SOGICE Survivor Statement.
Written by survivors of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Change Efforts and the LGBTQA+ Conversion movement.
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, LGBTIQ+ 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/extrans/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 LGBTIQA+ Australians from conversion practices.
- Tighter regulation to prevent the promotion, broadcast and advertising of conversion practices and ideology.
- Funding for LGBTQA+ 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 long list of community leaders and organisations including Amnesty International Australia, ACON, Thorne Harbour Health, and PFLAG.
If you agree with the recommendations in the SOGICE Survivor Statement, please affirm it here.
On Friday 31st August 2018 (Wear It Purple Day), this 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 SOGICE
Several survivors of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Change Efforts worked with The Brave Network and Equal Voices to develop an ethical framework for engaging with survivors of SOGICE (Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Change Efforts) that acknowledges their humanity and the entirety of their lived experience.
These guidelines present a way forward for communicators to accurately and responsibly represent SOGICE survivors 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 SOGICE and 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 SOGICE in Australia.
An ethical approach to representing survivors and the issue as a whole acknowledges that while a ‘ban’ on conversion practices may be a first step toward reducing the access to (and prevalence of) more formalised LGBTQA+ conversion practices, it does not comprehensively address the wider range of SOGICE that exist within conservative faith communities in Australia.
An ethical approach seeks to spotlight the erroneous belief – widespread in Australian Christian communities – that people are LGBTQA+ due to a form ‘brokenness’.
An ethical approach returns focus to the homophobic, biphobic and transphobic attitudes that exist in faith communities, rather than focusing solely on the therapeutic manifestations of these attitudes.
Practically, an ethical approach covering SOGICE in the media will:
- Reduce focus on sensational aspects such as deliverance, electroshock/aversion therapy and formal therapy.
- Centre the voices and experiences of SOGICE survivors in such a way that the underlying homophobic, biphobic and transphobic ideology of the ex-gay movement (“LGBTQ = broken”) is addressed.
- Communicate that whilst a ‘ban’ on conversion practices or ‘therapies’ may help to send a message to the wider community about the issue and help to reduce the number of counsellors and other professionals engaging in this kind of practice, it will do very little to protect LGBTQ+ people from harmful ideology present within conservative faith-based communities and programs in Australia, and
- 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. ‘LGBTQ+ 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 psycholgical bodies, as well as various state and territory governments, including Victoria, the ACT, Tasmania and South Australia.
- Faith communities support SOGICE because of the belief that LGBTQ+ 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 type of therapy that can be banned. 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.
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.
How do you define LGBTQA+ Conversion?
The HCC Report 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).
How does LGBTQA+ Conversion ideology differ from religious theology? What about religious freedom?
Short answer: Freedom of belief must be protected, however activities, behavior 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 a sin would not be considered to be involved in LGBTQA+ conversion practices.
Longer answer: Freedom of belief must be protected, however activities, behavior 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+ individuals.
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 practices that have been carefully disguised as traditional religious activities. 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.
What about the ‘I’ in LGBTIQA?
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.