If you’ve ever seen the flick Boy Erased, you’ll know the horrors of gay conversation therapy and camps—and if you haven’t seen it, pause, go seek it out and circle back here.
Gay conversion therapy is defined by The Trevor Project as “any of several dangerous and discredited practices aimed at changing an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity.” For example, this could mean trying to change someone’s sexual orientation from gay, lesbian or bisexual to straight; or forcing someone who is transgender or non binary to be cisgender. It can even be about pressuring someone to take on a different gender expression—where you want someone to act more “masculine” or “feminine”.
Sounds pretty sickening right? Surely something that messed up couldn’t possibly be going down here in Australia? Unfortunately, if you’re nodding along, you’d be very wrong. In fact, gay conversion therapy has been taking place in Australia, by licensed professionals, for decades.
You might have seen the words “gay conversion therapy” or “supression practices” popping up in the news lately because in August 2020 Queensland became the first state (not a typo) in Australia to criminalise gay conversion therapy. That’s right, it’s taken until the year 2020 for just one state to ban it.
As it stands in Queensland, healthcare professionals could face up to 18 months in jail for attempting to change or suppress a person's sexual orientation or gender identity using conversion therapy practices.
Another important milestone was reached in February of this year, when the Victorian Parliament voted to ban conversion practices, once and for all. The Change or Suppression (Conversion) Practises Prohibition Bill carries a punishment of up to 10 years in prison or large fines.
And while these laws created a ripple effect amongst other state parliaments, there’s still a lot more that needs to be done. As of right now, in South Australia, Western Australia, New South Wales and the Northern Territory, conversion practices are still legal.
According to Equality Australia’s CEO Anna Brown, “in NSW, a cross-party group of MPs have announced they’ll work together to outlaw the practice, and the opposition has called on the NSW Government to introduce legislation as a matter of urgency. In both South Australia and Tasmania, changes to the law are being discussed too.”
But while this feels like a step in the right direction, to really drive action on this important issue, we as a community need to use our voice and platform to send a message that conversion therapy, and the harm caused by it, needs to be dealt with ASAP.
Not sure how to help? Equality Australia have created a petition calling on all premiers in each state and territory to take action on conversion practices.
The petition calls for:
- Redress and support for survivors
- Stronger laws to prohibit conversion practices
- Sustained measures to support cultural change, such as education and training informed by the experience of survivors
- Encouraging religious leaders and institutions to denounce conversion practices
To sign this important petition and stand with our LGBTQI+ community, head here.
Image Credit: Getty