Pride group says ex-gay meeting with government on gay conversion therapy ‘should not have happened’

An LGBT group says a high level meeting between the UK government and an ex-gay delegation on conversion therapy will have a negative impact on their members’ health.

Thursday, 25th November 2021, 4:00 am
Updated Thursday, 25th November 2021, 10:48 am

Molly Farrell, Heath and Wellbeing Officer with Mid Ulster Pride, was speaking after it was revealed that Co Down ex-gay leader Dr Mike Davidson led a delegation to lobby officials in the Government Equalities Office (GEO) in Westminster, which is helping frame legislation on gay conversion therapy.

Mr Davidson, who leads the Core Issues Trust, confirmed yesterday that he led a delegation of ten ex-gay people to meet officials in the department in June, in a bid to challenge a complete ban on such therapies.

“We met two members of what they called the ‘Conversion Therapy’ team,” Mr Davidson told the News Letter. He said he it was a “productive” meeting and broke new ground for recognition of the ex-gay community by central government.

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Access to the highest levels of government by ex-gays will have a negative impact on the mental health of the LGBT community, it is claimed. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye

However Molly Farrell from Mid Ulster Pride said that seeing these discussions continues to add to the isolation of LGBT people they are trying to reach out to. “These kinds of engagement especially from the government has a continuous negative impact on the mental well-being of many LGBTQ people, and shouldn’t be happening,” she told the News Letter. “We respect people’s views, understand their opinions however we encourage public to think about these actions and the consequences that it might have on vulnerable people.”

On Tuesday, Trans Activism UK, a group of trans and non-binary people, protested at a conference in Westminster on conversion therapy by The International Federation for Therapeutic and Counselling Choice which was chaired by Mr Davidson.

He said the conference was presenting new scientific evidence to the government which called into question an earlier report on the issue commissioned by the GEO.

“Government research continues to typically ignore the experience of those who have left homosexual and trans living, and who no longer identify as LGBT,” he told the News Letter. “The fact is the Government and our mental health bodies defy the right of individuals to plan their own sexual pathways and identities. More dangerously it denies children the right to live according to their religious values.”

A ban on conversion therapy is “unsafe” he said, partly because it relies on research which claims it is harmful. However this research fails to understand that some people bring pre-existing suicidal feelings to conversion therapy sessions, he added.

Meanwhile, a Labour MP said yesterday that if the Government allows informed consent for gay conversion therapy it will permit abuse and “risks introducing consent defences to other forms of abuse like domestic violence”. Kate Osborne MP said 51% of conversion therapy happens in religious settings and that “adult victims” often undertake it voluntarily.

But Minister for Women and Equalities Liz Truss responded: “What is important is that we make sure that people are not coerced into conversion therapy.” She said it was “also important that we protect freedom of speech, [and] the ability for adults to consent”.

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