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LGBTQA+ conversion practices are any activity that attempts to change or suppress an LGBTQA+ person’s sexual or gender minority identity.

In short, these practices attempt to turn LGBTQA+ people straight and cisgender.

Conversion practices often involve a combination of identity and behaviour change efforts, such as avoiding same-sex behaviours or sexual thoughts, or limiting the expression of a person’s gender identity.

However, the goal can also be identity suppression, which can involve an individual denying or refusing to accept their diverse sexuality or gender identity.

There is undisputable evidence that striving for either behavioural change or identity suppression simply does not work, and in addition can have harmful impacts on those who try.

While many people are becoming more aware that these practices are a problem, we know little about the nature of conversion practices in Australia today.

What do Conversion Practices look like?

Many people believe that conversion practices involve formal programs, run by religious organizations

These can include versions of group or one-to-one “therapy” or counselling, conversion camps, or “ex-gay” or “ex-trans” support groups.

These formal programs are often emphasised in media reporting on conversion practices, and are based in the legacy of medical beliefs around sexual minority identities and same-sex behaviours being an illness.

Many people believe that formal conversion practices are a thing of the past or occur only in places such as the United States.

However, a 2021 research study revealed that 1 in 20 LGBTQA+ Australians under the age of 25 had undergone a formal conversion program.

Research does suggest that these formal practices are becoming less common – in line with decreasing social acceptibility of such practices, and reforms to laws and professional codes of practice.

Unfortunately, this does not mean that conversion practices are becoming less common.

They may just be taking different forms. Anecdotal evidence suggests that conversion practices are still highly likely to occur in informal settings within religious environments, including various pastoral care and support groups, and interactions with religious leaders or friends and family.

A wide range of other settings can also host the practices.

These could include faith-based organisations such as schools and hospitals, but also ostensibly secular environments, such as in the offices of counsellors, psychologists, and psychiatrists.

The changing nature of conversion practices means that many LGBTQA+ Australians have likely experienced practices or been exposed to the beliefs that fuel these practices.

Share your experience

We need to have a better understanding of Australians’ experiences of conversion practices in order to support much needed law reforms and social change.

To fulfill this need, we are currently carrying out a national survey and seeking to collect stories from LGBTQA+ Australians about their experiences with religion and faith.

While everyone is welcome to take part, we are especially keen to hear from those who have received the message to change or repress their sexual identity, gender identity, or both.

Or, people who have first hand experience with conversion attempts.

To find out more about you can have your say, heard to our website.

For the latest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ) news in Australia, visit qnews.com.au. Check out our latest magazines or find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

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