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Preventing Harm, Promoting Justice: Responding to LGBT Conversion Therapy in Australia

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posted on 2023-05-16, 03:09 authored by Timothy JonesTimothy Jones, Anna Brown, Lee Carnie, Gillian FletcherGillian Fletcher, William Leonard

Understanding and responding to this complex problem requires an interdisciplinary approach. In this report we have combined historical, social and legal research and analysis to enhance our understanding of conversion therapy practices in Australia and to make recommendations for reforms to prevent harm and promote justice in this area. Our methodology is stepped out in Chapter Two. The short but dynamic history of the Australian religious LGBT conversion therapy movement is presented in Chapter Three. The historical review shows that attempts to reorient LGBT people are recent. In clinical medicine they were only ever experimental and were never successful. Prior to the 1970s, the predominant religious approach to LGBT people was pastoral. When mainstream medicine ceased to experiment with the reorientation of LGBT people, faith-based conversion therapies and organisations emerged. These developed independently in Australia before becoming affiliated with like-minded international organisations in the 1980s. In recent times, the conversion therapy movement has presented itself in more ethically acceptable postures, disguising its anti-LGBT ideology and reorientation efforts in the language of spiritual healing, mental health and religious liberty. At the heart of this report, in Chapters Four and Five, are the voices and lived experiences of 15 LGBT people with experiences of conversion therapy, documented through social research. The participants engaged with various conversion therapy practices between 1986 and 2016 as part of their struggle to reconcile their sexuality or transgender identity with the beliefs and practices of their religious communities. For the majority of them, this has taken an extraordinary toll and they have ultimately been forced to choose between one part of themselves at the expense of another. Those who have sacrificed their religious beliefs to be true to their sexuality or gender diverse identity have had to deal with the deep grief that comes with a loss of faith and being separated from their faith-based community, family and friends. Those who have remained faithful to the beliefs of their religious communities have often done so by denying their sexual feelings or gender diverse identity in order to pass as heterosexual and cisgender. Some live in a constant struggle to maintain their diverse gender, sexual identity and faith in the face of varying degrees of rejection from both LGBT and religious communities. 


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Human Rights Law Centre

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  • Public sector research report


GLHV@ARCSHS, La Trobe University, and, Human Rights Law Centre

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© GLHV@ARCSHS, La Trobe University & Human Rights Law Centre 2018. Permission is given to reproduce this report for non-commercial use (for example by printing, sharing or saving a copy), providing the attribution and copyright notice are retained and the material is not otherwise modified. For more information contact: GLHV@ARCSHS at La Trobe University, Bundoora, VIC, 3086 T: +61 3 9479 8760 E: Human Rights Law Centre: Level 17, 461 Bourke St, Melbourne, VIC, 3000 T: + 61 3 8636 4450 E: W:

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