MD, PhD, MAE, FMedSci, FRSB, FRCP, FRCPEd.

Conversion therapy has been banned last week in Canada. These therapies – also known as sexual orientation change effort (SOCE), reparative therapy, reintegrative therapy, reorientation therapy, ex-gay therapy, and gay cure – rely on the assumption that sexual orientation can be changed, an idea long discredited by major medical associations in the US, the UK, France, and elsewhere. The new law makes “providing, promoting, or advertising conversion therapy” a criminal offense. It will also be an offense to profit from the provision of conversion therapy. In addition, the bill states a person cannot remove a “child from Canada with the intention that the child undergo conversion therapy outside Canada.” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau hailed the law’s Royal Assent: “It’s official: Our government’s legislation banning the despicable and degrading practice of conversion therapy has received Royal Assent — meaning it is now law.”

Conversion therapy is the attempt to change an individual’s sexual or gender identity by psychological, medical, or surgical interventions. Often, informed consent is insufficient or lacking. In conventional medicine, numerous treatments have been tried for this purpose, some of them dangerous and all of them ineffective. In alternative medicine, approaches that have been advocated include:

  • Homeopathy (see below),
  • Hypnotherapy,
  • Spiritual healing,
  • Prayer,
  • Eye Movement Desensitization,
  • Rebirthing,
  • and others.
Survey data imply that conversion therapy is still disturbingly popular, often leads to undesirable outcomes, and is most frequently practiced by:
  • Faith-based organizations or leaders
  • Licensed healthcare professionals
  • Unlicensed healthcare professionals

As previously reported, the German ‘Association of Catholic Doctors’ claimed that homeopathic remedies can cure homosexuality. Specifically, they advised that ‘…the working group ‘HOMEOPATHY’ of the Association notes homeopathic therapy options for homosexual tendencies…repertories contain special rubrics pointing to characteristic signs of homosexual behavior, including sexual peculiarities such as anal intercourse. And a homeopathic remedy called ‘Dr. Reckeweg R20 Glandular Drops for Women’ was claimed to treat “lesbian tendencies.” The product is “derived and potentised from fetal tissues.”

Several countries are now in the process of banning conversion therapy. France has already banned it and so has Germany. The UK government intends to introduce a legislative ban on the practice of conversion therapy. The consultation on how to best do this is open until 4 February 2022.

33 Responses to Conversion therapy is ‘despicable and degrading’. IT SHOULD BE BANNED EVERYWHERE

  • Interesting. So does this mean if someone wants to “change genders” (at least by appearance) by surgical or by medication that it will be illegal?

    • one can always rely on you to come up with a really stupid comment
      THANKS

    • The exact opposite, in fact.

      I’ve not looked into the details of the Canadian law but I understand it’s very similar to the current UK proposals that the government are consulting on.

      The UK proposals (and, I suspect, the Canadian law) make no distinction between SOCE and GICE (Gender Identity Change Efforts) yet they are lumped together in one ban. They are entirely different entities.

      Many of the adolescents who are uncomfortable with their sex who are referred to the NHS Tavistock Gender Identity Development Service and diagnosed with gender dysphoria are gay and many are on the autism spectrum. There has been a huge rise in referrals in recent years, particularly with girls.

      This law would make illegal any attempt by anyone (including psychotherapists and counsellors and possibly teachers, parents and friends) to do anything other than affirm that the individual is the sex claim to be, despite the evidence of their eyes and medical records. The ‘treatment’ for gender dysphoria is (depending on age) (experimental and harmful) puberty blockers to block normal pubertal changes, followed by (in over 90% of cases) cross-sex hormones and then possibly (without going into detail) a series of cosmetic surgical operations to change some aspects of outward appearance. This results in life-long infertility. This clearly results in relief for some, but not for all by any means. The number of ‘detransitioners’ is rising as more come forward but there is no way to estimate the number who regret the path they were put on. This proposed Bill would also make criminal any attempt to help those who wish to detransition.

      Those who were gay at the start of the process (and their sexuality may have been one of the issues (whether internalised or because of family disapproval) that needed to be resolved by therapists) may end up considering themselves straight at the end – this is little more than state-sanctioned gay conversion.

      As Joanna Cherry QC MP said:

      we must not make it a criminal offence for therapists to try to help patients with gender dysphoria to feel comfortable in their birth sex.

      Dr Lucy Griffin et al.:

      Psychiatrists understand that human development is necessary, but not always comfortable. Puberty, although a normal physiological process, is associated with particularly high levels of psychological and bodily discomfort. Psychiatrists’ role is to journey with patients as change is navigated and to provide support through sharing uncertainty and difficult decision-making. But in the current climate, psychiatrists may be unsure whether addressing psychological and social antecedents will lead to accusations of conversion therapy. Attempts to reconcile a sufferer’s discomfort with their actual body would be good practice in other conditions involving body image disturbance, such as anorexia nervosa.

      For further information see: Thoughtful Therapists

  • I am delighted that this topic has arisen in this Blog. It is a subject I’ve been interested in for years, and have read fairly widely on (in a non-medical-professional kind of way).

    • As the question from DC seems to indicate (and Alan Henness’s willingness to take the bait) this topic has a habit of drifting into transgender issues. Sadly not all of the skeptical movement has acquitted itself well; see the articles and comments over on SBM recently.

      • I respectfully request (subject to Professor Ernst’s decree of course) that this thread be kept strictly to the topic of psychology ‘therapy’ interventions intended to alter the direction of the sex drive.

        I respectfully request that discussion of gender identity issues be kept for another place.

      • A lot comes down to how these laws are written, so yes, it can drift into other others.

  • As with any other bogus “treatment” that doesn’t work, people should enjoy the protection of rigorous consumer law. But as we know, that area of law doesn’t always act with sufficient vigour regarding fake ‘treatments’.

    To take the discussion for a moment out of the sometimes heated arena of sexuality, think about hair dye:

    One could have endless arguments about whether and/or why anyone should feel compelled to make himself or herself more attractive/interesting by changing hair colour. That is a debate that could be had. BUT, from a consumer point of view, if a shopkeeper sells you a bottle of hair dye whose label says it will change from one colour to another colour, but the contents of the bottle don’t and can’t actually do that, CONSUMER LAW protects the purchaser, and incrimiates the manufacture/supplier/vendor.

    People shouldn’t be banned from changing thier hair colour. But shops are banned from selling fake hair dye.

    This approach has been successfully applied to sexual orientation change “therapy”. The Southern Poverty Law centre won a consumer fraud case in 2015:

    “In a landmark victory, a state jury in New Jersey found today that a “conversion therapy” program offering services it claimed could change clients from gay to straight was fraudulent and unconscionable”.
    https://www.splcenter.org/news/2015/06/25/jury-groundbreaking-splc-suit-finds-gay-%E2%80%98conversion%E2%80%99-program-unconscionable-and-fraudulent

    Immediately after that ruling, NARTH (a body in the USA calling itself the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality which despite the name carries out no primary research) substantially changed the wording of their website.

  • Sounds like this might be an example of ‘policy capture’ with trans activists piggy-backing legislation on the back of legislation intended to protect lesbians and gays in order to promote their own specific goals – that sex is a matter of choice and anyone who says otherwise will face severe consequences.

    • I think you are revealing your prejudices here. Do you really think that’s the goal of trans activists? If they have piggy-backed the legislation to promote such goals we should be able to see such evidence in the proposals.

      Looking at the UK gov proposals we find:
      While conversion therapy is an issue that overwhelmingly affects LGBT people, we have developed interventions that provide fair protection for everyone. An attempt to change a person’s sexual orientation or to change them from being transgender will be treated in the same way as the opposite and reverse scenario. Our proposed interventions are therefore symmetrical and universal, protecting everyone.

      Which seems very reasonable to me, and is nowhere suggesting that sex is a matter of choice.

      • If I was a doctor trying to address someone’s gender dysphoria by means other than puberty blockers and transitioning, or was trying to help someone who wanted to detransition I would be extremely worried that this legislation would criminalise what I was attempting.

      • The self-proclaimed goal of trans activists is ‘gender self-identification’. I.e. unrestricted access to women-only spaces by anyone who declares themselves ‘woman’, or ‘female’, regardless of genetic or birth sex or of anatomy.

    • Niall has nailed it.

  • It amazes me that people can make assumptions about other peoples’ sexuality that they know make no sense for their own. I doubt if many ‘straights’ spent much time deciding whether they were straight or not. But they can decide that ‘gay” was a decision by someone and should be changed.

    • Couldn’t agree more, Roger, having grown up in the 70’s and 80’s I naively hoped we’d got beyond all that. Trying to ‘reprogramme’ someone who is gay is repulsive.

      • The question of whether it is repulsive to sell psychological interventions intended to alter sexual orientation is a moral one and a separate issue from the question “Does it WORK?”

        In some 20 years of reading about this issue, I have not found a single shred of credible published evidence that any person anywhere at any time has experience a change in the direction of the sex drive as a result of any psychological interventions.

        Time after time, persons who said they had experienced such a change, later said that they never did

    • “But they can decide that ‘gay” was a decision by someone and should be changed.”

      What if the gay person wants to change? What options does this law allow?

      My ex-wife use to work with youth and some were sexually abused as children. Some identified as gay. Some decided that that decision was due to their childhood trauma and wanted to address it.

      • They can of course address it.
        But conversion treatments don’t work and are thus not a way to do that.

        • “They can of course address it.
          But conversion treatments don’t work and are thus not a way to do that”.

          Hear hear!

          And while the terrible crime of sexual abuse can leave severe psychological scars, there is no credible evidence that it alters the development of sexual orientation.

      • If a gay person wants to change the direction/orientation of the sex drive, there is no known method by which that can be done.

  • So does this mean if someone wants to “change genders” (at least by appearance) by surgical or by medication that it will be illegal?
    Why couldn’t you answer this simple question, Edzard?

    If a man who has homosexual feelings wants to get rid of those feelings, because in whatever way they make him unhappy, why can’t he go to a therapist to discuss what he sees as a problem?
    Do you actually believe, Ezard, that a man ‘becomes’ a ‘woman’ by saying “I am a woman”? Then you really are a quack, aren’t you…

    • I had not anticipated quite such depths of glutinous drivel in this thread.

      Please do not conflate gender identity disorder with sexual orientation.

      Please read my comments on hair dye.

      No therapy can change a person’s sexual orientation. Some people sell “therapy” with claims that they CAN alter sexual orientation. The claims are fraudulent, and people need protection from consumer fraud.

      • I did try to warn you David. As well as our troll friends who get their thoughts from the right wing webs, a lot of “skeptics” seem to get similarly exercised over anything trans.

  • Edzard, you do realise that ‘gays’ are just ONE PERCENT of the population, right? So if a ‘gay’ man looks around, he sees 50% of the population are women, which he isn’t attracted to, and of the other 50% which he IS attracted to, NINETY NINE percent of them are not attrated to HIM. So of course every homosexual wishes there were far more homosexuals around.

    Homosexuals reproduce by sexually abusing boys, because that is HOW homosexuals are made. There is a banned video which shows a man chatting to ‘gay’ men in gay bars, and asking them about what their first sexual experience was – loads of them say that they were ABUSED by older boys or by men, and that they wanted to ‘get back’ at other men, by having sex with them. Care to discuss that?

    Tell me – if homosexuality isn’t a paraphilia, why are all other paraphilias paraphilias? Why isn’t it normal for a man to want to have sex with an animal? Why isn’t it normal for a man to want to have sex with a child? Because a man cannot reproduce by having sex with an animal, or a child. That’s why it’s unnatural and abnormal. Homosexuality is EXACTLY the same. Care to explain why it isn’t?

    • @Steve Jones

      So of course every homosexual wishes there were far more homosexuals around.
      Homosexuals reproduce by sexually abusing boys, because that is HOW homosexuals are made.

      Breaking news for you Stevio, the resident bigot! Homosexuality is not religion. But I can see why you would think that, especially if you happen to subscribe to one of the many evangelical cults that tend to force their religious beliefs on rest of society, in an attempt to increase their ranks.

      I suggest you take your bigotry and supernatural sky daddy issues elsewhere.

  • “Conversion therapy” should be banned because it is FRAUD. It doesn’t work.

    The law should protect consumers from fake products that don’t do what they are advertised to do.

  • A friend of mine in France writes today:

    “Last tuesday, the french parliament unanimously (among those present that day) passed the new law banning conversion therapies in France. The penalty can get up to 45,000 euros and three years of prison. At the senate, 305 were in favor of the new law and 28 opposed.”

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