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What is a Conversion Therapy?

Amanda Valentine Dela Cruz
This post was last updated on .

Conversion therapy has been on and off in the news. The controversy that comes along with it affects people from all walks of life. To people who are against the LGBTQ+ community, it’s a blessing. For LGBTQ+ individuals, it’s an attack and a curse. To scientists, it’s debunked and passe.

However, it’s still better to be informed, hence the creation of this guide. For you to know why people are against this, you must keep reading.

Everything that’s listed here is based on research and well-known resources. This was not created to attack a group of conversion therapy believers.

What is Conversion Therapy?

Reparative or Conversion Therapy, aims to “cure” the youth from having an alternative sexual orientation or gender identity. The practices of conversion therapy have been rejected multiple times by mainstream medical and mental health organizations for decades.

According to the American Psychological Association, “Same-sex sexual attractions, behavior and orientations per se are normal and positive variants of human sexuality — in other words, they do not indicate either mental or developmental disorders.” Read about the APA Task Force Report on Appropriate Therapeutic Response to Sexual Orientation

However, because of the mainstream bigoted thoughts that gay people are mentally ill, some people are still pushing these discredited practices. Even if the proven false claims into this therapy successfully changing one’s gender identity or s*xual orientation exist, it still surfaces intermittently over the years.

Common Target

The common target of these conversion therapies is gay and transgender individuals. Since teens and children are still under the guardianship of their parents and still can’t decide a lot of things for themselves, the LGBTQ+ youth is specifically the most common target. However, adults may also undergo this kind of therapy if they choose to do so.

2 gay

The American Academy of Pediatrics has a strong stance against it, even sharing, “Therapy directed at specifically changing s*xual orientation is contraindicated, since it can provoke guilt and anxiety while having little or no potential for achieving changes in orientation”.

Gay Conversion Therapy

Its main aim is to change a person’s sexual orientation. There are many techniques done in this type of therapy. Some deal with:

  • hypnosis
  • lobotomy
  • S*x, s*xual therapy
  • etc.

which will be discussed more in-depth later.

Transgender Conversion Therapy

While gay conversion therapy focuses on the “reparation” of an individual’s s*xual orientation, transgender conversion therapy is more in tune with changing one’s gender identity (for the gender roles to be based on biological s*x).

How Conversion Therapy is Done (Techniques and Methods)

Over the years, the methods and techniques of this therapy have evolved. Because it’s considered pseudo-science, organizations have the freedom to be more creative with their conversion approach.

Behavioral Modification

Before 1973, homosexuality was considered a mental disorder. The American Psychiatric Association has decided to remove it after the said year but the methodology of this conversion therapy is quite shocking (pun intended).

electrical box

It involved electric shock and drugs to induce nausea while presenting the “subject” (patient) with same-sex er*tic images. This technique was said to “strengthen heterosexual feelings”.

Dr. Douglas Haldeman, a famous American psychologist sees this type of technique as valid to be called torture. He also affirms that it’s ineffective as instead of the individuals being successfully “converted”, they are traumatized, shamed, and conflicted.

Ex-Gay Ministries

Some don’t consider these ministries as part of conversion therapy. However, the things that they do in their movements all share the goal of changing an individual’s s*xual orientation or gender identity.

Holy bible

The movements that these ministries partake in are usually based on the experiences of ex-homosexual people who got cured by the power of religion. Although activities have been ceased in June 2013 with several board members apologizing to the LGBTQ+ community, ministries like these are still making comebacks.

Reparative Therapy

The term reparative therapy is synonymous with conversion therapy. However, because of the negative connotations that come along with the word and the suggestions from Jack Drescher, an American psychiatrist, it’s more proper to be used to self-repair feelings of inferiority.


Most health professionals and organizations, including the American Psychological Association, have discredited reparative therapy because of its lack of efficacy. A reparative therapy’s technique often includes some sort of counseling to get rid of “unwanted same-s*x attraction”.

S*x Therapy

This method is a bit more sensory as it requires copulation. This therapy was performed in the ’70s by William Masters and Virginia Johnson. They screened homosexual men for major psychopathology or severe neurosis (albeit not explaining how the screen was performed) and urged them to have coitus with women.

woman on a bed

Haldeman described the therapy as heterosexually biased. According to him, the distinction that Masters and Johson created between “conversion” (helping homosexual men who have not experienced heterosexual s*x) and “reversion” (urging men who have experienced heterosexual s*x and s*xual attractions for women to go back to heterosexuality) wasn’t well explained and founded.

A lot of the patients labeled gay may not have been homosexual as only 17% who participated identified EXCLUSIVELY homosexual. The remaining 83% were predominantly in the range of heterosexuality and bisexuality. He concludes that the conversion done wasn’t successful as it only strengthened the heterosexual responsiveness of the patients who were already bisexual.


From the ‘40s to ‘50s, U.S. neurologist Walter Freeman made ice-pick lobotomy a popular treatment for homosexuality. He was able to perform conversion therapy 3,439 times in 23 states, with 2,500 receiving the ice-pick technique.

person after surgery

This technique involves brain surgery and was also promoted as a treatment for multiple psychoses. The method was so unsuccessful that it left thousands of patients severely disabled for the rest of their lives. Lives all for a claim lacking scientific evidence or enough evidence to support this massacre.

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Risks of Conversion Therapy

As mentioned above, the reparative techniques are quite unsuccessful and have been debunked and discredited multiple times by experts. There are no benefits to this kind of therapy. It only causes negative effects on the individuals who partake in it.

sad person

Patients who choose to undergo conversion therapy are at great risks of:

  • Abuse
  • Trauma
  • Psychological Problems
  • Shame
  • Further Confusion
  • Mental & Physical Disabilities and more

Conversion Therapy in Numbers and Status

As of 2020, only 26 countries in the world have laws banning or have people protesting against conversion therapy. However, not all of these countries apply a nationwide ban.


Status of Conversion Therapy in Countries

  • Albania – De facto ban
  • Argentina – Nationwide ban
  • Australia – Banned in some states
  • Brazil – Nationwide ban
  • Canada – Banned in three provinces and multiple municipalities
  • Chile – Passing a Bill
  • China – Case-by-case ban
  • Ecuador – Nationwide ban
  • Fiji – Nationwide ban
  • Germany – Nationwide ban
  • India – Doesn’t consider homosexuality as a mental disorder and doesn’t find the need for therapy.
  • Ireland – Passing a Bill
  • Israel – Bill passed initial reading
  • Lebanon – Doesn’t consider homosexuality as a mental disorder and doesn’t find the need for therapy.
  • Malaysia – Received outrage after endorsing the therapy.
  • Malta – Nationwide ban
  • Netherlands – Doesn’t consider homosexuality as a mental disorder and doesn’t find the need for therapy.
  • New Zealand – Processing a ban
  • Norway – Doesn’t consider homosexuality as a mental disorder and doesn’t find the need for therapy.
  • Samoa – Nationwide ban
  • South Africa – Doesn’t consider homosexuality as a mental disorder and doesn’t find the need for therapy.
  • Spain – Banned in five autonomies
  • Switzerland – De facto ban
  • Taiwan – Nationwide ban
  • United Kingdom – Processing a ban
  • United States – Banned in 20 states, 2 territories, and local counties
  • Uruguay – Nationwide ban

Number of Health Organizations that are against Conversion Therapy

46 health organizations are against conversion therapy.

  1. The World Psychiatric Association
  2. The Pan American Health Organization regional office of the World Health Organization
  3. The International Society of Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurses
  4. The American Medical Association
  5. The American Psychiatric Association
  6. The American Psychological Association
  7. The American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy
  8. The American Counseling Association and more.

Impact of Conversion Therapy on the Youth

  • More than 8 times as likely to have attempted suicide.
  • Nearly 6 times as likely to report enhanced levels of depression.
  • More than 3 times as likely to use illegal drugs.
  • 3 times more likely to be at high risk for HIV and STDs.

Seek Help

Do you know any or are you being forced to undergo conversion therapy? If you want to prevent or stop this abuse, you may refer to the links below.

Simply sharing this article can also be a big step towards ending the abuse. If you learned the dangers of conversion from this guide and don’t want, or your loved ones to experience these, spread the word.

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About the author

Amanda Valentine Dela Cruz
Amanda Valentine is a transgender woman who has written about trans topics for over 10 years for My Transgender Date. She is an author who made it on Amazon’s best-seller list by writing 5 books on trans women’s relationships. Her book “Dating Transgender Women for Gentlemen” peaked at #3 in the Transgender Studies category on Amazon. She started writing at the age of 10 and won a poetry contest in 4th grade which convinced her to pursue a career in literature. Her personal experiences as a transgender woman give her a unique perspective on trans topics.

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