The Centre for Gender and Sexual Health Equity, in collaboration with the Community-Based Research Centre, No Conversion Canada, Born Perfect, the BCCDC, BCCDC Foundation for Public Health, and Simon Fraser University, released a new report describing ongoing conversion therapy practices, also known as sexual orientation and gender identity or expression change efforts (SOGIECE) in Canada. SOGIECE refer to a broad set of treatments, practices, or sustained efforts that aim to repress, discourage, or change a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. The report comes as the Canadian government works to develop legislation to ban conversion therapy practices across Canada.
SOGIECE take many forms and occur in many settings, including the home, schools, camps, religious settings, and the offices of unlicensed counsellors and licensed healthcare providers. Conversion therapy represents only the tip of the iceberg of a much broader set of SOGIECE, rooted in societal cissexist and heterosexist attitudes. SOGIECE still occurs in Canada today, and can cause long-lasting mental health harms for survivors.
The Vancouver SOGIECE Dialogue convened survivors, community leaders, researchers, and policy advocates in November 2019. Participants shared professional and lived experiences of SOGIECE, identified key health and social service needs of SOGIECE survivors, exchanged ideas about pan-North American interventions, and determined how research could be undertaken to address gaps in knowledge.
Four categories of intervention to address harms associated with SOGIECE were discussed:
(1) Support for survivors: SOGIECE survivors felt support services should be led by survivors, acknowledging that there can be healing in shared experiences. Suggested approaches to enable healing and recovery included story-telling, strengths-based approaches, trauma-informed services, holistic approaches (inclusive of socialization needs), tailored supports for those wishing to retain a connection with their faith or spirituality, as well as distinct supports for LGBTQ2 newcomers who may have experienced SOGIECE in an international context.
(2) Legislative action and policy: Federal, provincial, and municipal governments have distinct jurisdictional authorities. There are legislative & policy mechanisms that can be used to stop SOGIECE at each level of government. Clarity and specificity of language is critical to the effectiveness of conversion therapy bans. Dialogue participants pointed to specific examples of how legislation can clearly delineate prohibited practices.
(3) Changing institutions: Regulatory responses and policies to create and support LGBTQ2-affirming institutions were proposed, inspired by examples of religious and health care institutions that formerly practiced SOGIECE, and later adopted LGBTQ2-affirming approaches. Participants discussed strategies to influence institutional leaders and opinion leaders as well as how to incentivize the “inverse of SOGIECE”.
(4) Communications: Enacting the above interventions requires a broad communication that will reach all Canadians. More work is needed to educate the public (and in some cases SOGIECE survivors and perpetrators themselves) on what constitutes SOGIECE, how it continues to enact harm, and what can be done to address harms associated with SOGIECE. Participants discussed tools needed to reach broader audiences such as creative and arts-based methods, as well as the need to elevate survivor stories that still need to be heard. This includes Indigenous peoples, bisexual people, those from faiths other than Christianity, immigrants, and people of color, among others.
SOGIECE encompass a wide range of settings and practices and there is no “silver bullet” that will eradicate it from Canadian society. LGBTQ2 people deserve the opportunities to grow up confidently knowing that their sexual orientations, gender identities, and gender expressions will be celebrated and supported. The report proposes a multi-faceted and multi-stakeholder response that includes—but is not limited to—survivor supports, legislative bans, institutional policies, and improved communications of the nature and effects of SOGIECE.
Strategies to stem SOGIECE should center the voices of survivors, use explicit and consistent language, and seek broad audiences (including LGBTQ2 communities, allies, parents, teachers, healthcare providers, religious leaders, legislators, and members of the public). SOGIECE continues in Canada (and elsewhere) today and continues to cause harm to LGBTQ2 people. However, SOGIECE is preventable, and we all have a role to play in bringing about its elimination.
For more information
Community-Based Research Centre’s Conversion Therapy & SOGIECE page https://www.cbrc.net/conversion_therapy_sogiece
Press release and full report from the Centre for Gender & Sexual Health Equity http://www.cgshe.ca/blog/2020/02/canadian-conversion-therapy-survivors-call-for-actions-report/