Fifth of LGBTQ+ people in UK subjected to conversion practices

<span>Photograph: Leni Morris/PA</span>
Photograph: Leni Morris/PA

More than 400,000 people who are gay, transgender or non-binary have been subjected to someone trying to change, “cure” or suppress their sexual orientation or gender identity, according to new research that suggests a proposed ban on conversion practices will have a wider impact than previously thought.

Polling for Galop, an LGBTQ+ anti-abuse charity, found that one in five LGBTQ+ people and more than a third of trans people in the UK have been subjected to attempted conversion, which campaigners describe as abuse.

The proportion is higher than previous estimates and comes amid Conservative backbench unrest at the government’s announcement last week that it will ban conversion practices.

While campaigners for gay and transgender rights argue that the polling shows more than ever the need to prohibit conversion practices, the numbers may fuel concern that to do so could have a wide social impact, including on families negotiating someone’s sexual or gender identity.

Conservative MPs have already said they may vote against a bill because they fear concerned parents and professional clinicians could be caught up in a ban alongside fundamentalist religious preachers who disdain gender and sexual diversity.

The bill has yet to be placed before parliament and the way it is worded will be key.

Last week, Conservative MP Tim Loughton told the Daily Telegraph MPs were agreed that gay and trans people needed to be “protected” against “loonies who want you to die in the fires of hell because you don’t confirm to their sexual conventions”. But he said that “concerned parents and proper professional clinicians just doing their job should not be caught up in such a ban”.

Leni Morris, chief executive of Galop, said: “These numbers finally show a full picture of how the LGBT+ community are subjected to abuse from people who want to change who we are. With so many of us facing abuse, violence, and sexual assault to try to change who we are, it is vital that the government follows through on its promises and brings about a swift, comprehensive ban to protect victims and those at risk, and provide support to survivors.”

She said: “We do not need to be changed or cured, and we do deserve to be protected.”

The polling, by YouGov, involved 2,042 LGBTQ+ adults across the UK. Latest census figures show there are 1.5 million people in England and Wales who describe themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual or other and 262,000 who said the gender they identify with was not the same as their sex registered at birth.

More than two-fifths (43%) of trans people and 18% of LGBTQ+ people had been subject to conversion practices, the polling showed.