SOGICE Survivor Statement.Written by survivors of Sexual Orientation & Gender Identity Change Efforts, and the LGBTQA+ Conversion movement.
Endorsed by a large number of community leaders and organisations, including:
A statement written by survivors of the LGBTQA+ Conversion movement and their allies, and endorsed by advocates, organisations and community groups that support, or are led by, LGBTIQA+ people of faith.
The SOGICE Survivor Statement calls on the Australian Government to join a growing number of jurisdictions across the world – Brazil, Ontario, Manitoba, Ecuador, Malta, Spain, Taiwan, New Jersey, California, Oregon, Illinois, Nevada, Washington, Hawaii, and even the Church of England – by intervening to stop the LGBTQA+ Conversion movement from harming LGBTQA+ Australians.
The SOGICE Survivor Statement has two parts. 1. Discussion – This outlines the history of the LGBTQA+ conversion movement, the various practices of the movement, the ideology that underpins almost all LGBTQA+ conversion practices, and the rationale for the recommendations of survivors. 2. Recommendations – This outlines our recommendations for addressing the LGBTQA+ conversion movement, preventing further harm, and supporting survivors.
To read the full list of recommendations, please download the SOGICE Survivor Statement. A brief overview of some of the recommendations:
- An inquiry into the extent and prevalence of the ex-gay/ex-trans/conversion movement in the experience of LGBTIQA+ Australians.
- Regulatory and legislative enforcement of the directives of Australian peak psychological and health bodies that prohibit the use of conversion practices by mental health professionals, including social workers, unregistered and registered health professionals, teachers and other professionals.
- Greater powers for health complaints and consumer affairs authorities to support the sufficient investigation of all claims of conversion practices.
- A public health and awareness campaign to explicitly target those at risk of the movement’s influence and refute its key messages and assertions.
- Modification of legislation to classify as vilification the assertion that trans, gender diverse, and same-sex attracted Australians are inherently disordered.
- Protection of young Australians from SOGICE and the ex-gay/ex-trans/conversion movement’s practices and ideology.
- Inclusion of compulsory content and clauses that systematically refute the ideology and practices associated with the conversion movement, with associated audit controls, in all tertiary courses that contain a counselling component.
- Implementation of licensing and standards for counsellors through a government regulator to protect LGBTQA+ Australians from conversion practices.
- Tighter regulation to prevent the promotion, broadcast and advertising of conversion practices and ideology.
- Funding for LGBTIQA+ and mental health organisations to boost public awareness of the conversion movement and support survivors.
- Australian Governments must issue statements that clearly address and condemn the damaging ideology behind the ex-gay/ex-trans/conversion movement and sexual orientation and gender identity change efforts.
- Applied research into specific faith and culturally diverse communities to develop culturally appropriate, evidence-based interventions that will raise awareness about the harm caused by conversion practices and support the development of best practice spiritual care for LGBTQA+ people.
- A Redress Scheme for survivors of the LGBTQA+ conversion movement should be implemented to support survivors with costs such as psychological support for recovery, as well as compensation for suffering.
The statement and its recommendations has been endorsed by a growing list of community leaders and organisations including Amnesty International Australia, OutRight International, National LGBTI Health Alliance, ACON, and Thorne Harbour Health.
If you agree with the recommendations in the SOGICE Survivor Statement, please affirm it here.
On Friday 31st August 2018 (Wear It Purple Day), the SOGICE Survivor Statement was attached to the change.org/EndGayCures petition and sent to:
- Prime Minister Scott Morrison
- Federal Minister for Health Greg Hunt
- Shadow Federal Minister for Health Catherine King
- Opposition Leader Bill Shorten
- Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack
- Minister for Rural Health Bridget McKenzie
- Minister for Education and Training Dan Tehan
- Minister for Health Natasha Fyles (NT)
- Minister for Health Brad Hazzard (NSW)
- Minister for Mental Health Tanya Davies (NSW)
- Minister for Health Stephen Wade (SA)
- Minister for Health Jill Hennessy (Vic)
- Minister for Health Michael Ferguson (Tas)
- Minister for Health Roger Cook (WA)
- Minister for Health Meegan Fitzharris (ACT)
- …and many others
Affirm the statement
Engaging survivors of LGBTQA+ conversion practices
SOGICE Survivors worked with The Brave Network and Equal Voices to develop an ethical framework for engaging with survivors of LGBTQA+ conversion practices. Importantly, this framework is designed to acknowledge survivors’ humanity and the entirety of their lived experience.
These guidelines present a way forward for communicators to accurately and responsibly represent survivors of LGBTQA+ conversion practices in the media and in public policy.
Who should speak for Survivors?
Survivors of the LGBTQA+ conversion movement must be the ones who speak about this issue and provide direction for change.
Survivors should be at the forefront of any conversation or communication about conversion practices, whether these conversations happen in the media or in the drafting of public policy.
Allies and LGBTQA+ people of faith are essential voices within this conversation as well, to help drive change from within faith communities and religious groups. However, survivor self-advocates are significantly more equipped to communicate the complexity of the movement.
How should SOGICE survivors be represented in the media?
Any media representation should seek to maintain accuracy and integrity, moving away from sensationalism and toward an understanding of the ideology which undergirds the many practices and iterations of conversion practices in Australia.
An ethical approach to representing survivors and the issue as a whole acknowledges that while a ‘ban’ on conversion practices may be one part of an effective approach toward reducing the access to (and prevalence of) LGBTQA+ conversion practices, ‘bans’ by themselves can not comprehensively address the wide range of LGBTQA+ conversion practices that exist within conservative faith communities in Australia. (See Part 2 of the SOGICE Survivor Statement for a list of recommendations).
An ethical approach seeks to spotlight the erroneous ‘conversion ideology’ that is widespread in Australian faith communities – which asserts that people are LGBTQA+ due to a form ‘brokenness’ or disorder, or which assigns ’cause’ for being LGBTQA+ to any number of past traumatic experiences, ‘sins’, family history or other influences.
An ethical approach returns focus to the homophobic, biphobic and transphobic attitudes that exist in many faith communities, rather than focusing solely on the therapeutic manifestations of these attitudes.
Practically, an ethical approach covering LGBTQA+ conversion practices in the media will:
- Reduce focus on sensational aspects such as electroshock/aversion therapy and practices which occur in formal or therapeutic contexts. The vast majority of survivors who have come forward in recent years have not experienced conversion practices in a therapeutic setting.
- Centre the voices and experiences of survivors of conversion practices in such a way that the underlying homophobic, biphobic and transphobic ideology of the LGBTQA+ conversion movement (see the SOGICE Survivor Statement) is addressed.
- Communicate that whilst a ‘ban’ on conversion practices may be one part of an effective approach toward reducing the access to (and prevalence of) LGBTQA+ conversion practices, ‘bans’ by themselves can not comprehensively address the wide range of LGBTQA+ conversion practices that exist within conservative faith communities in Australia. A multi-faceted approach is needed where quality legislation is one part of a range of interventions. (See Part 2 of the SOGICE Survivor Statement for a list of recommendations).
- Discourage allies and journalists from only focusing on the horror stories and fetishised accounts of LGBTQA+ Conversion practices. Historical stories of electroshock therapy and violent exorcisms may gain the public’s attention, however preferencing these historical stories over and above the very real, current and persistent issue of conversion ideology in Australia’s religious communities is irresponsible as it misrepresents the current scope and impact of the conversion movement. Of course, these true stories must be told, however, they should be clearly labeled as historical representations and told alongside stories that accurately represent current manifestations of the movement, as well as the recommendations of survivors.
- Not use terms such as ‘gay conversion therapy’ or ‘conversion therapy’, as these are misrepresentative. ‘LGBTQA+ conversion practices’, ‘conversion practices’, or ‘conversion movement’ should be used instead. When referring to a ‘ban’ on conversion practices, it is important to adequately explain that this should incorporate more than just a single piece of legislation (see recommendations in the SOGICE Survivor Statement).
While we understand that journalists are required to interview people with a range of viewpoints, they must clearly represent conversion practices and ideology as being thoroughly discredited by all of Australia’s peak medical and psychological bodies, as well as various state and territory governments.
- Many faith communities support conversion practices because of conversion ideology, which can include the assertion that LGBTQA+ people are ‘broken’ and can be fixed. They often have little understanding of the harm this belief causes.
- The ex-gay/ex-trans movement is grounded in an ideology – it is not just a practice that should be dealt with in legislation. While affirming faith leaders are needed to help drive change from within this movement, lawmakers and legal advocates who wish to curtail the movement must pursue strategies that seek to identify and counteract the influence of this ideology in the education and training, community, charity, non-profit and media spheres. If lawmakers and advocates feel ill-equipped to implement these strategies, they must defer to the expertise of others.
- There is a strong need to more effectively communicate the lived experience of SOGICE survivors so as not to re-traumatise them or sensationalise their experiences. Survivors’ stories should be listened to, validated, and communicated as holistically as possible. These conversations should be driven by survivors themselves.
Failure to ethically and holistically represent the experiences of SOGICE survivors may lead to:
- significant mental health ramifications for survivors
- interventions and advocacy that fail to address the ideology and messages that continue to thrive within conservative communities in Australia.
1). Who are SOGICE Survivors and what is the SOGICE Survivor Statement?
SOGICE Survivors are a group of survivors of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Change Efforts, otherwise known as the LGBTQA+ Conversion movement. They are the primary writers of the SOGICE Survivor Statement (www.sogicesurvivors.com.au), a document that calls on the Australian Government to join a growing number of jurisdictions across the world by intervening to stop the LGBTQA+ Conversion movement from harming LGBTQA+ Australians.
SOGICE Survivors represents the combination of lived experience, expertise, research, and perspectives from long-term survivor support. SOGICE Survivors developed the Statement according to participatory approaches to policy development and the principle that survivors and survivor experts are best placed to accurately define the movement, conversion practices and conversion ideology. The SOGICE Survivor Statement therefore presents a much more informed and nuanced image of the conversion movement than is commonly seen in articles, publications and presentations from non-survivors.
The recommendations at the end of the Statement combine input from:
· SOGICE Survivors’ interaction with lawmakers in other jurisdictions around the world
· The best parts of legislation from other jurisdictions
· Recommendations from the Human Rights Law Centre / La Trobe University 2018 report Preventing Harm, Promoting Justice, many of which were derived from recommendations originally suggested by SOGICE Survivors
· Recommendations published in reports and submissions from Thorne Harbour Health (Victoria) and Equality Australia, also partially derived from SOGICE Survivors’ work
· Recommendations made by the producers of Inside Ex-gay, a JOY 94.9 (Melbourne) radio series produced by Dean Beck and Nathan Despott (2013-2017)
2). How do you define LGBTQA+ Conversion?
The Health Complaints Commissioner’s Report (Victoria, 2018) defines conversion practices as:
i. any practice or treatment that seeks to change, suppress or eliminate an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity,
ii. including efforts to eliminate sexual and/or romantic attractions or feelings toward individuals of the same gender, or efforts to change gender expressions.
Brave Network and SOGICE Survivors support this definition but recommend that conversion practices be defined more broadly as:
Any formal or informal practice, activity or treatment (in any setting) that seeks, or is used, to suppress, eliminate or change a person’s sexual or romantic orientation, gender identity, or gender expression, where that change is deemed necessary due to the instigator’s belief in or adherence to conversion ideology (see the SOGICE Survivor Statement for a detailed explanation of LGBTQ+ conversion ideology).
Our definition also acknowledges that conversion practices can not be isolated from conversion ideology. Any policy, regulatory, legislative, public health, or survivor support responses that separate the two will not adequately address the conversion movement.
3). Why did the name change from SOCE Survivors to SOGICE Survivors?
SOGICE Survivors originally used the ‘SOCE’ acronym, as this was a common term in the global discourse. Trans survivor advocates had discussions with fellow advocates in the US and UK regarding the potential of coining a new term rather than relying on clunky expressions such as ‘SOCE and ex-trans’. The statement was changed to use the SOGICE acronym in 2019.
4). What about the ‘I’ in LGBTQA+? What about other uses of the word ‘conversion’?
SOGICE Survivors fully affirms the right to bodily integrity, physical autonomy and self-determination of people born with variations of sex characteristics.
The LGBTQA+ conversion movement is primarily a religious phenomenon that specifically focuses on sexual orientation and gender identity, thus SOGICE Survivors use the term LGBTQA+, removing the “I”. Intersex people are part of the broader LGBTIQA+ community and many have also been affected by the movement on the basis of their sexual orientation, gender identity or both. However, medical and surgical interventions that contravene the rights and bodily autonomy of intersex infants, children and adults are not generally labelled as conversion practices in SOGICE advocacy globally. This is because the ideology and issues of consent that underpin all conversion practices (see 1.2 in the SOGICE Survivor Statement) are somewhat different to the problematic medical justifications and issues of consent that are often present in surgical interventions. The complexity of intersex experiences requires the implementation of a separate and specific set of legislative interventions, such as in the example of Malta whereby conversion practices and surgical intervention on intersex minors were addressed through separate pieces of legislation.
SOGICE Survivors fully supports the Darlington Statement and the campaigns of associated intersex organisations.
SOGICE Survivors fully affirms the right to bodily integrity, physical autonomy and self-determination of people born with variations of sex characteristics.
The term ‘LGBTQA+’ has been used throughout the SOGICE Survivor Statement when referring to the conversion movement, conversion ideology and conversion practices as these letters represent the identities consciously targeted by proponents of the movement. Conversion practices and ideology specifically target LGBTQA+ people with the message that they are ‘broken’. This is grounded in religious motivations. People with variations of sex characteristics, are rarely – if ever – consciously targeted by the conversion movement. Rather, intersex people who are affected by conversion practices are usually targeted through faith-based efforts to ensure they conform behaviourally to heterosexual/gender norms. The conversion movement has little to say about intersex people other than comments about their gender identity/ies and/or sexuality. For example, our consultations with intersex members of Brave found that conversion ideology wounded them on the basis of their gender (even if that gender was constructed ‘for them’ by others during childhood post-surgery) rather than their sex characteristics. On an ideological level, SOGICE Survivors is yet to find evidence of intersex people having their variations of sex characteristics labelled as ‘a result of sin’ or ‘spiritual affliction’.
The terms ‘conversion movement’, ‘conversion practices’ and ‘conversion ideology’ are used by survivors of the conversion movement, a movement with a distinctly religio-cultural history and is recognised as such in a range of global forums. It is vital that survivors of the conversion movement and its distinct religious agenda are able to rely on a globally recognised standard vocabulary without it being appropriated by other or adjacent groups. Survivors need to be able to point to these words and ideas and know that their horrific experiences are clearly understood by government without being confused with adjacent phenomena.
The misappropriation of these terms is regularly cited as a cause of distress in survivor groups who want to ensure their experiences of conversion practices are differentiated from homo/bi/transphobic experiences they have had in psychological spaces whereby the ideological basis has not been specifically ‘conversion ideology’.
The mis-use of the term ‘therapy’ by media to describe the conversion movement has hindered the advocacy of survivors by misrepresenting the nature of the conversion movement as being exclusive to ‘therapeutic’ attempts, the word ‘therapy’ more recently becoming conflated with the word ‘medical’. Further, incorrectly viewing ‘conversion’ as ‘anytime a person tries to change another person’s gender identity or orientation’, rather than being a bound term that relates to a specific cultural, historical and ideological phenomenon has also diluted community understanding of the experiences of survivors.
In Part 2 of the SOGICE Survivor Statement, we use the LGBTIQA+ acronym – with the ‘I’ included – when discussing the broader community and community organisations, and also when talking about the people affected by the movement.
SOGICE Survivors fully supports the Darlington Statement and the campaigns of associated intersex organisations.
5). How is LGBTQA+ conversion ideology/practices different to homophobia, biphobia or transphobia?
Conversion ideology is when a person is specifically affected by a psychologist’s/counsellor’s/religious leader’s ideological view of the persons’ identity as ‘defective’ or ‘broken’ with religious motivations.
For people caught up in the conversion movement, it is becoming much less common for LGBTIQA+ people to be referred to psychologists who hold to this ideology. It is significantly more common for LGBTQIA+ people to be referred to a counsellor (mostly unregulated) or to undergo conversion practices in a ‘pastoral care’ setting.
Trans and gender diverse people who experience opposition from clinical psychologists or social workers in relation to their gender identity should contact the relevant psychology and social work peak bodies to report these instances. While these experiences may not necessarily represent conversion ideology or practices, they are certainly in violation of existing professional standards.
6). Who wrote the statement? Who was consulted?
The SOGICE Survivor Statement was written by several survivor self-advocates and allies who are named near the end of the document after consultation with other survivors, including Brave Network members and participants in private online survivor forums.
After the first draft was written it was sent to numerous LGBTIQA+ and faith groups, community leaders, survivors and survivor groups, for affirmation and endorsement.
Due to a severe lack of knowledge about the experiences of First Nations people, Aboriginal people in our networks indicated that specific reference to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the first draft of the statement would be tokenistic. We therefore removed this. As of early 2020, SOGICE Survivors and Brave Network members are preparing to participate in government funded research that will investigate the experiences of diverse survivors, including First Nations and CALD people.
The latest version of the SOGICE Survivor Statement, released in June 2020, is an updated document that also went through a consultation phase with LGBTIQA+ groups. These included people of different faiths and cultural backgrounds. The new version was sent to all original community leaders and community organisations who had endorsed the first version for re-endorsement.
7). How does LGBTQA+ Conversion ideology differ from religious theology? What about religious freedom?
Freedom of belief must be protected, however activities, behaviour and practices that infringe on the rights of other human beings cannot be reconciled with the right to religious freedom. Faith communities and religious Australians currently have the freedom to believe and preach what they like, for example, about whether or not being LGBTQA+ is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. They are not free, however, to harm or promote harm towards LGBTQA+ people. We wish to make clear that a faith community that merely preaches that homosexuality is sinful would not be considered as participating in LGBTQA+ conversion ideology or practices. However, it is common for religiously motivated homophobia/biphobia/transphobia to progress to conversion ideology in many communities.
Freedom of belief must be protected, however activities, behaviour and practices that infringe on the rights of other human beings cannot be reconciled with the right to religious freedom. Faith communities and religious Australians currently have the freedom to believe and preach what they like, for example, about whether or not being LGBTQA+ is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. They are not free, however, to harm or promote harm towards LGBTQA+ people. Freedom of belief does not equate to freedom of behaviour and it certainly does not equate to freedom from consequences.
There is a marked difference between conservative religious homo/bi/transphobia and conversion ideology. The first is rooted in religious beliefs about ‘sin’, a religious doctrine that does not always align with modern secular and ethical values. Conversion ideology, on the other hand, is a contemporary pseudo-science grounded in psychoanalytic hypotheses developed in the 19th century then later abandoned by modern psychology in the mid-20th century. Modern concepts of sexual orientation, gender, and even the use of the word ‘homosexuality’ also did not develop until the late 19th Century.
Conversion ideology and practices are one method that conservative religious movements have used to engage LGBTIQA+ people. Other methods have included avoidance (eg. simply not talking about congregants’ sexuality or gender while not allowing any variance from cisgender and heterosexual expression), complete rejection (eg. preventing all conversation on the matter, coupled with outright rejection or condemnation of LGBTIQA+ people), and affirmation (eg. fully accepting LGBTIQA+ people, in which case the community would no longer hold a conservative position). Conversion ideology is usually present in faith communities that wish to appear warm and welcoming toward LGBTIQA+ people, however attach boundaries and caveats to their membership, including the requirement to suppress their identity, remain celibate, or seek healing. It must be noted that this position is not at all a traditional or ancient religious stance – it would be anachronistic to suggest so. The ideology often connects LGBTQA+ identity to early childhood developmental issues such as trauma and abuse. It makes claims about the function and ethics of LGBTQA+ identity based solely on subjective ideas drawn from the relatively recent pseudoscience noted above and therefore extends far beyond traditional religious belief. These ideas have now been refuted by modern science and psychology.
We wish to make clear that a faith community that merely preaches that homosexuality is a sin would not be considered to be involved in LGBTQA+ conversion practices. However, if the faith community preached that, for example, LGBTQA+ people can be ‘fixed’ and need to seek ‘healing’, this would be promoting harm towards LGBTQA+ people, as conversion ideology and practices are known and understood to be significantly harmful to LGBTQA+ people.
We are concerned that some conservative religious organisations understand the lack of awareness of the above discussion in Australia’s political discourse, media reporting, and general community awareness. Such organisations use this lack of awareness to their advantage, regularly claiming that conversion ideology is a deeply held part of their faith traditions. They often take a posture of victimhood when challenged. The Australian government must recognise the difference between the freedom of religious expression and life-threatening pseudoscientific concepts and practices that have been carefully disguised as religious traditions or theology. This may require some political bravery, however this is no more bravery than survivors have been required to summon in order to ensure their voices are heard.
Finally, LGBTQA+ people who are exposed to harm due to conversion practices or conversion ideology are often religious or seeking out religious or spiritual community. These people have a right to the religious freedom to practice and participate in their religion without exposure to harm.