La Trobe

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Religious Conversion Practices and LGBTQA + Youth
Introduction: Multiple jurisdictions are debating responses to United Nations calls for banning attempts at conversion of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and asexual (LGBTQA +) peoples’ identities to fit religious norms. This paper aimed to examine Australian LGBTQA + youths’ experiences and outcomes of religious conversion practices attempting to change or suppress their gender or sexuality. It explored how attending conversion practices related to demographic characteristics and outcomes. Methods: A 2019 online health and social well-being survey promoted via diverse social media questioned 6412 LGBTQA + Australians aged 14–21 years on their experiences of sexuality or gender change or suppression practices. Descriptive and inferential analyses were performed to understand relationships between exposure to conversion practices and demographic, socio-behavioural, and health and well-being measures. Results: Whilst most participants had never attended counselling, group work, programs or interventions aimed at changing their sexuality or gender identity, 4% had attended such conversion practices. Analyses showed associations between engaging with conversion practices and (1) specific demographics (being cisgender male, multi-gender-attracted, unemployed, affiliated to a religion at the personal or household level); (2) social experiences (increased exposure to social rejection, negative remarks and harassment); (3) socio-behavioural outcomes (decreased education, sport and housing opportunities) and (4) negative health and mental health outcomes (including increased suicidality and self-harm). Conclusions: The paper showed that conversion practices are correlated with poor well-being outcomes, providing arguments for expanding inclusive health and mental health services allowing for affirming religious and non-religious identities for LGBTQA + youth. Policy Implications: The paper provides evidence supporting bans on conversion practices.


Victorian Government Department of Premier and Cabinet, ACT Government Office for LGBTIQA + Affairs, NSW Department of Health, SHINE SA and SA Chief Psychiatrist Office.


Publication Date



Sexuality Research and Social Policy




Springer Nature



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