Government to introduce ban on ‘conversion therapy’ aimed at transgender people

O’Gorman promises legislation banning ‘cruel’ practice will leave no one behind

New legislation is to include a ban on ‘conversion therapy’ practices aimed at transgender people, as well as gay, lesbian and bisexual people, Minister for Children and Equality Roderic O’Gorman has said.

Speaking at an event yesterday calling for a ban on these practices in religious and clinical settings, he said a commitment to introduce such legislation was made in the programme for government and would be delivered.

“It will be a ban that leaves no one behind,” he said.

Conversion therapy was defined at the event, hosted by LGBT Ireland, as "any practice aimed at an individual or group of individuals that has a pre-determined purpose that seeks to change, 'cure' or suppress a person's sexual orientation or gender identity".

Alan Edge, co-ordinator of the Ban Conversion Therapy campaign in LGBT Ireland, said support groups across the State dealing with this issue preferred the term "conversion practices" as "when these sorts of interventions take place, it's not therapy, it is torture".

Mr O’Gorman said he had met people who had been subjected to the practice.

“During those conversations they imparted stories of attempts to change the very core of their being, change the very core of their identity, and for some that has left a lasting trauma,” he said.

“These practices are cruel, they are furtive, and they are rooted in the promotion of shame. There can be no place for them in our country.

“They are difficult conversations, people retracing their experiences, but I found them incredibly valuable as it strengthens my position to go into the Houses of the Oireachtas and argue for this vital legislation.”

His department had commissioned qualitative research on the experiences of people who had experienced the practice in Ireland, which he hoped would be completed by the end of the summer.

“The findings of this research will be really important in assisting the Government in developing legislation,” he said. “I am very conscious that this legislation is not a given . . . That’s why it’s so important that when we bring forward this proposal it’s clear, it’s watertight and we have the research to back it up.

He added: “As it goes through the Houses . . . we do have individuals, we know who they are . . . who will try to whip this up and bring in other agendas.”

Paul D’Alton, associate professor at the University College Dublin school of psychology, said the proposed ban would not interfere with his profession’s work.

“One of the arguments put forward is that it will prevent people doing their job so people like me, like psychologists and psychiatrists, that it’s going to prevent us from engaging with people to help them to explore their identity,” he said.

“That is not the intention. This proposed ban will not interfere . . . what it will do is to close down [situations] where there is a predetermined outcome.”

Jayne Ozanne, director of the UK-based Ozanne Foundation, which works with religious organisations to eliminate transphobia and homophobia, experienced conversion 'therapy'.

“I believed my desire to love and be loved by a woman was sinful, wrong and an abomination. That led to a level of self-hate and shame that nearly crushed me.”

Any legislation, she said, must include a ban on advertising the practices and on taking people abroad for it.