therapy, can take many forms, but, essentially, they are practices that try to suppress or change someone’s sexuality or gender identity. There is nothing therapeutic about them. They are cruel and abusive by nature.

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There is no chemical or psychological “fix” that can alter a person’s true identity. Attempting to do so is coercive and cruel, and can do long term physical and psychological damage. That’s why they have already been banned in countries like Belgium, Portugal and Spain.

My Scottish Green colleague, Councillor Blair Anderson from Glasgow, has been open about his experiences of conversion practices and how they almost cost him his life. He has described the constant internal battle he felt between who he was and who he was pretending to be that he said brought a profound sense of shame and self-loathing.

What happened to Blair was wrong, and is happening in communities all over Scotland.

So much of it takes place in secret, so it’s impossible to get a full picture of the scale. The UK Government’s most recent National LGBT Survey found that 5 per cent of respondents had been offered conversion practices and a further 2 per cent had undergone them. With over 100,000 people taking part in the survey that means that, at a bare minimum, there are thousands of people across the UK who have experienced it.

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I am grateful to every Edinburgh resident who has contacted me to share their support and sometimes share their own experiences of this so-called conversion “therapy”. Some of it has made for difficult reading, but it has also underlined why a ban is so vital.

We can’t undo the pain of the past, but we can take action to reduce it in future.

Everyone is worthy of respect, safety, dignity and love, and we must ensure the country we are building is one where nobody has to suffer the abuse that Blair and so many others have. The UK government appears to have reneged on its commitment to deliver a ban of any kind, let alone the watertight one that is so necessary. We can’t do the same.

Please take a few minutes to have your say by filling in the consultation via Consult.Gov.Scot. Together we can tackle the pain and prejudice that many have had inflicted.

If you have been impacted by conversion practices, help is available at lgbthealth.org.uk.

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