Conversion therapy has no place in the modern world
‘(LGBT) conversion therapy’ is worldwide condemned by doctors and therapists as “a cure for an illness that does not exist”. It has no place in the modern medical world and we believe it should also be banned from the modern spiritual world.
Every day, people around the world are told they should be ashamed of who they are because they are gay, lesbian or trans. Some of them – often those living in strictly religious communities – are made subject to a humiliating practice called ‘conversion therapy’ (also known under different names such as ‘gay cure therapy’).
This ‘conversion therapy’ aims to destroy a part of someone’s identity. It is grounded in the idea that only a heterosexual identity is normal and other identities need to be 'cured'. The ‘therapy’ is not limited to voluntary talking therapy. It can include being locked up against your will, dehumanising language, being exposed to electroshocks and other forms of violence, even ‘reparative’ rape.
” I was told that my faith community rejected my sexuality; that I was the abomination we had heard about in Sunday school; that I was the only gay person in the world; that it was inevitable I would get H.I.V. and AIDS. But it didn’t stop with these hurtful talk-therapy sessions. The therapist ordered me bound to a table to have ice, heat and electricity applied to my body. I was forced to watch clips on a television of gay men holding hands, hugging and having sex. I was supposed to associate those images with the pain I was feeling to once and for all turn into a straight boy. In the end it didn’t work. I would say that it did, just to make the pain go away.” (Testimony by a victim of conversion therapy – The New York Times, 24 January 2018)
Conversion therapy is not rare. Researchers from the Williams Institute estimate that approximately 700 000 LBGT adults in the USA have been exposed to conversion therapy at some point in their lives (roughly half of them when they were in their teens). They estimate some 77 000 youth will receive conversion therapy in the USA before the age of 18 (about 57 000 of these will be performed by 'a religious or spiritual advisor'). The practice is not limited to the USA. Conversion therapy is also performed in the EU and the rest of the world.
On a scale rarely seen has a wide range of European Buddhist organisations and teachers – covering all major Buddhist schools and traditions and stretching from Sweden to Spain – expressed their solidarity with the victims of conversion therapy.
In the declaration ” Conversion therapy has no place in the modern medical and spiritual world “ European Buddhists ask spiritual leaders/teachers worldwide to ban conversion therapy, and commit to certain ethical standards in their spiritual practice.
Everyone endorsing these principles is invited to sign the declaration. The official launch of the declaration is 1 March 2018 (the United Nations Day of Zero Discrimination).
Below you will find:
- The full text of the declaration (you can also download the declaration here: in English, or in Spanish)
- The original endorsing Buddhist organisations to the declaration
- An introduction to the declaration
- A link to more background information (you can also download the background information here: in English, or in Spanish).
By sharing the declaration and/or adding your signature, you will:
- increase awareness of the dangers of conversion therapy and protect people from being exposed to it,
- make others aware of the suffering it causes to many gay, lesbian and trans people and their families,
- make religious organisations and spiritual teachers aware that conversion therapy has no place in the modern medical and spiritual world.
1: DECLARATION 1 MARCH 2018:
" Conversion therapy has no place in the modern medical and spiritual world "
- We wish to state that the practice of conversion therapy has no place in the modern world. It is unethical and harmful and not supported by evidence.
- Conversion therapy is the term for therapy that assumes certain sexual orientations or gender identities are inferior to others, and seeks to change or suppress them on that basis.
- Sexual orientations and gender identities are not mental health disorders, although exclusion, stigma and prejudice may precipitate mental health issues for any person subjected to these abuses.
- Anyone accessing therapeutic help should be able to do so without fear of judgement or the threat of being pressured to change a fundamental aspect of who they are.
- If someone seeking spiritual help is in need of therapy, they should be referred free from pressure, well informed and only to confidential, safe and appropriately trained therapists
- The pathologising by conversion therapy of certain sexual orientations or gender identities has no medical justification and is therefore sometimes referred to as ‘a cure for an illness that does not exist’. Medical diagnosing should never be misused to justify personal and/or religious moral judgment
- Conversion therapy often takes place in a context of violence, such as humiliating and dehumanising language, hate speech or exposure to physical violence. Such forms of violence can never be justified, whether it is in a medical or a spiritual context or both
- Engaging with conversion therapy, directly or indirectly, is a failure to fulfil one of the core responsibilities medical and spiritual professionals have in common: to protect those who are vulnerable and seek our help. They need to be supported in safe and confidential ways that respect their identity and human dignity.
2: Introduction to the declaration
‘Conversion therapy’ covers a wide range of methods which have in common that they pathologise certain sexual orientations or gender identities: they approach these as an illness that needs a cure. This pathologising has no medical justification and is often done on religious grounds. Scientific research concluded there is no reliable evidence that conversion therapy ever worked, while there is clear evidence that it can cause harm. It also leads to increased stigmatisation and social exclusion.
Worldwide, medical organisations such as the World Psychiatric Association, PAHO (the Pan American Health Organisation of the World Health Organisation) and several other leading professional medical organisations have spoken out clearly and unambiguously against conversion therapy. In July 2017 the (Anglican) Church of England joined doctors, psychologists and therapists of the UK in condemning conversion therapy.
Spiritual and medical professionals have a shared responsibility to protect those who are vulnerable and seek our help from harmful interventions. We share a duty to ensure that their needs are addressed in safe and confidential ways that respect their identity and human dignity.
Given that the motivation for conversion therapy is almost exclusively religious and that many conversion therapists are non-medically trained religious leaders, it is also imperative that religions join doctors and professional therapists in condemning these 'therapies' unequivocally.
The declaration " Conversion therapy has no place in the modern medical and spiritual world " asks spiritual leaders/teachers to condemn conversion therapy and commit to certain ethical standards in their spiritual practice.
Everyone endorsing these principles is invited to sign the declaration. The official launch of the declaration is 1 March 2018 (the United Nations Day of Zero Discrimination)
3: Original endorsing Buddhist organisations
- Italian Buddhist Union (National Buddhist Union, Italy)
- Buddhist Union of the Netherlands (National Buddhist Union, the Netherlands)
- The Buddhist Cooperation Council of Sweden (National Buddhist Union, Sweden)
- Asociación Hispana de Buddhismo (Spanish Buddhist Association, Spain)
- The Rainbow Sangha (Buddhist LGBTI network, European network)
- Sakyadhita France (Association of Buddhist Women, France)
- Centro Zen L’Arco (Zen Buddhist Monastery, Italy)
- Amida Shu (Pureland Buddhist organisation, UK)
- Association Reiyukai France (Reiyukai Buddhist Association, France)
- Haus Tao, Zen meditation centre (Sati-Zen, Switzerland)
- London Shambhala meditation centre (Shambhala, Vajrayana, UK)
- Mandala Samten Ling, Tibetan study centre (Drikung Kagyu tradition, Vajrayana, Italy)
4: Background information to the declaration
- Download the background document to the declaration: 'Conversion therapy has no place in the modern medical and spiritual world.' (in English)
- Descarga el 'Documento de Antecendentes de la Declaracion: La Terapia de Conversión No Tiene Cabida en el Mundo Médico y Espiritual Moderno.' (en español)
We invite all who agree that conversion therapy has no place in the modern world to join the medical professionals in condemning conversion therapy unequivocally.
Dr Michael Vermeulen,
Abbot Dario Doshin Girolami,