'I can't feel positive emotions': NHS conversion therapy survivor begs govt for full ban

10 April 2022, 17:45 | Updated: 10 April 2022, 17:56

74-year-old conversion therapy survivor speaks to LBC

By Tim Dodd

Natasha Devon has heard from a 74-year-old survivor of conversion therapy on the NHS who's been unable to "feel positive emotions" since, amid a partial government ban on the practice.

According to LGBT rights charity Stonewall, conversion therapy is defined as "any form of treatment or psychotherapy which aims to change a person’s sexual orientation or to suppress a person’s gender identity".

Last week, it was initially announced that ministers were scrapping plans to ban the practice, sparking a furious backlash. 

A government spokesman confirmed that they were looking instead at ways of preventing it through existing law and "other non-legislative measures". However, within hours the PM was said to have "changed his mind" and a senior Government source was quoted as saying legislation would be introduced.

The Government now says it is committed to a legislative ban, but that separate work is required to "consider the issue of transgender conversion therapy further".

Retired headteacher Carolyn Mercer was around 17-years-old in 1964 when she had conversion therapy, which she says was the "treatment under the NHS at that time".

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"I was strapped to a chair, electrodes placed on my arm after being soaked in brine, and pictures of women were projected onto the wall in front of me," she said.

"And the idea was to make me associate pain with who I saw myself as being, who I wanted to be.

"From time to time, they would change the picture and then [flick] a switch whereby the electric current would then pass through my arm, my hand shot up in the air but of course nothing else could move because I was strapped to the chair."

Carolyn continued: "For the next 40 years of my life, everytime I thought about that particular treatment I physically shivered.

"Even now, I'm 74, I can't feel positive emotions in the way that other people seem to feel it because of that self-hatred. I've only ever hated one person in my life, and that's myself."

Carolyn shared her message to the government: "Please, please, please government, get it sorted. If you can define the difference as far as lesbian, gay, and bisexual people are concerned, you can define exactly the same difference with trans people."

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