All around the world we see a variety of beliefs and views on the LGBT community; some positive, some negative. However, an incredibly concerning thing on the negative side is that there are still people in the world who believe that sexuality is something that can be and should be changed through “therapy”.
We have seen massive figures in the public eye such as Mike Pence, Vice President of the United States of America, speak of how he wished to fund conversion therapy, that is therapy with intensive methods to “turn” those of the LGBT community ‘straight’.
The Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law conducted research into this topic and discovered that an estimated 20,000 13 to 17 year olds in America will go through an attempt to change their sexual orientation through some sort of ‘conversion therapy’. Many organisations claim that methods such as counselling and prayer can ‘fix’ or change ones sexual identity.
However, this form of therapy is looked down on by many health professionals due to the psychological and emotional effects this can have on the individual. Additionally, in some countries, extreme methods such as physical abuse both inflicted by others and the self as a way to condition one out of an unaccepted or unwanted sexuality are often engaged in.
Extreme attitudes to the LGBT community are prolific in the East of the world, particularly in the South Asian countries, where the LGBT community are looked down upon. There is a serious notion in South Asian culture that people who like people of the same gender are possessed by spirits because of this there have been reported cases of burning, hitting and starving people of the LGBT community as a means of “getting rid of the demon inside”.
Researchers from Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law also discovered that nearly 700,000 LGBT adults who live in the US have already received conversion therapy in their lives. Of this 700,000, 350,000 were subject to conversion therapy whilst they were adolescents. Whether this was their own choice or it was forced upon by others, it is still not acceptable and shows that there is still a very widespread idea in society that homosexuality is wrong and should be changed.
This research highlights that views towards the LGBT community remain mixed both in the western world and the eastern world and although there isn’t such intense abuse in western societies the normalisation or acceptance even of these conversion therapies is still distressing.
Progression has been made in the past few years in terms of tackling the stigma that plagues the LGBT community but there is once again a long way to go. As the founder of Break the Chains, I am myself a member of the LGBT community and Indian. I have experienced, first hand, the rhetoric and views that people of south Asian decent around me have about “people like that”. Being referred to as a female due to my sexuality, being told I am going through a “phase”, being told that I should be “ashamed” or how I bring “shame upon the family”. Some of these were from immediate family, some were just acquaintances or people I knew.
Coming out was one of the most difficult things I have ever had to do and many people, both in the UK and abroad, will live their whole lives pretending to be straight if they are not to please the family. Some will get married to females or vice versa and live a second life simply to appear what is considered “normal” to most in the South Asian community.
Some may not like what I have to say and what my views are, but they cannot deny that homophobia and a sense of hostility and alienation towards the LGBT community exists within the deep tissues of society, especially in ethnic minority groups.
As mentioned, the progress society has made in terms of LGBT acceptance through things such as the legalisation of same-sex marriages in various countries cannot and should not be ignored or downplayed, but the stigma and negative perceptions still remain and is something that must be tackled. Engaging into conversations with individuals with opposing views to you can give a great insight into why people think the way that they do and it also provides you with an opportunity or platform to alter perceptions of others for the better.