My experiences of conversion therapy

The British Government has today published a consultation, and hopes to introduce legislation early next year. Under a pretence of opposing conversion therapy, it proposes civil powers which will have the effect of shutting down trans support groups, or preventing them doing their work. Content: suicide.

In 1985, at my request, I knelt before my priest who laid hands on my head and prayed over me to heal me of cross-dressing. In 1991 I had conversion therapy from a psychiatrist and a psychologist in Perth, despite the psychiatrist diagnosing me as transsexual. At the end of this post I will describe this experience in detail.

My upbringing was deeply damaging. I thought myself worthless. I have lived with chronic suicidal tendencies: I would pass tall buildings, and imagine throwing myself off. I wanted a cure. I wanted to make a man of myself. I wanted to be normal. Now, I realise that wishing that I was not trans is the same as wishing I did not exist, and some other human existed in my place, and still sometimes I wish I were not trans, especially with this terrible hostility- from people in the street, from the media, from social media, from the EHRC and the government.

The government proposes, it says, “to protect everyone”. Here is the consultation. They propose (see paragraph 2) to treat an attempt to change someone who is not transgender to being transgender the same as conversion therapy such as I suffered.

They propose (paragraph 5) “new civil measures targeting talking conversion therapy committed against under 18s under any circumstance, or committed against those aged 18 or over who have not consented or due to their vulnerability are unable to do so, with a new criminal offence… [and] producing a holistic package of measures, such as Conversion Therapy Protection Orders, support for victims, restricting promotion, removing profit streams, and strengthening the case for disqualification from holding a senior role in a charity.”

Detransitioners need support, and this is not the way. I worry that detransitioners could retrospectively be considered not trans. Any support organisation meeting a trans person might worry- what if that person detransitions later? They could fail to give proper support in case they were retrospectively classified as practicing conversion of cis people. Or, they could be targeted for defunding and civil penalties if someone detransitions later. There is huge pressure to detransition- for example, a friend detransitioned because her children would not let her see her grandchildren if she expressed herself female. Listen to people who have retransitioned.

The government proposals could shut down trans support groups, and prevent useful counselling for trans people. My experience shows how.

In November 2000, I decided I would attempt to transition, because it was what I wanted more than anything else in the world, even though I thought my employer would find some excuse to sack me. Actually, they were supportive. I had what I thought was a long wait for the psychiatrist at Charing Cross hospital, whom I finally saw in June 2001. Now, the waiting lists are for several years. I took a long time planning and preparing: I finally threw out all my male clothes, changed my name, and began expressing myself female at work in April 2002. I got a gender recognition certificate in 2006, and still express myself as a trans woman. It has been the best choice of my life, allowing me to accept myself and express who I truly am.

However, in May 2000 I decided to transition, and the decision lasted four days. On Wednesday, I went to the Northern Concord, the club in Manchester for “transvestites and transsexuals”, as we expressed it then, and sat with self-identified transsexuals. They didn’t have jobs. Their lives seemed really difficult. I decided I could not possibly transition.

After my conversion therapy, I did not cross-dress for a year. Then in 1996 I thought that I do not want to be a sad, lonely pervert, I want to be a happy, gregarious pervert- that was how I put it to myself- and joined Northern Concord. I made friends, one of whom is transitioning this year- the delay of two decades is because transition is really difficult and scary. Others transitioned sooner. I also joined the Metropolitan Community Church, a church for everyone- it accepts LGBT folk, and does not say we are sinners, or should try to be straight.

At Northern Concord and MCC, various people said to me they thought I was transsexual. I fear they would now feel inhibited from telling someone that, in case this was counted as an attempt to convert a cis person to trans. I was on Yahoo Groups, email support groups for trans people, just as now I am on facebook groups for trans people. We discussed transition constantly. We could be inhibited from doing so if the proposals are enacted.

In 1999 I saw a counsellor, and talked about how miserable I was. He said to me, “Of course you are transsexual,” and I did not see him again for six months. He had told me the truth I was too terrified and self-hating to hear. I am quite clear that he would never suffer a sanction from his professional body for this, or be convicted of an offence. That is why the proposed civil law actions, and attempts to defund charities without any criminal convictions, are so threatening.

There is a particular threat to organisations supporting trans youth. Liz Truss’s introduction says, “It is also vitally important that no person is forced or coerced into conversion therapy, and that young people are supported in exploring their identity without being encouraged towards one particular path. This is especially the case for those who are under 18 and where this might result in an irreversible decision. These proposals therefore do not alter the existing clinical regulatory framework or the independence of regulated clinicians working within their professional obligations.”

Mermaids supports trans children. The suggestion that they might not be able to consent to puberty blockers, in the High Court, was reversed in the Court of Appeal. The consultation document, though, ignores this.

In the late 1990s, I took a lot of time off work. I was diagnosed with depression, and involved with the community mental health team, as funding was better, then. I am concerned that because of similar treatment someone might be accounted “vulnerable” so not able to consent to transition, if the proposals are enacted.

Conversion therapy. A friend of mine had conversion therapy in the 1970s, when they gave her drugs to make her vomit. I had mine in 1991. My psychologist had given conversion therapy to someone into BDSM. He had taken a photo of him in his fetish gear, and told him to use it to revolt himself. He thought a photo of me dressed female would do the opposite- it would make me want to cross-dress.

So I stood in front of a wall-sized mirror, wearing women’s underwear. It was a one way mirror, but they assured me the curtains were closed on the other side. The psychiatrist and psychologist sat behind me. One told me how ridiculous I looked. One told me how revolted anyone would be if they saw me- my family, my employer, if there was a cleaner in the next room. Then I put on a dress, and they continued. “What would they think of you?”

After an hour, they allowed me to take off the clothes, and I tore them off.

They made me wait before allowing me to put my man’s suit back on. Then they told me people would see me as “a perfectly normal young man” (I was 25).

I paid for this. After, I wrote a long account of what they told me, so I could read it, think about it, and be revolted, averted, anew. I still have it.

Now such conversion therapy would not happen. It is clearly against the ethical code of both professions, known to be worthless, and if any professional attempted it they could be sanctioned or even struck off. Such conversion therapy is not a serious problem in Britain, though attempts by religious groups to convert LGBT folk, or shame us and our families, remain a problem. It is unclear the government’s proposals would affect such religious harm. But there is a clear threat to trans support groups.

Please respond to the consultation. Please tell the government that alleged attempts to convert people from cis to trans are not real, are not a problem, but that legislation or action against them could make significant difficulties for trans support groups. Please feel free to share this where you wish. I hope to blog with detailed answers to the consultation questions and an explanation of the consultation document. I can’t face that, right now. I did not think I could hate the Tories more.

8 thoughts on “My experiences of conversion therapy

  1. I’m sorry for what happened to you. It was not okay then and it is not okay now. 🫂 Listening to the accounts of those who survived conversion therapy is harrowing and I think sharing the experience comes at a high personal cost to revisit that trauma.


  2. Just to echo the sympathies from Lynn about your experience. It sounds… wounding to say the least.

    I had not considered how the consultation was stacked against trans-support groups the way it clearly is. I was even concerned that it appeared to be almost even-handed from this set of inhabitors of our highest political offices. I’m glad I read your post.

    Thank you for sounding the alarm, for reaching through past hurt to explain cogently what is being proposed.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Judging from what Ky Schevers writes, the anti-trans campaigners who “accept” detransitioners as long as they conform would be under threat too. But, they are few, and they only have their hooks in a very few people. Without Mermaids children and families would be alone.


    • Welcome, Alex. Thank you for commenting. I would be happy to do a video. The “therapy” I had would be clearly unethical under current codes, but on facebook I’ve had comments that the person needing protected is Keira Bell. Encouragement is more and more necessary for trans people. I would talk of moving from self-hate to self-acceptance. If you don’t hate yourself they can’t get to you. And please share this post. People need to know the threat the consultation poses.

      Liked by 1 person

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