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Conversion therapy – frequently asked questions

What is conversion therapy?

Conversion therapy is an umbrella term for therapy that is based on the assumption that any sexual orientation or gender identity is inherently preferable to any other, and attempts to change or suppress someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity on that basis.

Conversion therapy is sometimes referred to as reparative therapy, gay cure therapy or sexual orientation and gender change efforts.

Why do therapy professionals consider conversion therapy unethical?

The major therapy professional bodies in the UK have been united in speaking out against conversion therapy, considering it unethical and potentially harmful.

Conversion therapy begins from the pre-conceived view that the client’s sexual orientation or gender identity should be changed. Sexual orientations and gender identities are not mental health disorders. It is therefore unethical to offer a treatment a ‘cure’ for them.

What does the memorandum seek to achieve?

The primary purpose of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) is the protection of the public through a commitment to ending the practice of conversion therapy in the UK.

This MoU also intends to ensure that:

  • the public are well informed about the risks of conversion therapy.
  • healthcare professionals and psychological therapists are aware of the ethical issues relating to conversion therapy.
  • new and existing psychological therapists are appropriately trained.
  • evidence into conversion therapy is kept under regular review.
  • professionals from across the health, care and psychological professions work together to achieve the above goals.

Does the MoU mean that people who are questioning their sexuality or gender identity can’t seek  support from a therapist?

No, it does not. Many people struggle with confused or conflicting feelings around their sexual attraction (of any orientation) or their gender identity. Going to see a therapist may be helpful.

Sometimes psychotherapy and counselling can help people clarify their sense of themselves. Clients make healthy choices when they understand themselves better.

Responsible therapists are equipped to assist people in gaining a greater understanding of the way they feel, and to help them work through difficult feelings that may arise in relation to the reactions of family, friends and other members of your community

The key thing is for professionals to have adequate knowledge and understanding of gender and sexual diversity and to be free from any agenda that favours any particular gender identity or sexual orientation over another.

Does the MoU mean doctors always have to say yes to requests for medical intervention to aid transition?

No. The MoU makes clear that it is not intended to stop psychological and medical professionals working with trans and gender questioning clients from performing a clinical assessment of suitability prior to medical intervention.

However the memorandum does set out that ethical practice requires the professional to have adequate knowledge and understanding of gender and sexual diversity and to be free from any agenda that favours any particular gender identity or sexual orientation over another.