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Diversity, Equality and Inclusion

ITV Pridecast | The gay Evangelical campaigning to end so-called “conversion therapy”

Being LGBTQ+ and a person of faith might appear somewhat at odds with one another. The prejudice and discrimination that’s often projected onto members of the LGBTQ+ community by religions all over the world can lead many to turn away from faith. In the UK especially, and with regards to Christianity in particular, more and more people appear to be choosing a different path. In the 2021 census, less than half of the population in England and Wales described themselves as Christian and those with ‘no religion’ was the second most common response.

However for someone like Jayne Ozanne, faith is something at the centre of her life. She describes herself as a gay Evangelical and works to try and ensure all LGBTQ+ people feel a sense of belonging and inclusion when it comes to their faith. For Jayne, the church must do so much more to make everyone feel included, or it risks creating its own demise. She chats to Liam McConkey and Dougie Robertson in this ITV Pridecast episode about embracing her identity as a gay Christian and wanting to inspire others that a person’s sexuality and religion can coexist without having to shun one for the other.

One way in which people have often tried to suppress their sexuality in favour of their faith is through the practice of so-called “conversion therapy.” This is an area that Jayne has taken a keen interest in and she is currently the founder and chair of the UK’s Ban on Conversion Therapy. The LGBTQ+ charity Stonewall, defines conversion therapy as ‘any intervention that seeks to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.’ It adds, ‘conversion therapies work towards one goal and that goal is to ‘cure’ someone from being lesbian, gay, bi, trans, ace, intersex and/or queer.’

The whole issue of conversion therapy gained significant media attention in 2018 when ITV News reporter, Paul Brand, showed that the practice was still taking place in parts of the UK. That led to calls for it to end, with even the Prime Minister at the time, Theresa May, vowing to ban it saying conversion therapy “had no place in modern Britain.”

Five years on and three different Prime Ministers later, conversion therapy is still not illegal in the UK. There have been delays and u-turns on the policy but in June 2023, the UK Government said a bill was ready to be presented to Parliament. That however, appears to have a significant loophole that would allow conversion therapy to continue if a person volunteered for it. In response, the UK Government says it’s “committed to protecting people at risk from conversion practices” and scrutiny of the bill will allow for analysis and the addressing of any “risk of unintended impacts.”

For Jayne, the u-turns and delays on a potential ban led her to resign from the government’s LGBT Advisory Panel in 2021 due to its slow progress. Having gone through conversion therapy herself, Jayne says this long overdue ban is needed if people are to be finally protected from the harm that the practice can cause.

It’s a topic that Dougie also has first-hand experience of. He grew up in a fundamentalist religious background which has strict ideals, and being gay certainly wasn’t one of them. In an article for The Independent in 2018, Dougie spoke very openly and movingly of spending years trying to ‘pray the gay away’ and if he’d been offered conversion therapy he would have taken it. For him now, Christianity is no longer a part of his life but he says he fully supports the work of people like Jayne who are trying to create a much more inclusive church that does not practice or act as the facilitator for conversion therapy.

Support networks:

Galop: the LGBT+ anti abuse charity - it works to support victims and survivors of domestic abuse, sexual violence, hate crime, honour-based abuse, forced marriage and conversion therapy. Call on 0800 999 5428. There’s a free online chat service on their website or email: help@galop.org.uk

Mermaids - supports transgender, nonbinary and gender-diverse children and younger people until their 20th birthday as well as their families. Contact on 0808 801 0400 or email info@mermaidsuk.org.uk

LGBT Foundation - offers a range of support to LGBTQ+ people, which includes wellbeing help and support. Contact on 0345 330 3030 or email helpline@lgbt.foundation

Switchboard LGBT - offers advice and support to LGBTQ+ people including a helpline and its email and web-chat service. Call 0300 330 0630 or email hello@switchboard.lgbt

Stonewall - The LGBTQ+ charity has a full explainer on what conversation therapy is on its website

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