Here, we discuss the effects of conversion therapy, and we answer “what is conversion therapy?”

Recently we published a blog titled “Conversion therapy is happening in everyday practice and must stop!“.

The post above explained how not all forms of conversion therapy are extreme, with many instances taking the form of low-level resistance by doctors to acknowledge a patient’s requests for help or providing obstacles to affirmative support.

What Is Conversion Therapy?


Conversion Therapy: A practice that is considered pseudoscientific, whereby a professional healthcare worker, religious worker, or other, attempts to change an individual’s sexuality or gender orientation.


Conversion therapy often results in trauma. In 2018, The British Conservative Party Vowed to make conversion therapy legal, as part of their LGBT action plan.

This has been foreshadowed by a lack of a timeline for the legislation. However, it never mentioned adult conversion therapy initially. Alongside this, there is the potential for religious exemptions, and it won’t cover trans people.


Effects of Conversion Therapy
What Is Conversion Therapy and How Does It Cause Trauma?

Many effects of conversion have been noted, which include mental and spiritual abrasion, below are some of conversion therapy’s effects:

Conversion Therapy Effect Affect on LGBT Individuals
Suicide Attempts x8 times more likely to attempt suicide.
Depression and Major Depressive Episodes almost x6 times as likely to report high levels of depression
Illicit Substance Abuse x3 times more likely to abuse illegal drugs.
STD and HIV Contraction x3 times more like to contract a serious STD or HIV.


We were interested to know what experiences trans people had encountered with medical professionals.

Hence, Dr Helen Webberley asked for feedback:

“Tell us what you have been told by your doctor to persuade you not to transition.



The post received many replies, which we have collated below.

It’s an inciteful, if damning, commentary on the medical profession today that these sorts of comments are being made by doctors treating trans patients who are seeking help.


“You have to be attracted to men if you are really trans.”


“At least one clinic refused to treat me because I was unwilling to change my name immediately due to issues with obtaining new documentation.”


Aged 11 speaking to a psychiatrist about depression, and the effects of conversion therapy:

Him: ‘what’s the real reason you feel sad’?

Me: ‘I’m a girl, and I don’t understand why I look like this.’

Him, clearly angry: ‘pack it in; you’re too big for that sort of nonsense.’

Cue 31 years of pain


“you’re probably just a lesbian”, and

“Have you ever actually had a relationship?”

I’m almost exclusively attracted to men and engaged to one!


“I had to go to a psychiatrist in 2012/2013-ish. He had an issue with how I dressed for the appointment. Hoody and jeans – as if cis women don’t wear that either.

Ended up with an appalling and very upsetting referral letter.


Me to my psychologist: “You know, I just feel like I… feel and react, more like women typically do.”

Him: You know, I don’t think that’s particularly significant.”


(I learned this year that it’s one of the DSM criteria for dysphoria almost to the word)


We understand you’re trans.


In 2006, an NHS gatekeeper to Leeds GIC told m:

“if you continued on this path, you’d lose your job, your family, your friends, you’ll be neither male nor female & no one will ever love you” that one set me back eight years!”

I started again in 2015 on the NHS and went private at the same time to get onto hormones.

5 years on, I’ve only just had my second surgical consult on the NHS, I’ve been with my partner for seven years.

We’ve been engaged for 3, were due to marry earlier this year before covid so I’m loved.

Once I was able to embrace myself I started to thrive in my real hobby ballet & I’ve travelled the world performing & spreading trans awareness.

My family all still love me, I own my own company that employs 16 people, in short, she was very wrong! I’m thriving.



Doctors told me my plan to transition in small steps was doomed to failure. He clearly didn’t know the effects of conversion therapy


“This was the same guy who told me I wouldn’t be allowed to have the name “Alexandra” because the abbreviation “Alex” is too androgynous.”



1st time I tried to come out to a GP and seek a GIC referral (aged 15), he told me ‘confusion’ was common at that age and that he’d refer me to CAMHS for my general anxiety and distress – my request for GIC support completely ignored. and to top it off, he never referred anyway.


“I had a frustrating time when I first tried to transition in 2012, my GP at the time kept on telling me I had to go through local psychiatry services, I knew that was wrong but they wouldn’t listen. I didn’t really know what else to do then. Thankfully I have a supportive GP now.”


I never asked for their opinion; I just said I’d like to be referred to a GIC, which they did.

The follow up tho has been difficult, no chance of a shared care agreement.

Took three complaints and three senior partner meetings before they agreed to do my initial bloods.

At the same time, they’re saying they are very inclusive and surprised at my attitude.

My feeling is that they’ve used subtle medical language to justify their position of not wanting to support me.


How Conversion Therapy Effects Families

My parents basically said they didn’t want their insurance paying for it and shut down the discussion entirely (while claiming to be supportive)

Luckily I’m now on Medicaid with a super cool doctor who talked to me about my dysphoria, ran over informed consent, and got me started.


My first psychiatrist tried to push that I had to cure my depression before I could transition, even though not transitioning was no small part of the cause of said depression.


“Do you want to try antidepressants instead?”

I have had no history of depression before and after transition, but as soon I turn up to my GP knowing I’m trans and ask for a referral to the GIC., it’s suddenly brought up that I may be depressed instead. I had to refuse the antidepressants to get my referral.

We know the effects of conversion therapy increase the likelihood of depression.


“Why can’t you just live as a tomboy for now?”

The effects of such conversion therapy still live on.


Ten years and three suicide attempts before I finally accepted I was trans, I had a psych doctor tell me (without knowing the effects of conversion therapy):

“it’s just a perversion, and you should be closer to God and your (abusive) parents”



1. “a penis is the gift from God; you should enjoy being able to wee where you want!”

2. “Women got less pay, work more, not being respected in your job.”

3. “You would end up as an abomination, ugly and disgusting.”


Back when I transitioned, it was standard practice for GPs to do everything to dissuade you from transitioning. They genuinely believed that it would destroy your life and that they should try to save you.


The doctors told me (without knowing the effects of conversion therapy):

“The test was inconclusive” and, “There aren’t enough indications”


If you have been affected by any of the topics covered in this blog post and you would like to speak to a member of the team please visit our help Centre.