This research report presents findings from a project conducted in partnership with the Brave Network, the Australian LGBTIQ+ Multicultural Council (AGMC) and the Victorian Government on the recovery support needs of survivors of LGBTQA+ change and suppression (conversion) practices.
Studies suggest that at least one in ten LGBTQA+ Australians are vulnerable to religion-based pressures and attempts to change or suppress their sexuality and/or gender identity.
These practices may involve formal conversion programs or ‘counselling’ practices, but more often involve less-formal processes including pastoral care, interactions with religious or community leaders, prayer groups, and other spiritual or cultural practices initiated within particular communities.
Core to both these formal and informal change and suppression practices is the message conveyed to LGBTQA+ people that they are ‘broken’, ‘unacceptable’ to God, and need spiritual or psychological healing.
LGBTQA+ people may initiate or seek out conversion practices in an attempt to ‘heal’ themselves, affirm their spiritual and religious identity, and sustain their connection and sense of belonging to faith, community, culture, and family.
They may also be coerced into undergoing conversion practices. Psychological research has demonstrated that LGBTQA+ change and suppression efforts do not reorient a person’s sexuality or gender identity and an increasing body of literature has documented the negative impacts that these pressures and attempts have on LGBTQA+ people’s lives.
Little formal research evidence exists regarding what supports are needed to enhance the recovery of people who have been harmed by LGBTQA+ change and suppression practices.
This study investigated survivors’ experiences of recovery through interviews with survivors and mental health practitioners. It is the first such study internationally to include research with mental health practitioners and has a significantly more diverse cohort of survivor participants than previous studies. The report provides a detailed account of survivors’ support needs.
Its findings are intended to inform health practitioners and others working to meet the support needs of LGBTQA+ people who are recovering from the harms associated with LGBTQA+ change and suppression practices.