Nothing to Cure: Homosexuality, Trans* Identity and Conversion Therapy

Some people still believe that being gay, bisexual or trans* is a disease. Conversion therapies are designed to “cure” sexual orientation or gender identity. What are these treatments? How can people protect themselves from being forced into this form of “therapy”?

A conversion treatment is an attempt to change a person’s non-heterosexual orientation (for example homo- or bisexuality) or trans* identity and force them into sexually abstinent, heterosexual or gender-conforming behaviour through “therapeutic” or spiritual interventions. 

Advocates of conversion treatments often use the term “reparative therapies.” The terms “therapy” and “treatment” are misleading on two counts: Firstly, the measures used are not scientifically recognized as proper methods for treating or alleviating any ailments, and secondly, there is no ailment that needs healing. 

Are conversion treatments legal in Germany?

A partial ban on conversion therapies has been in effect since June 24, 2020. According to this partial ban, conversion treatments are expressly prohibited for children and adolescents. The law also applies to adults who have been forced to undergo “treatment” or have consented to the “treatment” under circumstances of pressure, threat, false or missing information, error or deception. 

What happens/happened during “treatments”?

Conversion treatments differ in degrees of radicalism and the impacts they have on people undergoing the “treatment.” Some practitioners tried and/or try to dissuade lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans* people (LGBT) from living their lives in accordance with their identities by making homo- and trans* negative remarks and attempting to teach them heterosexual and/or gender-conforming skills. Spiritual practitioners, for example, use(d) prayers to (supposedly) control homosexuality. Additionally, until the 1990s, medical practitioners and psychologists in Europe and the US performed brain surgeries and administered hormone treatments, electric shocks and vomit-inducing substances. They also advised gay men to visit female sex workers.

Are conversion treatments dangerous?

Yes. Neither homosexuality nor trans* identity are diseases or disorders, even according to the World Health Organization's globally recognized diagnostic system. “Treatments” to change sexual orientation or gender identity are considered unethical and indefensible. Conversion treatments can cause severe physical and psychological damage such as depression and suicidal tendencies. 

What kind of support is available for people who do not wish to have conversion therapy?

The Federal Centre for Health Education (BZgA) is in the process of setting up a free, multilingual and anonymous online and telephone counselling service in accordance with the legal ban. This service will be available to anyone affected by conversion treatments and/or who is urged to participate in treatments by their environment. Relatives and all people who deal with this topic in professional or private contexts should also be able to contact the service as soon as it is set up. 

LGBTQ counselling centres will provide you with the addresses of competent doctors and psychotherapists who can support you in answering all your questions regarding your sexual orientation and/or gender identity.