Green MPs Dr Elizabeth Kerekere and Chlöe Swarbrick today delivered a petition to parliament with over 157,000 signatures, calling for an urgent ban on ”conversion therapy”.

Conversion therapies, sometimes known as ”reparative therapies”, are pseudoscientific practices that aim to stop a person from being gay, transgender, or otherwise not heteronormative. Ending conversion therapy would make it illegal for individuals, organisations, agencies, or other entities to offer, advertise, or perform conversion therapy on another person, or to remove a person to another country for conversion therapy.

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Often we think of electroshock treatment, or of faith based groups preforming “exorcisms to cast out the demons”, and while these practises do happen, there are much more routine ways that trans people are regularly subjected to conversion therapy.

When trans people seek medical care – regardless of whether this is gender affirming care, a simple cold, or a broken bone – they are commonly subjected to conversion therapy. No matter what health complaint they have, it is often blamed on hormones, and the clinician tries to end their hormone prescription.

Many trans women are told by clinicians to get RLE (or “Real Life Experience”) for 12 months before seeking treatment, or to go away and learn to be more feminine first. That is to say, the medical advice the clinician gives is to wear lipstick and high heels for a year before they will accept that the patient is a transgender woman.

This is a system that erects barriers, denies who trans people are, and tries to convert trans people by making them not trans anymore. These unscientific, unhealthy, biased, and discriminatory practices must stop.

Conversion therapy also affects the treatment of intersex people, or people born with a variation of sex characteristics. Intersex infants often have surgeries performed on their genitals, or are later pressured to have medical treatments. It is essential that the wording of the legislation protects intersex people from unnecessary interventions to conform their body to a heteronormative ideal.

“It’s 2021 and it’s still legal to erase queer identities in the name of conversion therapy because our government has failed to act.” said Shaneel Lal, co-founder of End Conversion Therapy NZ.

“Aotearoa should be a place where no matter who you love or how you identify, you are accepted, and no one should be allowed to force people to change who they are through this harmful and traumatising practice.” said Dr Elizabeth Kerekere, in a recent press release.

“We must have the legislation introduced as soon as possible. As the weeks and months roll by, we risk more rainbow New Zealanders being exposed to this harmful practice. Not only is it unethical, but it has been linked to serious long term mental health issues.”

Labour, National, the Māori Party, and The Opportunities Party are also in support of a ban on conversion therapy.

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