We’ve just been kindly contacted by a solicitors’ firm called Laker Legal, who have produced an outstanding infographic. It shows the scale of domestic abuse and debunks some of the myths about the problem. Helpfully, it also sets out what legal help survivors can get, and where you they get it.
A cross-party group of MPs, alongside LGBT Housing Association Stonewall Housing, have tabled an Early Day Motion highlighting the issue of domestic abuse in the LGBT community.
In the run-up to the General Election we think it’s vital that everything be done to raise the profile of this issue, so we’d like to encourage everyone to send the draft letter below to their local MPs asking that they show their support by signing EDM 653. You can also download a Word copy here.
I am writing to you to express concern about the issue of domestic abuse experienced by lesbian, gay, bisexual and/or trans* (LGBT) people, and to ask that you show you share my concerns by signing EDM 653.
I am sure you will know that domestic abuse is a major blight on the lives of heterosexual women. Though much more can and should be done, various public bodies and the press rightly accord priority to highlighting and addressing this issue. Local, regional and national government and the police service invest in public campaigns and other initiatives to reach out to women survivors. Government has just recently announced ring-fenced of £10million funding to Local Authorities to provide women’s refuges – an essential lifeline for so many survivors.
However, I do not feel that enough is being done to address the drastically under-reported problem of domestic abuse in the LGBT* communities. There is now a wealth of evidence that reveals that domestic abuse is at least as high, if not higher, amongst sub-groups of this community. Notably:
A Stonewall survey of lesbian and bisexual women in 2008 revealed that one in four – the same proportion as heterosexual non-trans women – experienced domestic violence.
Another 2011 Stonewall survey of gay and bisexual men found that half of them had experienced at least one incident of domestic abuse from a family member or partner since the age of 16.
A 2010 survey by the Scottish Trans Alliance found that domestic abuse was a concern for the majority of those surveyed.
In 2014, the Roar survey of the experiences of LGBT domestic abuse survivors found that 70% of LGBT survivors did not report the abuse they experienced to any agency or organisation.
This abuse is committed against LGBT people by ex/partners and family members of all genders and sexualities. Abuse, particularly against the younger LGBT survivors, is frequently from family members who are intolerant of their sexual or gender identity.
LGBT people have specific needs which, sadly, are not sufficiently addressed. For instance:
There is no specialist housing provision for LGBT survivors of a similar nature to refuge provision. Generic hostels are frequently unsafe for LGBT clients, with many survivors forced to return home or sleep rough.
Refuge services to lesbian and bisexual women are available, but provision is patchy and is dependent on staff having received training to be able to understand risks and needs of survivors. Many services do not receive funding to provide training on this issue.
Trans-spectrum people face discrimination and exclusion when trying to access all gender-based housing services and safe accommodation.
Gay and Bisexual men are not able to access refuges for women, and men’s hostels do not understand risks and needs of non-heterosexual men.
To make matters worse, there is widespread under-reporting of domestic abuse to the police amongst LGBT people, and a high proportion of those who do report it are not satisfied with the police response.
The Government has not committed funding to provide any LGBT refuge provision in any part of the UK – as they have done with respect to women’s refuges – leaving LGBT survivors at risk of further abuse. LGBT people fall through the gaps, leading to an increase in anti-social behaviour, homelessness, self-harm, suicidal ideation, and a decline of physical and mental wellbeing.
However, a cross-party group of MPs – including Sarah Champion MP (Lab), Caroline Lucas MP (Grn) and Stephen Gilbert MP (LD) – have tabled Early Day Motion (no: 653) to help highlight this problem. It asks that the Government commit ring-fenced funding for LGBT refuges and improve guidance to housing authorities to highlight LGBT-specific needs. I am writing to ask that you, as my local MP, do the following:
Please sign Early Day Motion No: 653.
Please write to the Communities and Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles MP highlighting my concerns, and in particular the need for ring-fenced funding to councils to provide LGBT refuges.
 Stonewall (2008), Prescription for Change: Lesbian and Bisexual Women’s Health Check.
 Stonewall (2011), Gay and Bisexual Men’s Health Survey.
 LGBT Youth Scotland and Scottish Trans Alliance (2010), Out of Sight, Out of Mind.
 Stonewall Housing, Trust for London and LGBT Domestic Abuse Forum (2014), Roar: Because silence is deadly – a report on the experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans* survivors of domestic violence and abuse.
 Stonewall, Domestic Abuse: Stonewall Health Briefing.
The Private Members Bill on Mandatory SRE Inclusive PSHE was presented to the Commons on 24th Oct.
The bill today passed its second reading without a vote being forced and will therefore be given its third reading next month. Diana’s case was strengthened by Tory MP for Shipley, Philip Davis, saying that he was offended by the idea of sex education in schools and that it should be left to the parents. Perhaps he had some bad experiences in school! Diana correctly pointed out that the government should not just ‘sit back and hope’ that parents would talk to their children and that the intention was to reinforce good parenting and not replace it.
It was also made clear in a statement from Diana’s Office to Pink News that her intention was that the national curriculum would address the problems faced by LGBT youngsters.
We obviously wholeheartedly endorse that but would still welcome it being specifically in the bill.
The Select Committee on PSHE and SRE holds its first evidence session on Tuesday 21st October at 9:30. It will be broadcast on Parliament TV. The purpose of this first session is to study academic evidence on sexual health and academic attainment,the effect of recent government action and how the effectiveness of SRE should be measured. A second panel will look at the current quality of PSHE and SRE in Schools, the ways in which schools interact with parents on SRE, and the impact of the current status of the subject.
At least it looks as though the inquiry will be addressing some of the right questions.
On the same day that the Select Committee is to take evidence for the for the first time, Diana Johnson, Labour MP for Hull North is to introduce her Sex and Relationships Education (Curriculum) Bill under the ten minute rule bill.
The bill calls for the Secretary of State to make provision to include education about sex and relationships,resilience against bullying and sexual abuse and ending violence against women and girls in the national curriculum. We of course welcome these provisions but they do not go far enough:
1. There is no provision for SRE to be part of an integrated PSHE programme. The overwhelming view of those organisations supporting SRE provision has been that this is the best way to provide it (see evidence we presented to the Select Committee). This, until a short while ago -until indeed the arrival of Tristram Hunt as Shadow Education Secretary – USED to be Labour’s policy too. It would appear that Mr. Hunt has cast a very long shadow over this bill as he has been implacably opposed to mandatory PSHE.
2. It is good that SRE would be part of the National Curriculum —as we have argued this would give the subject proper status, resourcing and answerability. However, many schools do not have to teach the National Curriculum. is it seriously being argued that youngsters in those schools should be left in ignorance and without protection? Why?
3. The Bill, as drafted, points to the particular problem faced by girls in schools. That is undoubtedly true and it is high time that these problems were tackled. However LGBT youngsters have also faced systematic abuse, bullying , lack of self esteem, mental ill-health and dropping out of school. Some-n desperation continue to turn to conversion therapy.We feel that this well-documented problem should be spelt out as much as that of girls. It is not a specifically LGBT of course —but neither is it spefically a female one. I am sure that such was not the intention.
Diana Johnson has been a doughty fighter for LGBT rights – her record is second to none. But this suggested bill has severe limitations. Is half a loaf better than none? I suppose it depends how hungry you are. But we will continue to campaign for the Full Monty.
This post draws on information from Freedom Of Information (FOI) requests to all 211 NHS Clinical Commissioning Groups in England. It was published in my personal blog on 14 September. It’s a hefty 5000-word piece, but if you want further information, please head over and have a read.
If you’re interested in publicising this information more widely, you must email me first.
Since we started our campaign against gay to straight conversion therapy, the Government has made some very positive moves against the practice of gay conversion. Parties of all colours are now talking far more about the problem.
It’s hard to believe that just a few years ago, none of the voluntary registers which accredit counsellors and psychotherapists – not least the two largest, the BACP and UKCP – had made any statements against the practice. Indeed, one of the conversion therapists who attempted to cure Patrick Strudwick was accredited with the BACP at the time.
Things are much more positive now. Before our campaign kicked off, Strudwick’s therapist was struck off and the BACP and UKCP made positive statements against the practice. Since the onset of our campaign, the Department of Health has moved to take measures against the practice. Lib Dem Health Minister Norman Lamb has arranged for a a joint statement condemning the practice by major counselling and psychotherapy organisations, alongside Stonewall. He’s also promised to monitor and ensure that no NHS bodies commission the therapy for their patients. Awareness of the problem has been raised, and if you go on an NHS choices website describing different types of therapy, there’s now a small section on conversion therapy. It bluntly reassures readers that “sexual orientation is not a mental health problem.”
But this, surely, can’t be the end of it. For one, Norman Lamb has ruled out a ban on the practice because he feels that it may make therapists who want to positively help LGBT patients weary of doing so. As the Guardian quoted him back in April:
“There will be people who want help with coming to terms with their sexuality and need to be able to seek support from a professional,” he said. It was important to avoid a situation where a doctor or therapist felt they could not counsel someone in that situation. “We must not end up with a situation where we end up with people fearing they will be prosecuted.”
Secondly, Norman Lamb has ruled out statutory regulation of counsellors and psychotherapists. This means that people can practice in this sector without being part of professional bodies, like those above, which have made statements against the practice. As he told us during a Westminster Hall Debate about conversion therapy on 20 November 2013:
“We believe that statutory regulation would not be appropriate and the costs to registrants or the taxpayer could not be justified. This is not to say that we are ruling out statutory regulation for this group for ever. We will continue to assess the need for it. I give an absolute assurance about that.”
Thirdly and finally, the Department of Health appears to have carried out no investigations whatsoever as to whether or not the NHS commissions unaccredited counsellors and psychotherapists. We thus don’t know whether it is the policy of bodies which commission counselling and psychotherapy – most especially Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs), which play a major role in commissioning such services following the Coalition’s top-down reorganisation – to only use counsellors and psychotherapists which are accredited to bodies such as the BACP and UKCP.
Working with Diana Johnson MP, we’ve thus made Freedom of Information (FOI) requests to all 211 CCGs in England asking about their policies in this area. The full findings are published in my personal blog and – though it’s a hefty read – I encourage anyone with an interest in this issue to go and skim through it. There’s an interactive map setting out every CCG’s policy.
The findings are troubling. They provide evidence, finally, that some NHS bodies don’t check whether or not counsellors and psychotherapists are accredited with professional bodies before they use them. As I highlight in my blog, I believe this poses considerable problems when it comes to tracking unscrupulous practitioners and ensuring they don’t gain posts elsewhere in the NHS.
To me, these findings have much broader implications for the services people can expect to receive in the burgeoning mental health sector. Conversion therapy is a tiny part of this issue, and there is a risk of over-stating the issue.
Nevertheless, I feel the information I’ve gathered shows that the NHS needs to beef up the way it commissions counselling and psychotherapy. Sure, we now know that if you’re a member of a professional body and you’re found to practice conversion therapy, you should be struck off by your professional body. But if NHS bodies don’t check with professional bodies to ensure all practitioners are accredited – or, to use the NHS jargon, compel “Providers” they “commission” to check all their practitioners are accredited – then how would you know that a therapist you employed had been struck off?
This really undermines the ability of patients maltreated by unscrupulous practitioners – whether it be through conversion therapy, or any other form of maltreatment – to achieve proper redress. The only way you can achieve proper justice is if you compel all public bodies to only commission accredited therapists – which can best be achieved by making counselling and psychotherapy a statutorily-regulated profession – and by implementing a law to ban conversion therapy.
Norman Lamb’s view that a ban would prevent good therapists from helping seems rather perplexing. Given that many US states have now implemented bans on this practice, a great body of evidence will soon emerge as to whether this is true or not, and whether US therapists have found the ban a barrier to genuinely helping their patients explore their sexuality in a positive and constructive manner. If Lamb thinks this, he should at least commit the DoH to monitoring how the situation develops in the US.
My blog post goes into more detail on the measures which need to be taken. But to cut a long story short: until the Government does takes measures to ban the practice and regulate counseling and psychotherapy, our fight goes on.
We got in touch with the Trust applauding them for their campaign and received the following warm reply from Keiran Aldred in their organisation:
“We really appreciate your support We agree that SRE should be effectively incorporated into PSHE for all schools which currently it is far from. Without it being integrated and compulsory schools will not be able to plan effectively, provide the resources needed for lessons and teacher training, or ensure there is enough time in the teaching calendar for it to be taught correctly.”
We could not agree more and hope that both Mr Gove and Mr. Hunt are listening. We are eternal optimists!
It has been announced that there is to be an inquiry into PSHE and SRE by the Hose of Commons Education Select Committee. The committee has asked for written submissions by 6th June 2014 on the following questions:
+ Whether PSHE ought to be statutory,either as part of the national curriculum or some other means of entitlement
+ Whether the current accountability system is sufficient to ensure that schools focus on PSHE
+To explore the quality of the overall provision of SRE in schools and the quality of its teaching , includung in primary schools and academies.
+ Whether recent Government steps to supplement the guidance on teaching about sex and relationships, including consent, abuse between teenagers and cyber bullying, are adequate.
+ How the effectiveness of SRE should be measured.
Hull and East Riding Labour LGBT+ Network welcome this inquiry and submitted our own evidence to the Inquiry affirming our support for mandatory PSHE, with updated LGBT-inclusive SRE in all schools. The Hull and East Riding LGBT Forum has done likewise. Let us hope the members are persuaded.
Just in the last few weeks we have had the HIV Positive 19 year old Luke Alexander write an Open Letter to Education Secretary, Michael Gove, saying that “the vast majority of young people have little or no common knowledge about HIV,” despite what is laid down in the national curriculum.
Luke’s concern was borne out in a 2011 survey by the Sex Education Forum, which showed that 1 in 4 young people learned little or nothing about HIV at school. Luke is accusing Gove of negligence in not ensuring adequate SRE throughout the education system.
Now we have the case of a former Hull schoolgirl who was raped at 14 and is petitioning David Cameron to make rape and sexual abuse awareness mandatory throughout the education system . We fully support her and wish her well. Her petition can be accessed via the Change.org website, and we urge you to sign it.
On Wednesday 20th November at 4pm, we’re proud to announce that Parliament “finally” opened its doors to a debate on the heinous problem of conversion therapy, at Westminster Hall. You can find the full text of this 30-minute debate on Hansard here. The debate was arranged by Sandra Osborne MP, the same person who tabled our group’s Early Day Motion against conversion therapy, and we’d just like to place on record our immense gratitude for the excellent, outstanding work she’s done on this issue.
My main reason for writing this blog is just to set out in detail some of the main points covered in the debate and to say a bit about our group’s role in it. This isn’t going to be a particularly short, easy-to-read (or indeed much-read) blog post I’m sure, but I hope it’ll give as comprehensive an account as possible about everything that happened.
After the Early Day Motion was tabled in June 2013 and our petition submitted in July, we were keen to do something else when Parliament came back after the summer recess to sustain the high profile of conversion therapy. We thought of doing either a Westminster Hall Debate or a backbench business debate. Sandra Osborne was contacted about this a few weeks ago and she was very much up to arranging one. We were fortunately helped by the fact that Geraint Davies MP had, soon after becoming aware of the heinous problem of conversion therapy, started his own campaign calling for the regulation of counselling and psychotherapy. Sharon Hodgson MP was also made Labour’s Shadow Minister for Equalities in October’s reshuffle. She was very concerned about the problem and, by sheer coincidence, contacted Diana Johnson’s office to explore arranging a Debate just as we were sorting things out with Sandra Osborne.
It was very quickly organised and a raft of MPs from all parties were contacted. We were initially hoping for a full 90-minute Westminster Hall Debate but, unfortunately, ended up with a shorter, 30-minute one – and as you can see from the transcript, this left things a bit tight. In the end, we think at least eleven MPs showed up – though because not all spoke and as Hansard doesn’t record attendees, it’s not 100% clear. These were:
– Sandra Osborne MP (Lab, Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock).
– Diana Johnson MP (Lab, Hull North and Shadow Crime and Security Minister).
– Sharon Hodgson MP (Lab, Washington and Sunderland West and Shadow Equalities Minister).
– Geraint Davies MP (Lab, Swansea West).
– Nia Griffith MP (Lab, Llanelli).
– Crispin Blunt MP (Con, Reigate).
– Simon Kirby MP (Con, Brighton Kemptown).
– Iain Stewart (Con, Milton Keynes South).
– Mike Freer (Con, Finchley and Golders Green).
– Andrew Percy (Con, Brigg and Goole).
– Stephen Gilbert (LD, St Austell and Newquay).
– Norman Lamb (LD, North Norfolk and Minister of State for Care and Support), responding for the government.
Sandra Osborne kicked off the debate by setting out the all-too-familiar issues with the practice of conversion therapy before starting to ask the government a set of questions about how they plan to address the problem. Here’s a summary of her key questions to the Minister:
– The Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED) mandates the public sector to pro-actively drive forward improvements to reduce inequalities for protected minorities, such as LGBT people. This is a vital legislative vehicle for ensuring that the right form of therapy – namely gay affirmative therapy, which starts from the premise that sexuality isn’t an illness and can’t be changed – is offered to LGBT patients, and embedded into the training regimes of university undergraduate courses and professional training sessions. Affirmative therapy isn’t about steam-rolling over a patient’s religious beliefs – quite the opposite. If an LGBT patient has religious convictions, this is about reconciling them.
– Psychotherapy needs to be regulated to ensure that nobody can call themselves one without being part of a professional body. But, in the absence of any willingness to countenance such moves, the least the government could do is ensure that psychotherapists who are not members of professional bodies are not commissioned for services by the NHS, and that there is a clear policy against offering services to non-accredited counsellors and psychotherapists. Government can also implement Practitioner Full Disclosure (PFD): a legal requirement for all therapists – whether in an unregulated profession or not – to make public their full professional history, including any professional bodies they have been struck off from, to better-inform their patients. Last but not least, we have to ensure that the complaints procedures in place for psychotherapist professional bodies are simple, friendly and effective – no good having a complaints procedure if it’s overly-formal or overly-bureaucratic, or if (as some of the psychotherapist organisations do…) they charge members of the public if their complaint is rejected.
– Finally, conversion therapy, at the very least, has to be banned for under-18s and we should certainly explore a full ban. This is part and parcel of a wider need to create what US conversion therapy sufferer Matthew Shurka has called a “red flag”. Restrictions on advertisements are another part. I could expand on this: we might accept that enforcing a full ban might not work in practice, or that a ban for under-18s will still keep conversion therapy for over-18s legal, but that’s not the point. This is all about making sure that everybody knows how heinous, harmful and ineffective conversion therapy is and steering any anxious, vulnerable LGBT people away from going down this route – anything that works towards this goal is helpful.
The Minister’s response was frankly disappointing. He failed to address most, if not virtually all, of the above issues, saying nothing about banning or restrictions on advertisements and indeed nothing on the Public Sector Equality Duty – so two key planks of the debate there just ignored. He was also very poor on the specifics of psychotherapy regulation and all of the ways (set out above) that they could make the voluntary register more effective. Yet he fully acknowledged that the voluntary register put forward by the government didn’t – and wasn’t intended to – prevent unregulated psychotherapists from practicing. If I could squeeze out a few of the “arguments”, at a push I’d say the following. I copy my counter-points, where relevant, in the footnotes:
– Regulation of psychotherapy won’t address the problem of conversion therapy. Even if psychotherapy were fully-regulated people can, after all, just practice outside this sector. This is a key argument and I’d have expected the Minister to have used it more – there is clearly a debate to be had about regulation, and what form it takes.
– It’s already against NHS rules to commission conversion therapy, and any GP doing can be struck off already. The powers are already there. Moreover, he has found no evidence that Clinical Commissioning Groups or other parts of the NHS have commissioned conversion therapy. 
– The main UK psychotherapy organisations have made statements against this, and he is currently consulting with them about making a joint statement against the practice.
– But there seem to be some potential moves on psychotherapy. The government is due to meet with a range of relevant professionals in spring next year, and will also be writing to statutory regulators subject to the progress of the Private Members’ Bill. There appears from his answer to be some prospect for some of the broader issues about inequalities in healthcare and mental health provision for LGBT people, as well as strengthening the voluntary register, to be discussed there. In his answer, he also doesn’t rule out the prospect of psychotherapy regulation in the future – a key concession. Lamb has also committed to meeting with the MPs who attended the debate to discuss the problem.
So where do we go from here? I think the Minister’s response leaves us with a bit of an opening so there’s scope to do quite a bit. The first response should be to write a joint letter to Norman Lamb setting out, in full and with absolute clarity, exactly what the issues with conversion therapy are – and exactly how it can be regulated. This will cover the gaping holes left in Lamb’s response at Westminster Hall and allow a measured, considered response to be made.
 My chief problem with this argument, however, is that unlike other professions which aren’t regulated like, for example, “life coach”, I think “psychotherapist” has a bit more ‘umph to it. People inherently trust the title of “psychotherapist”, quite apart from any qualifications the individual has. Fully-regulating this name will thus have an effect in driving people away from conversion therapy precisely because it would protect a profession which sounds more legitimate than other names out on the market. But there is more to this argument. As Sandra briefly alluded to in her speech, there is a historic link between psychotherapists and conversion therapists. A branch of psychotherapy has continued to propagate conversion. So regulating psychotherapy has an added benefit in this regard. If it were not the case – if dealing with psychotherapy through regulation was to have no effect at all – then why, pray tell, would Core Issues (as Sandra said!) have gone to the effort of lobbying every MP in the Commons to vote against Geraint Davies’ Private Members Bill?
 This appears to misunderstand how much conversion therapy might be “commissioned”. Certainly, when I’ve said “commissioning”, formal commissioning at the Clinical Commissioning Group level isn’t quite what I had in mind. There is surely scope for informal de facto passing-on of patients to conversion therapists at local level without anything being written down. That kind of “commissioning” definitely took place in the 1990s if an academic survey of conversion therapists is to believed; and Lesley Pilkington told Patrick Strudwick in 2009-10 that she got her clients from a GP’s surgery – either she’s lying, or they were “commissioned” informally in exactly this way, because they sure as hell didn’t show up on any NHS records of what was commissioned.
I’m pleased to announce that all the sheets for our petition against gay-to-straight conversion therapy have finally been gathered together and added up, and we’ve collected some 2037 signatures. We’ve also received messages of support from individuals and organisations across the country.
Diana Johnson MP will formally submit the petition on Monday 15th July. Because of unforeseen circumstances Diana’s had to move the date back from the planned date of tomorrow. This is completely beyond our control, but this does mean that any late petition sheets CAN still be submitted to her Parliamentary address, which is simply Diana Johnson MP, House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA.
This certainly isn’t the end of our campaign. Our Early Day Motion against conversion therapy will remain available for MPs to sign, and has already attracted support from over forty MPs. If you haven’t already, please do lobby your MP to sign this EDM using our draft letter.
In the coming parliamentary year, there’s also the prospect of a backbench business debate and/or a Westminster Hall debate on conversion, and there is a small chance next year that a friendly MP will win the ballot to table a Private Members Bill on gay-to-straight conversion therapy. The Coalition Government will also be conducting a public consultation on the future for LGBT equality after the gay marriage act and we’ll certainly use this to draw their attention to gay conversion therapy amongst many other issues, such as homophobic bullying.
Last but not least, next year, this network will campaign for better LGBT-friendly mental and physical health treatment, tackling some of the atrocious inequities which are reflected in Stonewall’s recent Gay and Bisexual Men’s Health Survey. For us, this seems to follow on neatly from gay conversion therapy. Indeed, in many ways conversion therapy is just a reflection of this wider issue. It’s easy to forget that there are still, in the medical and therapy professions, individuals practicing who received their training when homosexuality was considered a mental illness. Certainly the majority were trained in the era of Section 28 and the unequal age of consent.
Forgive us the indulgence, but we think it’s appropriate to end this with a quote from a local hero, the Hull-born gay poet and author, Dan Billany (1913-c. 1943). A gay man in an unaccommodating world, Dan underwent years of struggle over his sexuality, as recorded by Colin Livett in an excellent write-up on our website for LGBT History Month. Sometimes, this struggle saw him undergo his very own “conversion therapy,” believing in vain that marriage would change his sexual preference.
Whilst a Prisoner of War in Italy, Dan found true love in a fellow POW, David Dowie. Yet when he declared his love to Dowie he was rejected, and the two became momentarily estranged. In an effort to preserve his friendship with Dowie, he wrote him an emotional poem. It was here that Dan boldly came to understand and affirm his own sexuality:
“When nature carved my limbs, was I consulted?
Do I control the movement of my blood?
Could I reject the nose so oft consulted?
(An organ I would barter if I could)
Just so, I can’t be cancelled by degree
And love not you because you love not me.”
The poem was enough for David to resume his friendship with Dan, but it’s unknown whether the relationship went any further than this. Neither returned to Britain. They disappeared in 1943, having escaped the POW camp together. No trace has ever been found of their bodies.
If David Dowie did not indeed fall in love with Dan Billany, we can at least rest assured that Dan died alongside a man who, having read that poem, was willing to accept him for who he was. The same was not true for so many others in Britain in subsequent decades. Sadly, for a smaller but still significant portion of the LGBT community, the same is also not true today. As one modern-day sufferer of conversion therapy told our network at Hull Pride last year after he signed our petition,
“I simply want to be happy being who I am.”
This quote, and Dan’s poem, sums up what our campaign has always been about. Far from an illiberal attempt to restrict people’s “choice” to change their sexuality, it’s simply sought to foster wellbeing by moving against a practice which tell people their sexuality is an illness.
When the idea for a campaign on conversion therapy was drawn up over a year ago, we didn’t expect anything like the level of support we’ve received. We just had modest aims for a small, local petition with a few signatures from the local Labour parties. But thanks to press coverage and an immense amount of attention from local non-partisan LGBT groups, this campaign has mushroomed beyond our wildest hopes. On behalf of everyone at the Network: thank you for making this possible.