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Bill Needed To Stop The Serious Harm Caused By Conversion Practices

“Today is an important step in naming the harm faced by trans and non-binary people, and other rainbow people, when their very sense of self is under attack”, said Dr Jaimie Veale, Senior Lecturer in Psychology and Director of the Transgender Health Research Lab at the University of Waikato.

“The Transgender Health Research Lab welcomes the Conversion Practices Prohibition Legislation Bill’s explicit acknowledgements of the serious harm caused by conversion practices and the need to stop them, wherever they occur, and whoever is the perpetrator”, said Dr Veale.

The Bill’s definitions clarify that conversion practices include attempts to change or suppress a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity or expression.

“This Bill is in line with statements by health professional bodies here and around the world that condemn conversion practices as unethical, harmful, lacking scientific credibility and not within a health practitioner’s scope of practice”, said Jack Byrne, Senior Researcher at the Transgender Health Research Lab.

These include statements from professional bodies, including the World Professional Association for Transgender Health, that have highlighted the specific harm of gender identity conversion practices.

Despite these statements, such practices persist, as seen in responses from those who completed Counting Ourselves, the Transgender Health Research Lab’s 2018 nationwide health survey of trans and non-binary people. Almost 1 in 5 (19.7%) of those who had ever spoken to a health professional about their gender reported a health professional had tried to stop them being trans or non-binary.

“Takatāpui scholars have confirmed that historically, Te Ao Māori accepted those with diverse genders and sexualities as a normal part of society. Conversion practices are a product of colonisation and have no place in Aotearoa today”, said Jack Byrne. “ As the Minister stated, a person’s gender identity, gender expression or sexual orientation is never broken or in need of fixing”, said Mr Byrne.

Conversion practices result in both immediate and ongoing harm to trans and non-binary people and other rainbow people and their families. “Being told that something as core to your being as your gender or sexual orientation is wrong can have serious impacts on a person’s health and wellbeing”, said Dr Veale.

“International research shows that legally banning conversion practices must be coupled with education about the harm they cause, resourcing of support for survivors of such practices, and strengthened human rights protections for rainbow people”, said Mr Byrne.

The Transgender Health Research Lab will be making a submission to the Select Committee, drawing on the Counting Ourselves findings and further detailed analysis that has been accepted for publication in an international peer-reviewed journal and will be released shortly.

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