As an LGBT member of the Labour Party, I must admit to the pride I feel that the party is a firm supporter of equality and in recent elections has not only provided an LGBT section in its manifesto with real policies but also a full LGBT manifesto.
However, it needs to be said that Labour has thus far avoided the elephant in the room when it comes to equality in the UK. Conversion Therapy. In 2017, the topic of conversion therapy was excluded from the manifesto. In 2015, the party committed to opposing the use of ‘conversion’ or ‘cure’ therapies and with Labour, public money will never be spent on them.
For those unaware, Conversion Therapy or Cure therapies are a scientifically refuted and massively controversial practice of ‘helping’ individuals stop being LGBT. This is typically done via talking therapy, but can in some cases can include electroconvulsion therapy (ECT) or negative reinforcement therapies. The premise of this therapy is that being LGBT is a choice that can be changed, often the therapy is built on a basis of establishing/creating past experiences of sexual abuse as the cause of homosexuality.
Alarmingly Stonewall UK found in its Unhealthy Attitudes (2015) report found that 10 per cent of health and care staff have witnessed colleagues expressing the belief that lesbian, gay and bi people can be ‘cured’ of their sexual orientation which rises to 1 in 5 among health and care staff in London. A 2009 survey of over 1,300 accredited mental health professionals found that more than 200 had offered some form of conversion therapy, with 35 per cent of patients referred to them for treatment by GPs and 40 per cent treated inside an NHS practice.
In 2015, the NHS committed to refusing assistance with accessing such therapies but this fails to address the practice outside of the service. The Royal College of Psychiatrists, UK Council for Psychotherapists and the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapists refuse to endorse it and refuse to allow members to practice it. Considering the self-regulatory nature of counselling and therapy it has opened the back door to a more sinister US style conversion therapy circle.
This year a petition reached the required amount of signatures to receive a government response, this response refused to accept the need for a legal ban on conversion therapy in the UK.
The Government stated:
It is incumbent on professionals working in the National Health Service to ensure that treatment and care, including therapy, is provided to every patient without any form of discrimination[…]That is why we have already worked with the main registration and accreditation bodies for psychotherapy and counselling practitioners, including the UK Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP), to develop first a consensus statement and then a Memorandum of Understanding committing signatory organisations to a range of activities including training and awareness raising amongst their members in relation to this issue.
Quite simply, refusing to accept the basic concept of the state’s role as a safeguard from institutional inequality is implicit endorsement for it. The Labour Party as the party of equality needs to nail its rainbow flag to the mast and commit where the other parties will not.
Conversion therapy is detrimental to the modern, inclusive and equal society we as Labour members strive for. Its continued legal existence in private practice allows bigots to prey on the vulnerable and for young LGBT people to be victims of mental abuse at a critical stage of development. 50 years on from the decriminalisation of homosexuality, the practice of gay cure therapy is proof we still have far to go.