Tory MP tells Shelagh Fogarty gay conversion therapy is 'quackery'

12 May 2021, 10:02 | Updated: 12 May 2021, 15:14

By Tim Dodd

Gay conversion therapy is 'nothing but fraud' but needs to be distinguished from faith leaders' advice, MP Alicia Kerns tells LBC.

Conversion therapy refers to treatments or therapies which aim to change a person's sexual orientation or suppress their gender identity.

All major counselling and psychotherapy bodies in the UK, including the NHS, have concluded that conversion therapy is dangerous. But research by the LGBT charity Stonewall shows that around 5% of LGBT people have been 'pressured to access services to question or change their sexual orientation when accessing healthcare services'.

Shelagh started by asking how the Government's proposed ban on conversion therapy will "take into account religious freedom".

Ms. Kerns replied: "It's about protecting religious liberties and freedoms which we absolutely have to do.

"It's about making sure that when people go to faith leaders to have these conversations about their sexual identity or orientation, it's not a one-way conversation. It's not pushing them into abuse they do not want. It's not forcing them to undergo something, it's about a genuine conversation.

"We have to tackle it, but what we also don't want to do is in any way end up mistakenly imprisoning people for just trying to have two-way conversations with multiple different outcomes."

Shelagh then asked: "Is there a legitimate therapist in this country at the moment who would try to help somebody become un-gay?"

"Unfortunately, they may have legitimate qualifications, yes," replied Ms Kerns.

"There are people out there who are mental health professionals who have gone through the full legitimate training, and have then chosen to carry out this quackery that is nothing but fraud."

Shelagh then asked if there was a difference between someone going to their priest and saying they don't want to be gay, versus someone who asked for help to 'not have an affair'.

Ms. Kerns replied: "It's about making sure that's not a one-way conversation with one outcome only. If you knew that if you went to your priest and they were going to tell you no matter what you cannot leave your husband, I don't care if you're being abused, I don't care if you're being raped - that would be a problem.

"Helping someone to choose not to commit something which could hurt someone else is one thing, forcing someone to reject who they are as a person and go through some kind of quack therapy to prevent them from being who they are is very different."

Shelagh was shocked to hear the accounts of victims of conversion therapy when Ms Kerns said:

"I have met people who have been electrocuted. There are people in Parliament who have been threatened with rape to stop them being gay. There are people I've met who have been forced into marriages, people who've been forced to sit in rooms and imbibe substances while people prayed over them telling them they were infected with some evil being.

"That's why the Government talking about it is so important, because it's saying don't be ashamed, and we are going to make sure that you know that love is not a pathology."

If you have been affected by conversion therapy or feel pressured to seek it and you need help please contact Stonewall’s Information Service on 08000 502020, or email info@stonewall.org.uk.