New study to support Australian ‘conversion therapy’ survivors


Australia gay conversion Religious Discrimination Act
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A new study led by a La Trobe University academic will investigate the impact of harmful LGBT “conversion therapy” in Australia.

Dr Timothy Jones from the university will head a team researching how to better help survivors of the discredited practices.

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“Previous research has shown that attempts to change the sexual and gender orientation of LGBT people using conversion practices does not work,” he said.

“But little is known about the associated risks, and lasting impact on survivors. Our project aims to change [that].”

Dr Jones said the research will also guide future treatment and support for survivors of “conversion” practices.

“We know that many survivors suffer immense trauma and grief as a result of their experiences,” he said.

“This research will help religious leaders and healthcare professionals provide best practice support to survivors.”

In 2018, a La Trobe University report found faith-based LGBT conversion practices sadly remain within many Australian religious communities.

Now Dr Jones will lead the research team from the Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society (ARCSHS) at La Trobe and Macquarie Universities.

The Victorian Government, the Australian GLBTIQ Multicultural Council and the Brave Network are funding the project.

The terms “gay conversion” or “ex-gay” therapies describe the discredited practice of trying to “change” sexual orientation using psychological or spiritual means.

Victoria, the ACT and Queensland are among the states pledging to ban the practices. But advocacy groups say education campaigns explaining the harms are also needed.

In 2018, conversion therapy survivors and allies penned the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Change Efforts (SOGICE) Survivor Statement.

It calls on Australia to end the practices by not just banning them, but also counteracting its influence in schools, mental and public health settings and other areas.

Conversion therapy survivor told he ‘needed healing’

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One participant in the 2018 study recalled undergoing extreme “aversion” therapy in the 1980s. This involved ice baths and electroshock therapy.

However another survivor described “insidious and unrelenting” ex-gay messaging “eating away” at their wellbeing and self-worth over a long period of time.

Another participant said he was “earnestly seeking to build a life that would honour my deep faith” during his twenties. But his religious leaders claimed he was “sexually broken” and needed “healing”.

“I tried for many years, with great passion and desire for change – and nothing worked,” he said.

“Not only is gay conversion therapy completely ineffective, it’s also incredibly unsafe. It did a huge amount of psychological damage to me.

“And I also know that I hurt other people deeply along the way as well because I was so out-of-sync with who I really was. However now I happily know that I’m gay. I’m not broken, and I’m not in need of healing.”

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