Words by Alastair James; pictures: Ross Nicholas
Correction: 17/05/2021 - an earlier version of this article incorrectly reported that MPs will now have to debate the petition in parliament. The House of Commons Petitions Committee can only consider e-petitions for debate that are hosted on the petition.parliament.uk website.
A petition to ban conversion therapy in the UK has gained over 100,000 signatures.
It follows an announcement on Tuesday (11 May) in the Queen's Speech that the UK government had plans to outlaw the practice.
But many are angry that action hasn't been taken sooner.
"It’s barbaric what they do”
Ross Nicholas, 25, who started the petition last year, says it makes no sense in a "country of free speech and equality." He started the petition after seeing an advert for some 'therapy' on social media.
“I thought ‘screw it, why not set up a petition? Let’s see if we can do something about it.’ Even the smallest matter will help. It’s barbaric what they do”.
He says the interest in the petition grew this week, following the Queen's Speech.
“In the last few days it’s grown by about 4,000.”
A consultation into conversion therapy was also announced on Tuesday, "to ensure that the ban can address the practice while protecting the medical profession; defending freedom of speech; and upholding religious freedom."
But Ross says he won't let this go. “They [The UK Government] want to sweep it under the carpet again and this time we’re not going to let it happen. I’m not. I’m going to fight it as much as I can.”
“The amount of great feedback has been good. You’re always going to get some negative people. Especially when it gets political. I’ve had a couple of people saying people in religion aren’t going to change. I said well in the 21st Century they need to evolve.”
Stonewall defines conversion therapy as "any form of treatment or psychotherapy which aims to change a person’s sexual orientation or to suppress a person’s gender identity."
The underlying principle behind the cruel practice is that someone's sexual orientation or gender identity can be changed or "cured".
The practice has been condemned by the NHS and reputable medical, counseling and psychotherapy organisations agree it is unethical and dangerous.
According to the National LGBT Survey seven per cent of LGBTQ people have been offered or undergone conversion therapy, with trans-people almost twice as likely to have been offered it.
The widely debunked practice has already been banned for minors in 20 US states.
"I didn’t ask him what the medicine was, but I figured he was talking about anti-depressants..."
The former Prime Minister Theresa May initially pledged to ban conversion therapy in 2018. In March 2021, the Minister for Women and Equalities Liz Truss promised to bring the ban forward after three members of the government's LGBT Advisory panel quit over inaction on the issue.
Speaking to ITV News, Prime Minister Boris Johnson also said in March: "I'm sorry these advisors have gone but be in no doubt, we will deal with this issue. It is technically complex to deal with but we are determined to take further steps to stamp it out."
In our Sex and Sexuality issue we heard from Amir (not his real name) who had experienced conversion therapy on Harley Street in London.
"He was a smiley person and he asked me a lot of intimate questions about sex and sexual practices: “Have you done anything with a guy?” “What would you like to do?” “What would you like to be done to you?” “And what about girlfriends?” “Had you been physical with her?”
"He was nodding and smiling, a “well done” sort of thing. He was almost, like, excited. He went on: “What about porn?” “What kind of porn do you like to watch?” And, again, he was very excited."
"Then he asked: “Would you like some medicine that can help you?” I didn’t ask him what the medicine was, but I figured he was talking about anti-depressants. I said, “No, it’s OK,” and he goes, “I can give you some medicine, I can give you some now if you want.”
In response to Attitude's request for comment the UK Government's Minister for Women & Equalities, Liz Truss, said:
“As a global leader on LGBT rights, this government has always been committed to stamping out the practice of conversion therapy."
"We want to make sure that people in this country are protected, and these proposals mean nobody will be subjected to coercive and abhorrent conversion therapy."
“Alongside this legislation, we will make new funding available to ensure that victims have better access to the support they need.”
Click here to sign the petition.
The Attitude Sex & Sexuality issue is out now.
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