On Wednesday January 30th 2013, Dr Joseph Berger, a Canadian therapist, and Mike Davidson, who was disgracefully thrown out of UKCP and its affiliation the British Psychodrama Association, held a meeting in Parliament in an attempt to justify their illicit “gay to straight conversion “therapy”. Was this a meeting of enlightenment or was it jst an attempt to claw free publicity and shout down at critics? We at Hull and East Yorkshire LGBTLabour Network+ believe it to be the latter, but don’t just take our word for it.

Let’s take the opinion of someone who was present at this farce shall we? Dr Claudio Pestana, who saw everything that was needed to see of these conversion therapists. Firstly, Dr Pestana noted that the packed committee room was actually full of people who defended conversion therapists’ beliefs, not surprisingly given that the press release for this meeting only went out five days prior, and that our MP, Dina Johnson was given 40 minutes notice. One would have thought that if these people wanted a balanced debate that they would personally invite an MP to the commons who has spoken about conversion therapy, but that was never going to happen. Coincidence? No way. Dr Pestana is of the impression that this meeting was a mere platform for Core Issues Trust and Christian Concern to put forward their argument, and an attempt by Dr Michael Davidson to justify his professional conduct. The inquiry into this takes place soon.

Furthermore, the public present seemed to attack the arguments of human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, it was like they were trying to expose weaknesses in his argument, by trying to tell the “packed” room his current and past views on human sexuality were different. Now, I wonder if they could have been put up to that? After all, if anyone had any views against this practice, they never had long to make sure that they were there to be heard.

Then the God bit came in. Each of those present at the meeting received a pack from Christian Concern, containing an anti gay marriage booklet, the speaking of Jesus Christ in everyday life (yes, this is the same Jesus who said NOTHING about homosexuality), and in an introduction, told the reader that traditional Christian belief is that same sex relationships fall short of God’s purpose in creation. How much harder do they want to make it for God fearing people to come out and lead their lives? Although the introduction does stress that it was not written to convince anyone to change their view of morality when it comes to same sex relationships. Is that so?

Peter Tatchell had it right on the money when he said to the meeting “ the debate isn’t about legitimacy and freedom to offer sexual reorientation therapy, but to change individuals from gay to straight, which represents a homophobic stance”. Mr Tatchell is of course right. If they do it once, they can do it for everyone we’ll hear the crowds scream. Then, we’ll go back to the dark days of the 1950s, where innocent gay people were sterilised by the state for thier “crime”, or, they just kept quiet about it and got married. Of course, there’s no danger there of infidelity, so that is the obviously moral and ethical thing to do, right?

Dr. Berger has an opposing view to that of Mr Tatchell’s, claiming that homosexuality is a concept, and has no biological base, but according to Dr Pestana, Berger’s elaboration of this was rather fuzzy, and any further argument, including whether or not that view legitimises his support for reorientation therapy was vague. Dr Berger then went on to say how it is OK for school children to bully another child for dressing or behaving differently from the others. Mr Berger’s true character?

Dr Pestana commented that “the focus on science was a distraction from the real issue which was the religious argument against non-heterosexuality“, and followed by asking Berger and Davidson “is this the premise on which you offer reorientation therapy”?, but there wasn’t an answer. Dr Pestana followed by asking other questions regarding their religious beliefs, but again, there wasn’t an answer.

To finalise, it seems that Dr Pestana had the same view of this farce as what we did when we first heard about it around 30 minutes before it went ahead, that it would be biased, and that any arguments they could give would be extremely flimsy. What a complete waste of time this whole charade was for people who could have been in the real world, helping those who need it, who had to (no doubt) cancel other arrangements to hear what some nutters believe is morality and freedom of choice. We don’t buy it, nor it seems, do the professionals.


Thank you for visiting our website. My name is Danny Norton, and I joined the Labour Party in 2011, after developing an interest in politics. I travelled to Australia, and developed a keen interest in world affairs following that trip (isn’t it amazing how travel can inspire you?).

I was particularly interested in LGBT issues when it became increasingly apparent that people like me, were being persecuted the world over simply for being who they are. It made me realise that even in today’s tolerant world, I was extremely lucky to live in a country where I could be myself, and that my relationships (for the most part) were recognised as being equal to anybody else’s. It made me think “why am I the lucky one here?” I never understood why gay people were having their lives taken from them in places like Iran, simply because they were attracted to people of the same sex.

This interest coincided with the election of the current coalition government, and I remember thinking how it could be a disaster for the country, and the way things are going, it seems as though that premonition was not misguided. So, following this election result, and the Labour Party’s constant commitment to equality for the LGBT community whilst in office, I decided that I would become a member. Does anyone really believe that if John Major had won the 1997 general election, that LGBT people would have anything like the kind of equality we enjoy today?

So, it was obvious that this was the party that I could relate to and be an active part of.

And it’s something I’ve never looked back on. I’ve met some fantastic people and some who will be life long friends. We also got our current campaign of trying to quash the conversion therapists off the ground, and this campaign is something that is both ethically right and good fun. It’s the kind of hard work that you find very rewarding. And why is it so rewarding you may ask? Because you can make a positive difference to peoples lives, and there is nothing more rewarding than that. Our campaign highlights the need to be proud of who you are, not what a certain few think you should be. If people are never taught to hate themselves in the first place, they have a much better chance of finding happiness and being happy.

I’d never taken an interest in politics before, and I never thought I would EVER become a member of a political party, but, if we can make a positive difference to peoples lives, I know that it’s something I can continue to be proud of and enjoy doing, knowing that I’m doing the right thing and making that positive difference. And as somebody who is just an ordinary guy, no politics degrees etc, I would encourage anyone to do the same. You don’t need any qualifications, just principles and a drive to do what’s right.

I hope my story can inspire you to take that leap. Thank you for reading J

I’m sure for many of you this might seem quite obvious, but here’s some FAQs which have cropped up about our petition that we’ve cleared up with the HoC Petitions Office. I’ll update as and when new issues emerge, and email us if you have any further queries:

1) What should I put in the ‘address’ section? This can be any postable address, so your home address, your university address (if you’re a student) or even your work address. It doesn’t mean an email address and it is compulsory. It has to be a postable UK address and they’d prefer a full address, but after a hectic and confusing day of phone calls with the Commons Petitions office and Clerk of Public Petitions, it turns out we only really need the post code. Please do provide  other details if you can, but the post code is the only neccesary thing.  

2) Do I have to be a UK Citizen to sign this? The text reads “a petition of citizens of the UK”, but E-Petitions are open to any UK residents. If you have a UK address, we welcome your signatures. Residents of other countries are sadly unable to sign, but we really appreciate your enthusiasm all the same.

3) I’ve made a mistake – should I cross it off? This is the weird one. The petitions office for some reason has a major issue with crossed-off or scribbled out words or text, which they claim could invalidate an entire sheet. If someone makes a mistake it’s best to leave the mistake there and have them re-write everything and sign again. However, they are in practice more lenient than they say on the website, so if you’ve already crossed off a mistake and added maybe 8-10 signatures below it, don’t worry.

4) Will you post things to our address? We promise not to use the address you’ve provided for any purposes at all, nor share it with anyone else. All we’ll do is send the completed sheets to Diana Johnson’s office, where they’ll remain until she submits to Parliament. Some political campaigns, I’m aware, like to go down the route of using people’s details to forward them more information. We feel this is completely counter-productive to the cause.

5) Is the return address freepost? Our address isn’t freepost (we tried to do go down this route and use Diana’s office as a freepost address, but sadly this wasn’t allowed). Any completed sheets will have to be sent, with a stamp, to our return address, though of course there’s no need for a 1st class stamp.

6) I disagree with the wording of the petition – can I change it? Pretty obvious, really, but any amendments to the text itself are impossible. If you don’t agree with the precise wording don’t hesitate to email us and I’ll be happy to have a chat. However, please do bear in mind that this petition, once submitted, will not be converted into a Parliamentary Bill and so the actual wording isn’t too important. The aim is to raise the profile of the issue of conversion in Parliament, where it’s virtually never discussed, and in any event we’re hoping to supplement this with an Early Day Motion which will go into more detail about precisely how we want to change things.

7) Can I sign this petition digitally, say with a typed-up address and signature? This is a good question, but unfortunately the answer is no. We need hand-written signatures. You can see our reasons for a paper petition elsewhere on this site, but suffice it to say that a huge batch of written signatures will have a bigger impact than a more abstract online one, which is unlikely to get the magic 100,000 signatures needed to trigger a debate.

8) All signatures must be on a sheet containing the petition text itself: A signature is only valid if it appears on the same page of the text of the petition (the “to the house of commons, we believe etc. etc.” bit). Technically a double-sided petition sheet, with the petition text on one side, is valid, but it’s best to probably just print off the sheets we’ve provided and not try to alter anything . I’m just warning people not to try anything like devising makeshift tables on blank sheets of paper to accompany sheets with the petition text. Unless there’s our full text on the sheet, there’s no way of proving the list of names you’ve gathered are in any way connected with the petition.

9) Can I sign the petition more than once? Err… not really, no. If you have already, though, don’t worry. At worst this will only invalidate that signature, not the whole sheet. I do commend your enthusiasm, though.



As I’m sure all of you reading this already know, Pink News have decided to cover Diana’s support for our group as a front-page story. 

I thought I’d just give an explanation of the most obvious question: why we’ve opted for a paper petition rather than – in the day of the internet – an online one. I also hope to explain why all you reading this should make the effort to sign and help distribute our petition rather than just content yourselves with signing the range of online petitions already available.

Now in my view, earlier and much bigger campaigns against conversion therapy have attracted much support from the usual suspects, but these petitions – aside from a possible presentation to a secretary of state or other high-ranking figure – haven’t negotiated their way through Parliament or attracted nearly enough support from MPs. 

So for us, there was from the beginning no question: we wanted a proper Parliamentary petition, so MPs could see clearly what their constituents thought. We were fortunate to live in the same constituency as such a dedicated and committed MP as Diana Johnson, who quickly agreed to formally submit the petition for us.

The ideal option would have been a hybrid between an Online E-Petition to the Commons and a Paper petition, but unfortunately the powers that be do not allow this.  Ultimately – because we’re a local campaign – we opted for a paper one, but with a return address at the bottom so anyone  in theory can help sign and distribute the petition for us.

I don’t regret this decision. Paper has allowed us to petition far and wide, across university campuses, gay pride parades and around Humberside, to reach many people who would have never thought of signing an online petition; people who weren’t part of campaigning groups’ mailing lists, and who didn’t even know gay conversion was a problem in the UK.  

Paper also means, when Diana submits the petition, that MPs will physically see it. A huge paper batch of many, many signatures really sends a strong message which you really don’t  get with E-Petitions to the Commons unless you get over 100,000 signatures. Next year, we have a guaranteed presence, for a short while, in the House of Commons.

We very much hope that this presence will build on, and lead to, extra things.  So alongside the petition, we’re planning to extend our campaign inside Parliament in numerous ways. We’re currently in the process of contacting MPs about submitting an Early Day Motion against gay conversion in Britain to the House of Commons, and it’s even possible that one kind MP may kindly submit a Private Members’ Bill on it.

When all this is ironed out, we’ll be producing draft letters for constituents to send to their own MPs, asking that they sign the Early Day Motion, distribute the petition and support the Private Members’ Bill.

Until then, we’ll do our bit locally and across the country, but the true extent and breadth of this campaign is entirely up to the people reading this blog post. Even if you just print off a single sheet and have four family members sign it and post back, you’ll go a long way towards helping further our campaign.

But if you go one step further and petition around the streets, at gay pride parades and in university campuses, and even if you talk to complete strangers about the issue of gay conversion in the UK, you too will likely find that the vast majority in this country feel it holds no place in society today. Let’s make sure our MPs know it. 

                    What Tom’s excellent articles are essentially saying is that homophobia is learned behaviour, homosexuality is not. Bigots are not born, they are made. Homophobia is a social disease and it can be cured. Homosexuality is simply how people are . Homosexuals are born that way, it is not a disease and it cannot therefore be cured. Conversion therapy does not work and it does harm. Every professional medical organisation is agreed on that. They are also agreed that attempts to do so may do severe harm to the patient. Even if it could work it should not be tried. The problem with people’s sexuality is with other peoples attitude towards it .

“It is an achievement for our campaign that the Government has, for the first time, condemned the practice. Yet sadly it is prepared to do precisely nothing to prevent it taking place.”

                   Now, prompted by the Parliamentary Questions tabled by Diana Johnson MP, the Government has said that it too is of the same opinion.Sadly, however their answers also showed that the Government is prepared to do precisely nothing about it.

                   It is an achievement for our campaign that the Government has, for the first time, condemned the practice. Yet sadly it is prepared to do precisely nothing to prevent it taking place. This means that our campaign to effectively ban this practice is more urgent than ever. Of course the petition by itself will not achieve this, but it will be a start.Other action will be needed. The first petition to Parliament for Female Suffrage was signed by 1499 male electors. It took campaigners over half a century to achieve their aim and only then after a wide variety of campaigning methods. We cannot afford to wait that long. We may need to use other methods. But signing and presenting this petition,even if you do not agree with every syllable of it, is an essential start. Conversion therapy does not work and it hurts. We must stop it.

By Colin Livett

                    Imagine that you’re a young LGBT person, and you’ve recently made the bold decision to come out to your friends and family. Four months down the line – faced with a lack of acceptance from your parents and peers – you’re regretting it. You may have at some point been one of the over 4500 LGBT victims of hate crime, or one of the 50% of openly gay people in our schools today who are victims of homophobic bullying. Some LGBT people, faced with this shame, end up contributing to the shocking 30-40% of young LGB people who attempt suicide. Others still make a stand and refuse to bow down to their parents. They’re often the ones who are driven out of their homes, contributing to the disproportionately-high number of LGBT rough sleepers on our streets today (25% of rough sleepers in urban areas being LGBT).

                   All of the above figures show that homosexuality is still not fully accepted in British society today. ‘Conversion Therapy’ is just another consequence of this lack of acceptance. It’s what happens when LGBT people come to believe in desperation that it is, in fact, possible to change who they are in order to become accepted by others. They end up going to some some sessions with a “therapist” in the hope that they can “cure” their homosexuality.

                   What we argue is that ideally, LGBT people shouldn’t have to make this choice between their family and their sexuality. Their fears, uncertainties and worries are far better resolved by changing the attitudes of those in Britain who push LGBT people to choose ‘conversion’ in the first place. Homosexuality cannot be cured in Britain, but intolerance can, and bringing an end to conversion therapy in the UK is offers the first and easiest step in this long process of curing intolerance.

                   Despite its greater prominence in the US, Gay Conversion is a very real and present danger in Britain too. The Guardian recently noted a 2009 survey of 1300 British psychiatrists, therapists and psychoanalysts. Over 200 “had attempted to change at least one patient’s sexual orientation, with 55 saying they were still offering such therapy.” Patrick Strudwick, in the Independent, brought the issue into the open with an undercover investigation into the practitioners of gay conversion in the UK, including one, Lesley Pilkington, who was actually part of a professional body, the British Association of Counsellors and Psychotherapists (BACP). He also noted how British gay conversion groups – taking a leaf out of American organisations’ books – are seeking various funding streams and in some cases are even getting patients via the NHS, with Pilkington getting most of her clients through NHS GP’s surgeries. 

                   But conversion therapy has only ever received occasional and rarely focussed media attention in Britain, and therapists who practice gay conversion have always been able to operate within the grossly under-regulated Psychotherapy profession. I can’t stress “under-regulated“ enough. We’re currently in the ludicrous position where the two main professional bodies for psychotherapists, the BACP and UK Council for Psychotherapists (UKCP), have now made statements condemning conversion therapy as both un-medical and indeed potentially harmful. If you’re part of one of these groups – like Lesley Pilkington initially was, before the BACP struck her off – you’ll rightly face disciplinary action for offering conversion therapy. But unlike other medical sectors, there’s nothing in law saying you have to be part of a professional body to carry out psychotherapy. Despite what readers might assume, “psychotherapy” in Britain is thus a completely meaningless term: anyone in Britain can call themselves a psychotherapist and engage in some of the most heinous of practices unmolested, without being part of a professional body.

                   This ludicrous oddity of under-regulation obviously hurts far more people than just LGBT people undergoing “conversion” therapy. It’s a problem for any consumer who makes the not unreasonable assumption that by signing up with a psychotherapist, they’re getting something somehow professional or effective. The Daily Mail of all papers has exposed the disturbing case of Derek Gale, an Arts therapist who sexually abused his patients. Despite being officially-banned by the legally-recognised body that regulates Arts therapy, he was able to continue operating by re-designating himself as a psychotherapist. 

                   There is thus a medical principle to this entire debate about conversion therapy. The term “therapist” or “psychotherapist” conveys an inherent legitimacy to the practitioner which is sadly sometimes illusory. We’re meant to believe our therapists, GPs and physicians will help cure diseases, deal with health issues or resolve emotional problems, yet the under-regulated status of the psychotherapy sector, and the often inadequate training of doctors and psychotherapists in dealing with LGBT patients, contradicts this belief. If you’re a psychotherapist, and a gay person uneasy about their sexuality comes to your clinic, you’re going to do a lot better dealing with the uneasiness and not their sexuality. If their parents and friends won’t accept them, you tell them that it is the others who are in the wrong, just as you’d reassure a victim of domestic violence, still clinging to some form of false trust in their aggressive partner, to have some self-confidence. To peddle a fake cure is to pander to the culprits, and actually makes the problem worse both for the individual, and for society in the long-run. Offer conversion, and you’re telling a vulnerable individual, 

                   Sadly, under the current system there’s no chance of bringing those who offer such ineffective, harmful and un-medical treatments as conversion therapy to justice. In 2007, Labour produced plans – which it never implemented – to regulate psychotherapy. The current government have explicitly told us they have no such intentions to regulate the sector. It’s in the interests of more than just LGBT people that we work to close this ridiculous loophole. 

                   This – the question of what medical professionals, with obligations to heal their patients, should be permitted to do – is the central issue in the debate over gay conversion therapy. It’s a debate which has been completely sidestepped by pro-conversion organisations like the Core Issues Trust, who simplify the whole issue down to a narrow argument over the rights of LGBT people to “choose” to change their sexuality. They deny accusations that conversion therapy rests on the assumption that homosexuality is a disease and stress that it’s just a way of changing an attribute. Just like plastic surgery, it should be available to patients who freely choose to do it. As there’s no concrete evidence to suggest sexuality can’t be changed, they argue, you can’t ban the practice.

                 Core Issues thus provide absolutely no defence to the notion that professionals, with fancy titles like “psychotherapist”, should be allowed to practice conversion. Nor do they address the issue of what, for professionals, might be considered proper medical practice – of what actually resolves anxieties for patients, and how professionals should be trained to deal with these anxieties. Permitted practice for professionals should mean more than allowing psychotherapists to conduct therapies for which there was no evidence they didn’t work. Even by their own logic, conversion should be severely restricted in the professional sector. 

                   However, I’d maintain this issue  demands further action beyond simple regulation and training for professionals. Conversion is never a “choice” because we all know deep down that the apparent ‘choice’ LGBT people make to convert their sexuality should not be considered independently of the abusive and damaging social context of homophobia in which they find themselves. There’s an interesting philosophical question here: how would you feel if conversion actually worked? What would you say if organisations freely offered sexuality “switches” just like plastic surgery? 

I’d hazard to suggest that if gay conversion were effective, this issue of cause-and-effect would be brought straight into the open: we’d be faced with the prospect of LGBT people being forced by peer pressure into undergoing ‘conversion’, and it’d be clear to any observer that we wouldn’t be dealing with some kind of ‘neutral’ swinging door where people would freely choose between ‘gay’ or ‘straight’ but a one-way conversion process: few would go through the ‘straight’ to ‘gay’ door, and as more and more LGBT patients opted for conversion, the apparent unacceptability of homosexuality would be reinforced ever more. In turn you’d see more abuse, more conversion, and more suffering.

                   This is one of the great tragedies of the case about conversion therapy: a failure to see the bigger picture. When I watched Stacey Dooley’s recent visit to the families of young Americans undergoing conversion therapy on BBC Three, I felt sympathy for more than just those forced by their friends and family to undergo conversion. One father, with clear sincerity, cited his son’s attempted suicides as a reason for his forcing conversion therapy on him, tragically unaware of the relationship between the two. Nicolosi, in the same programme, justified his stance that all homosexuality was caused by a gulf between parents and their children with reference to the fact that all his gay patients had a poor relationship with their mothers and fathers. It obviously hadn’t dawned on him that only those parents who allowed their children’s sexuality to drive a wedge between them would bother to seek his help.

                   So in a rather perverse way, the pro-conversion lobby is quite fortunate that their quack practices only ever bring tears and agony to the people they’re imposed on. They can count themselves lucky that they’ve managed to engage thousands of people around the world in a vicious circle of sometimes endless self-doubt and self-criticism, without any of their supposed ‘issues’ ever being resolved. Years of people’s lives are wasted merely avoiding who they are, shattering their confidence and their drive. If the situation were any different, people would immediately become aware of the dangerous cliff-edge that allowing gay conversion truly puts us on. I’m quite confident under these circumstances that it wouldn’t be permitted to happen.

                   Some months ago, our local group had a vote on its preferred priority campaign, out of three great choices. It was conversion therapy which won the day and captured the support of the most members. If I was to surmise at a reason why, it’s because the continued practice of gay conversion in the UK really gets to the root of homophobia in our modern society. Making Britain a more tolerant country today means more than giving rights and respect to those confident enough to be openly gay, with gay marriage or an equal age of consent. It also means giving those without the confidence and the voice the self-assurance to believe in themselves. It means telling those who choose to abuse such people to change their attitudes and accept their peers for who they are. 

                   Ending conversion therapy will do more, therefore, than liberate a few hundred LGBT people. So long as gay conversion remains a practice, hiding behind the legitimacy of legality, it lends credence to the school bully, the intolerant parent or the violent perpetrator of a gay hate crime. It gives LGBT people on the verge of suicide no solace or comfort whatsoever. 

                   Government will never be able to police every household or thwart every school bully, but government can change attitudes in a simpler and easier way: by effectively ending gay conversion therapy. Do this, and you deny many the logical justification for their bigotry and prevent parents from considering conversion a viable avenue for their children. Help us in persuading government to end this practice, and you offer LGBT people suffering abuse, and thinking the darkest thoughts, the chance to cling on to one bright prospect: that they could one day be happy and content, with their friends and families, being who they want to be.


                    Despite the stereotypes, the practice of gay cures is surprisingly prevalent in the UK. The first major mainstream media coverage of the practice came in 2010, when Patrick Strudwick conducted an undercover investigation into gay conversion in Britain. He received treatment for being gay from a number of psychotherapists, one of whom, Lesley Pilkington, was then a member of a professional body, the British Association of Counsellors and Psychotherapists (BACP). 

This revelation led to Pilkington’s eventual suspension from the BACP pending “extensive training and professional development”, but not before a very arduous fight on the part of Strudwick to get the issue investigated by the BACP – a fight which, Strudwick later stressed in a Guardian article, most gay sufferers of conversion just wouldn’t have had the resilience to pursue.  A psychiatrist called Paul Miller also offered Strudwick conversion sessions through Skype. Strudwick complained to the General Medical Council (GMC) about him, but they let him off without even warning him or conducting a hearing.  

                   Strudwick also noted how British gay conversion groups – taking a leaf out of American organisations’ books – were seeking various funding streams through universities and academic organisations. Pilkington also claimed to be getting most of her clients through NHS GP’s surgeries. He exposed the undercurrent of gay conversion practice in the UK, a Guardian article since noting how, “a 2009 survey of 1,300 therapists, psychoanalysts and psychiatrists found more than 200 had attempted to change at least one patient’s sexual orientation, with 55 saying they were still offering such a therapy.”

                  The Telegraph, moreover, has been more favourable to Lesley Pilkington’s story, and a Jewish school in London was accused of advertising a gay cure group to its students in January 2012. 

                   Exposures like Strudwick’s – and California’s success in banning conversion therapy for teenagers – have resulted in continued, if sporadic, mainstream media coverage, and there is now finally an overwhelming level of condemnation of Reparative Therapy from professional bodies in Britain. In 2010, the BMA declared conversion therapy harmful by a two-thirds majority in their conference, and called on the Royal College of Psychiatrists to condemn it. The Royal College of Psychiatrists, duly obliging, now maintains a page on its website with details about the practice, noting the strong evidence that sexuality can’t be changed and that conversion therapy can harm patients. The Pan-American Health Organisation (PAHO)/WHO released a report condemning Conversion Therapy as a proper medical practice in 2012; in light of the fact that homosexuality isn’t a disease, it emphasised, there was no medical need for a cure.

                   Most crucially, in 2010 another professional body for psychotherapists, the UK Council for Psychotherapists (UKCP), issued a statement condemning the practice of “conversion therapy”. They dedicate a page of their website to details of the practice, which includes videos from previous victims.It took two years for the body Pilkington was associated with and the other main professional psychotherapy organisation, the BACP, to make a statement against conversion therapy, but their statement now means that the two main professional organisations for psychotherapists within Britain, along with the BMA and Royal College of Psychiatrists, now condemn Reparative Therapy.

                   Statements that conversion therapy doesn’t work are even coming in from previous practitioners. The leader of a global conversion group, Exodus International, caused outrage amongst his peers by admitting that, in most cases, homosexuality can’t be cured. Jeremy Marks, a gay man and leader of a British gay conversion group in the 1980s-1990s, came to realise that gay conversion didn’t work and now his group helps support same-sex relationships. Robert Spitzer, however, has been the most prominent scalp for the anti-conversion movement. He had played a key part in getting the American Psychological Association to stop classifying homosexuality as a disorder in 1973, but in a 2001 study he argued that conversion was possible for 13% of homosexuals. For proponents of gay conversion (who presumably hadn’t actually checked the full details of the study), this vindicated everything they were doing. His was one of only two major inquiries into the practice (the other concluding that conversion had little effect and in fact did considerable harm). He now admits his study was “fatally flawed”, meaning pro-conversion groups have virtually no academic justification to cite for their practices.

                   Unfortunately, however, psychotherapy is still a very poorly-regulated profession. Anyone can still call themselves a psychotherapist, without being part of a professional body, and get away with a shocking level of abuse. The Daily Mail, indeed, has exposed the disturbing case of Derek Gale, an Arts therapist who sexually abused his patients. Despite being officially-banned by the legally-recognised body that regulates Arts therapy, he was able to continue operating by re-designating himself as a psychotherapist.

                    In 2007, Labour produced plans to regulate psychotherapy, but the Tories have no such intentions. What this means is that until the government bring in proper regulation in the psychotherapy sector, conversion therapists will be able to carry on operating outside professional bodies like the BACP and UKCP, whose statements, legally, have no meaning.

                   The extended media coverage has prompted religious groups and others to strike back. In California they’re challenging the conversion ban in the courts, just like they managed to briefly ban gay marriage there just after it was made legal. In Britain a group called Core Issues is distributing their own petition and trying to present their case in as moderate-sounding and reasonable way as possible.

                   We are now, therefore, at a watershed moment. Professional groups and even former conversion therapists have come out against the practice, and it’s time to persuade the Government to do the next logical thing and end conversion therapy in Britain. 

The diligent efforts of Hull North MP Diana Johnson have finally led the government to state its views on the practice of gay conversion. A question tabled by Johnson on the 8th November [127067]  asked the government to clarity what its “policy is on conversion and reparative therapies offered to homosexual people by counsellors and psychotherapists.” This received a reply from Health Minister Norman Lamb which is worth quoting in full:

The Department of Health does not condone the concept of therapists offering ‘cures’ for homosexuality. There is no evidence that this sort of treatment is beneficial and indeed it may well cause significant harm, to some patients. It is incumbent on professionals working in the national health service to ensure that treatment and care, including therapy, is provided to every patient without any form of discrimination.


“If someone is suffering a mental health problem, clinicians will try to help patients with whatever is causing them distress. This could involve helping someone come to terms with their sexuality, family arguments over their sexuality, or hostility from other people.


We know from research that the incidence of depression, anxiety and suicide within the gay community is significantly higher than within the heterosexual community and this is why “No health without mental health” identifies lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people as a specific group for whom a tailored approach to their mental health is necessary.”

We can’t claim credit for this. Diana, who will of course be submitting our petition calling for an end to gay conversion at some point next year, took the initiative in asking her this question. One of our members, Colin Livett, is worthy of much praise as he asked her to table a parliamentary question on  the regulation of the psychotherapy sector. She duly obliged to his request, but then went one step further by asking the government to finally state its opinion on the despicable practice of gay conversion itself.

The story of Diana’s significant achievement has rightly received coverage from Pink News, although the government’s response to  her question [127068] asking “what plans the Government has to introduce a mandatory licensing scheme for psychotherapists” has received less coverage, and is crucial to understanding what the Coalition’s real plans are. Their response was as follows:

“The Government have no plans to introduce statutory regulation for psychotherapists. However, the Health and Social Care Act 2012 provides for the Council for Healthcare Regulatory Excellence, which is to be renamed the Professional Standards Authority for Health and Social Care (PSA), to quality assure voluntary registers of unregulated health care professionals and health care workers in the United Kingdom, social care workers in England, and certain students.


“The new accreditation scheme is due to be launched on 3 December 2012. A number of organisations including ones relevant to psychotherapy have already expressed their interest to the Council for Healthcare Regulatory Excellence in becoming accredited voluntary registers.”

So although, as Pink News rightly emphasises, the government has implied that gay conversion is unacceptable, it has no plans to regulate the psychotherapy sector to prevent practicioners from getting away with the wholly unprofessional practice of trying to convert LGBT people. As they also show no signs of doing the alternative to regulation, which is banning conversion therapy outright, they are in the rather precarious position of criticising a practice they don’t actually intend to do anything to stop.

Campaigning against conversion therapy and calling for an end to the practice is thus still absolutely essential. The government has contradicted itself by implying it disapproves of conversion, but in our view that’s just not good enough. 

UPDATE (19/11/12): Diana Johnson MP has now sent us a brief statement in support of our campaign. It reads: “I fully understand and support this petition started by my constituents against the cruel and unnatural practice of conversion therapy. Most people would be astounded that it’s still happening in this century.” She adds that “the Health Minister recently told me that the Coalition Government ‘does not condone’ conversion therapy, but there was no commitment from him to any action on ending it.” She rightly stresses that “does not condone” doesn’t constitute an active condemnation of the practice. Let’s not make the mistake of confusing the two. The government’s stance is still very far away from the explicit rejection of conversion therapy as a legitimate practice by psychotherapy organisations like the BACP.