There’s Global Momentum to Ban Conversion Therapy, But When Will Australia Catch On?

conversion therapy ban australia

This week, a ban on conversion therapy was introduced in Indiana. The state’s first openly gay senator, Democrat J.D Ford, authored Senate Bill 32 which would prohibit counsellors from attempting to alter the sexual orientation or gender identity of people under 18 in Indiana. 

This is a big moment for the American LGBTQ+ community, with Indiana being the home state of Mike Pence, who openly promoted a religious-freedom law that is among the most intolerant toward LGBTQ+ people in the US. 

As Trump’s Vice president, Pence is part of an administration that has opposed nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ+ Americans, banned transgender service members and allowed welfare agencies to reject same-sex prospective parents.

Despite this, 20 US states have passed the ban to date. Senator Ford is taking the next step, by attempting to push the issue past partisan politics and into a bigger, national conversation. 

“Conversion therapy is an archaic and unscientific practice that inflicts incredible harm,” he tweeted on Tuesday, openly expressing his views and showing fearless transparency that quite frankly, we need a bit of here in Australia.

Last year, Queensland and the ACT banned conversion therapy, but we’ve yet to hear of progress in other Australian states. 

After the legalisation of same-sex marriage in Australia on December 9, 2017, you would expect that the majority of Australians understand the necessity of embracing who we are as unique individuals, and that who we’re attracted to is not a choice. 

Not only is that wishful thinking, but an undercover 60 Minutes investigation from 2019 revealed that a form of conversion therapy is still operating in fundamental churches all across Australia, including Melbourne’s CityLife Church.  

Although a national ban on conversion therapy is the necessary step towards actual equality in Australia, there are still people that believe being anything but heterosexual is a “sin”. 

So far, there are only five countries that have passed a national ban on conversion therapy; Malta, Ecuador, Brazil, Taiwan and Germany. 

What is Conversion Therapy?

Conversion therapy involves practices aimed at changing the sexual orientation, gender identity or expression of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and gender diverse people. 

Historically, the methods that attempted to “convert” people were brutal, using things like electric shock therapy, physical beatings and exorcism. Today, churches and organisations tend to focus on more psychological methods via intensive counselling and grooming methods. 

Members of the LGBTQ+ community who have been subjected to conversion therapy are nearly six times more likely to report high levels of depression and eight times more likely to have attempted suicide. 

How You Can Help

Education around conversion therapy is one way to better understand its impact on those subjected to it. Conversion therapy has been documented via many mediums, with film being an easily accessible platform. If you’re seeking to delve deeper into the truth of conversion therapy, here are some resources to watch:

60 Minutes’ Undercover Investigation Into Gay Conversion Therapy in Australia

Boy Erased

The Miseducation of Cameron Post

Speaking out against conversion therapy and standing by a ban is another way to help. The ‘Let’s ban conversion therapy’ movement on Change.org has almost 680k signatures. Head on over to the Change.org page now to sign your name and find out more about the movement. 

If you or anyone you know is struggling and needs support, call Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800 or Lifeline on 13 11 14, both of which provide trained counsellors you can talk with 24/7. You can also speak with someone confidentially at Headspace by calling 1800 650 890 or chat online here. You can also get in touch with QLife, a national service that aims to keep LGBTQI communities supported and connected on 1800 184 527 (3pm–midnight AEST).
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