'Wake-up call' as UK medics push one in five trans people to conversion therapy

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - One in 20 British LGBT+ people have been pressured to undergo conversion therapy while getting healthcare, rising to one in five among transgender people, a charity said on Thursday.

LGBT+ patients experience “shockingly high level of hostility and unfair treatment,” with many avoiding medical care as a result, Stonewall said in a report based on polls of more than 5,000 people.

“This is a wake-up call that no . . . healthcare provider can ignore,” Paul Twocock, Stonewall’s director of policy, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“People are at a vulnerable moment in their lives when they are physically ill or having mental health issues and they should expect support, not somebody who is undermining their identity.”

The Department of Health said it was working to address concerns around health and wellbeing for LGBT+ people.

“Anyone should be able to access appropriate support and treatment from the NHS as and when they need it, regardless of their sexual orientation, race or gender,” a spokeswoman said in written comments, referring to the National Health Service.

Conversion therapy, which claims to help gay people become straight and transgender people revert to the gender they were born, is controversial but used in many countries.

The British government said in July that it would move to outlaw the practice and the state-run NHS has signed a memorandum of understanding that opposes conversion therapy.

The practice is already outlawed in Malta and Ecuador, while New Zealand and Australia are mulling bans.

While trans people were most at risk, nearly 10 percent of disabled people, ethnic minorities and under 25s also said healthcare staff had urged them to undergo conversion therapy.

“After a suicide attempt . . . the nurse said that my mental health problems were due to allowing Satan in my soul,” Stonewall’s report quoted Elijah, 19, as saying. “If I just accepted my true gender then God could forgive me.”

The study found more than 10 percent of LGBT+ people have experienced unequal treatment from healthcare staff due to their identity, including inappropriate curiosity, discriminatory remarks, and being outed as LGBT+ to other staff or patients.

Some said they were directly refused care because of their identity, while others said they struggled to access treatment because they feared discrimination.

“Everyone should be able to access NHS services without the fear of being coerced into conversion therapy,” said Jamie Pallas from trans-led organization Gendered Intelligence.

“Increasingly health services are responding to the needs of trans people, but there is no consistency across the board, meaning that some trans people are encountering a lack of knowledge or even outright discrimination.”