Openly conducts investigation into 'traumatising' conversion therapy

The LGBTQ+ news service Openly has published a major investigation into the horrors of conversion therapy.

Closeup of a distressed man sitting with his head in his hands in a dimly lit room

Content Warning: Contains descriptions of homophobia and conversion therapy.

Openly, which describes itself as “a global digital platform delivering fair, accurate and impartial LGBTQ+ news to a world that isn’t”, examines the human impact of these practices with its investigation.

The practice of conversion therapy, as defined by the Thomson Reuters Foundation, is “designed to try and change or suppress the sexual desire or gender identity of LGBTQ+ people”.

The investigative study delves into the harrowing tales of conversion therapy survivors from all around the world, confirming that this traumatising practice is still very much alive, often operating in the shadows.

Complete with heartbreaking video testimonials, we learn of a transwoman in Mexico who was convinced to cut off her own hair by a local pastor in an effort to obliterate her identity; a teenage lesbian in post-Soviet Georgia who was injected with hormones as a ‘cure’ for her sexual orientation; and a young Egyptian man who suffered trauma from invasive anal examinations at the hand of a famous doctor.

These are just three survivors of thousands more who have undergone this horrific treatment which is only outlawed in a handful of countries. Ireland, regrettably, has not yet made that list.

The Openly investigation conducted interviews not only with the survivors of this homophobia-fuelled practice but also with the practitioners themselves where possible.

Heba Kotb is the famous Egyptian doctor specialising in sexual medicine mentioned above. She deals specifically with gay men, and her treatment still gives nightmares to her former patient, Taha Metwally.

Metawally, who moved from Egypt to Paris, France, and is now an LGBTQ+ activist, received an unexplained anal examination by Kotb during his second session with her.

He said “She took something without speaking with me about my consent. I’m very angry with her.”

“I have a 100% cure rate,” Kotb declared. “I have treated no less than 3,000 cases of gays, all over the Arab world.”

Of her patients and her practice, she said, “They need to want it, to have decided to do it and to know they will have a hard time. The main line of treatment is to replace the programming of this person, who is leaning towards same-sex attraction. We remove this and replace it with heterosexual attraction.”

We spoke with Steve Jacques, an NXF board member, who is a survivor of conversion therapy in Ireland. He said:

“It’s an important issue for me because I have direct experience of this. I have experienced efforts to change my sexual orientation from exorcism experiences to group and individual therapy, 12-step programmes to residential retreats! The experiences were harmful and can have serious negative consequences on one’s mental health and self-esteem.”

Jacques goes on to say, “All it does is reinforce shame and encourage repression. Conversion therapy is rooted in belief systems that say that LGBTQ+ people are disorientated or sick and therefore need curing. It should be banned because it is abusive and serves no positive purpose.”

Research by the Thomson Reuters Foundation found that conversion therapy bans have been proposed in at least 13 countries and bills are working their way through parliaments.

Details of the full Openly investigation can be found here.

Reporter: Rachel Savage
Additional reporting: Umberto Bacchi, Christine Murray, Megan Davies, Kim Harrisberg, Maya Gebeily, and Enrique Anarte
Text editing: Lyndsay Griffiths and Hugo Greenhalgh
Video editing: Morgane Mounier
Videography: Kyle Laurin, Calypso Logel, Cinthya Chavez, Teona Chakvetadze
Graphics: Nura Ali
Producer: Amber Milne

If you have been affected by this story or are looking to reach out to someone for support or advice or just to talk, there are numerous services available for LGBTQ+ people, listed below, and many offer instant messaging support.

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