E-petition 613556 calls on the Government to ensure any ban fully includes trans people and all forms of conversion therapy practices.

The petition follows the Government’s announcement that it will introduce a legislative ban on practices intended to change a person’s sexual orientation.

The petition states:

It’s shameful that the UK intends to deliberately exclude trans people from a ban in contrast to the approach taken by many countries, despite trans people being at a greater risk of experiencing the harmful & degrading practices.

The government’s own figures show that trans people are nearly twice as likely to be at risk of experiencing the harmful & degrading practices of conversion therapy. A ban needs to ensure all forms of conversion therapy are banned.

The e-petition closes on 6 October 2022; up to 13 June it was signed by 145,833 people. 

On 12 May 2022 the Cabinet Office published its response to the petition. It said:

We will introduce a ban protecting everyone from attempts to change their sexual orientation. Recognising the complexity of issues we will consider the issue of transgender conversion therapy further.

Conversion therapy

According to the May 2020 UN Report on Conversion Therapy, conversion therapy practice is used as an umbrella term to describe interventions of a wide-ranging nature:

[…] “all of which have in common the belief that a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity (SOGI) can and should be changed. Such practices aim (or claim to aim) at changing people from gay, lesbian or bisexual to heterosexual and from trans or gender diverse to cisgender. Depending on the context, the term is used for a multitude of practices and methods, some of which are clandestine and therefore poorly documented.”

The Government’s 2017 National LGBT survey of 108,000 members of the LGBT+ community provides some information about the prevalence of conversion therapy/practice in the UK.  The survey found that “5% of respondents had been offered so called conversion or reparative therapy (but did not take it up) and a further 2% had undergone it”.  These figures were higher for trans respondents (e.g. 9% of trans men been offered it and 4% had undergone it).

The survey’s reports and the data explorer can be accessed on the Government Equalities Office website.

Government response

In March 2022, following a consultation, the Government said it would bring forward legislation in the Queen’s speech to ban conversion therapy.

Details of the consultation exercise are available on the Government Equalities Office webpages: Banning conversion therapy. It published research alongside the consultation, which cited evidence from the UK’s national LGBT survey that around 13% of transgender respondents had been offered some form of conversion therapy.

In April 2022 it was reported that the Government planned for the ban on conversion therapy/practices to cover that which aims to alter a person’s sexual orientation, but not their gender identity.

This position was criticised by more than 100 organisations who said the decision to exclude trans people was “unacceptable” and pulled out of this summer’s first global LGBT+ Conference. The conference had been planned to be held in June 2022. This led to the conference being cancelled.

Responding to the e-petition, the Government has said it is committed to banning conversion therapy/practices which “do not work and can cause long-lasting harm”.

The Government says its proposed legislation “protects children and those that are unwillingly subjected to talking conversion practices”. It will also strengthen provisions against physical conversion practices.

However the Government says that there are “different considerations when it comes to transgender conversion therapy” and it will explore these.

It notes that “one of the complexities is that those who experience gender dysphoria may seek talking therapy. It is vital that legitimate support is not inadvertently impacted.”

The Government also says it will do more than legislate. It will provide support services for victims “via a contracted helpline and website which will provide initial pastoral support, and signposting to services such as counselling and advice about emergency housing”.

The Government’s Queen’s speech 2022: Background notes, May 2022, on pages 128-9, confirms its position as introducing a ban on practices intended to change a person’s sexual orientation. This is intended to protect under-18s in all circumstances, and over-18s who do not consent and who are coerced or forced to undergo conversion therapy/practices.

Further reading

UN Human Rights, Report on conversion therapy, May 2020

POST, Conversion Therapy, POSTnote 658, December 2021

Government Equalities Office, An assessment of the evidence on conversion therapy for sexual orientation and gender identity, 29 October 2021

Letter from the Minister of Equalities to the Women and Equalities Committee, 20 December 2021 [Discussion of conversion therapy, consent, and raising awareness]

Women and Equalities Committee, The Government’s consultation on conversion therapy: Oral evidence transcripts, November 2021

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