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Conversion therapy: change the law not the person
  1. Jonathan Talbot1,
  2. Fiona Finlay2
  1. 1 Paediatrics, Royal United Hospital Bath NHS Trust, Bath, UK
  2. 2 Community Paediatrics, HCRG Care Group, St Martins Hospital, Bath, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Jonathan Talbot, Paediatrics, Royal United Hospital Bath NHS Trust, Bath, UK; jono.talbot{at}

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As paediatricians, we have a duty to represent and advocate for the health and well-being of the children and young people we protect. Despite being a bright and vibrant community, the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) population is known to have inferior health outcomes, especially with respect to mental health issues including depression, low self-esteem and self-harm.1 We can reduce this inequality by empowering them with health information and stopping their marginalisation within society.

Conversion therapy is an umbrella terminology for any psychological, physical or spiritual interventions which aim to change or cure an individual’s sexual orientation or transgender identity because they are perceived as developmental disorders, addictions and/or spiritual problems.2 Conversion therapy is not an old problem from the Alan Turing era; conversion through ‘talking therapies’ remains a legal intervention to this day.

The concept of conversion therapy infers that any deviance from the straight, cis-gendered norm constitutes a disorder; any modern progressive society should recognise that this is wrong. However, we should question the ethics of conversion therapy and highlight that it constitutes emotional and psychological abuse by increasing feelings of worthlessness, self-blame and social isolation. There is also zero evidence of its efficacy.2

The 2018 National LGBT Survey,3 an online questionnaire advertised across British social media platforms and pride events, sought the experiences of 108 100 self-selecting respondents who identified as LGBT aged over 16 years. The survey found that up to 7% of the LGBT population had …

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  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.