A comprehensive international review of over a dozen studies has shed light on the persistent issue of conversion therapy faced by the LGBTQ+ community. Conversion therapy, a harmful practice aimed at changing an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity, continues to affect a significant portion of LGBTQ+ people, according to the study. Despite being widely condemned by psychological and medical organizations and banned for minors in 22 U.S. states, its prevalence remains concerning.
The study, led by Travis Salway, an assistant professor of health sciences at Simon Fraser University, is the first international systematic review of its kind. Analyzing 14 survey studies conducted between 2011 and 2020 in countries including the U.S., Canada, Australia, Colombia, South Korea, and the United Kingdom, the researchers found that the proportion of LGBTQ+ individuals reporting experiences of conversion therapy ranged from 2% to 34%, with a median of 8.5%.
Transgender individuals reported higher rates of conversion therapy than gays and lesbians. The study also highlighted disparities in the prevalence of conversion therapy among racial minorities and Indigenous North Americans, emphasizing historical factors contributing to these differences.
The findings underscore the urgent need for stronger policies and educational efforts to combat conversion therapy and protect LGBTQ+ individuals from this harmful practice. Dr. Jack Drescher, a New York psychiatrist and prominent advocate against conversion therapy, emphasized the significance of addressing this issue, even if it affects just one person.
Despite some progress in opposing conversion therapy, the study’s authors highlighted that more work is needed to standardize the definition of conversion therapy and explore its ties to religious ideologies. The harmful psychological effects associated with conversion therapy, such as severe distress, depression, substance abuse, and suicide attempts, emphasize the urgency of eradicating this practice.
As the LGBTQ+ community continues to grapple with the persistence of conversion therapy, advocates and policymakers must work together to enact meaningful change and protect the rights and well-being of all individuals, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.