Guild of Students Response to UoB Report on Historical “Conversion Therapy”

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Content Warnings: Homophobia and Queerphobia, “Conversion Therapy”

The Guild welcomes the apology issued yesterday by the University for the harm caused by historical “conversion therapy” that took place at the University during the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. It further welcomes the apology issued in respect of distress caused by the University’s initial response to the media reports following the brave testimony of members of the LGBTQ+ community who came forward to share their experience with the BBC.

This apology follows the publication of a report into historical “therapy” designed to change the sexual orientation of individuals. This report, which was conducted by academics in the University’s schools of Psychology and History and overseen by a steering group that included the Guild’s Trans and Non-Binary Students’ Officer, concluded that “conversion therapy” was conducted by two academics using equipment located on the University’s Edgbaston campus between 1966 and 1983. We are grateful to all of the individuals involved in the research which has allowed the University to critically examine its past and face up to the harm caused by its employees.

We are angered and saddened to learn that this barbaric practice occurred at our University and that the University supported and platformed academics who sought to legitimise the practice. While we accept that it is not possible to change the past, it is right that the University has acknowledged this dark chapter of its history, and we now hope it will seek to compensate fully the victims of this practice at the University.

So-called “conversion therapy” is coercive, unethical, harmful, and dangerous. This pseudo-scientific practice, however manifested, is unacceptable and has no place in a civilised society. While more common in the past, LGBTQ+ individuals today are still subject to attempts to change, suppress or divert their sexual orientation or gender identity. The Guild of Students condemns this practice in all its forms.

We urge the University to accept all of the recommendations of the report, in full. In particular, the University must facilitate further historical enquiry into this history. Secondly, we look forward to working with the University to hold them to account to ensure they comply with Recommendation 6 of the Report:

“We recommend that the University support efforts and campaigns, in coalition with relevant organisations and charities, to ban so-called ‘conversion therapy’ practices aimed at ‘curing’ a minority gender identity or sexual orientation (in other words, LGBTQ+ identities). In addition, we recommend that the University state clearly that any such ban must not restrict the ability of trans and nonbinary people to access gender-affirming therapy and healthcare.”

The Guild particularly recognises the need to ensure that its trans, non-binary and gender non-conforming members can live their lives and thrive in our University community as their true, authentic selves. We note the Government intends to bring forward legislation to ban so-called “conversion therapy” but its current plans explicitly exclude trans and non-binary people from the ban. It is imperative that any advocacy or campaigning work that the University does in this area proceeds on the basis that “conversion therapy” must be banned in all cases and make clear that the University supports the rights of trans and non-binary people to easily access gender-affirming healthcare.

We understand that this news will be upsetting to many of our members. You can access support from the University’s Pause team’s on campus service, and the UB Heard helpline, available at 0800 368 5819 (Freephone UK) or 00353 1 518 0277 (International). The Ban Conversion Therapy website has a number of support resources available. The LGBT+ anti-abuse charity Galop runs the National Conversion therapy helpline which is open to all LGBT+ people in the UK who are victims of so-called “conversion therapy”, or who think they might be at risk.

The National Conversion Therapy Helpline is open 10:00-16:00, Monday to Friday on 0800 130 3335, or you can email CThelp@galop.org.uk.

 

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