There are still people who believe homosexuality is a disease. Conversion therapies are designed to ‘fix’ an individual’s sexual orientation. What are these treatments? How can homosexual people protect themselves from being forced to use these therapies?
Conversion therapy is the practice of trying to convert a person’s homosexuality or transgender identity to asexual, heterosexual or gender-conforming behaviour by using therapeutic or spiritual interventions. Advocates of conversion treatments often use the term ‘reparative therapies’. The term ‘therapy’ is, however, misleading on two counts; firstly, these treatments do not offer a scientifically recognized method of alleviating or healing an ailment; and secondly there is no ailment that needs healing.
What happens / happened during treatments?
Conversion therapies differ in their radicalism and the impacts they have on people undergoing ‘treatment’. Some practitioners tried and/or try to dissuade LGBT people from their way of life by making anti-homo, anti-trans remarks and by teaching them heterosexual and/or gender-conforming skills. Spiritual practitioners use(d), for example, prayers to control homosexuality. 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.
What is the purpose of conversion treatments?
Advocates of conversion treatments believe that homosexuality or being transgender is a disease and a moral aberration.
Are conversion treatments harmful?
Yes. The internationally recognized system of diagnosis drawn up by the WHO (World Health Organisation) no longer classifies homosexuality as a “disease” or “disorder”. Treatments intended to change the sexual orientation or gender identity are technically considered as untenable and unethical. Conversion treatments may cause physical and/or mental harm, such as depression and suicide.
What kind of support is available for people who do not wish to have conversion therapy?
If you feel that people around you want to cajole you into conversion treatment, you can contact the regional or national German Medical Association (Bundesärztekammer) and file a complaint to report the people offering conversion therapy. Contact details of competent medical practitioners and psychotherapists can be obtained from LGBTQ counselling centres. These centres will also be able to help you with questions around sexual orientation and/or gender identity.