Trinity research finds evidence of conversion therapy in Ireland

A study conducted on behalf of the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth provides an insight into how conversion therapy practices operate in Ireland

Researchers from Trinity’s School of Nursing and Midwifery have found indications that conversion therapy practices take place in Ireland.

The research provides an insight into how conversion therapy practices operate in Ireland. It also includes an examination of the growing body of recent international research literature in the area.

The study, which was commissioned by government, will inform plans to ban the practice.

The study is the first of its kind in Ireland and involved 340 participants. The majority of the participants were cisgender, with 27 indicating they were transgender, and 35 indicating they were nonbinary, genderqueer, agender or genderfluid. The participants ranged from 18-77 years old.

11 respondents stated that they had been exposed to conversion therapy in the last five years.

Of this sample, just seven participants who were exposed to conversion therapy volunteered to be interviewed. Speaking of their experience with conversion therapy, one individual referred to it as “the worst time of my life”, while another noted attempting suicide on multiple occasions.

Of those interviewed, five gay men stated that they voluntarily partook in conversion therapy, while other participants in the survey stated that it was provided against their will. Five transgender participants indicated that they did not provide consent.

Dr Brian Keogh, associate professor in mental health nursing at Trinity and lead author of the study said: “While this is a small study, the combined survey results, qualitative interviews and literature review contribute to the growing international evidence that conversion practices are ineffective and can have a negative impact on people who are exposed to them”.

Announcing the report’s publication, Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth Roderic O’Gorman stated: “I welcome the research published today which represents an important step towards legislating for a ban on conversion practices. Legislating to prohibit conversion practices is a continuance of the State’s assertion of the equal dignity of LGBTI+ persons and is a priority for me.”

The current Programme for Government contains a commitment to legislate to end the practice of conversion therapy, and the government has promised to introduce a ban within a year.

There are 14 countries in Europe that have already banned conversion therapy; including Germany, France and Malta.

Pádraig Rice of LGBT Ireland stated that a ban on LGBT conversion therapy will be “hard legislation to draft”, given suggestions that the State has no business banning individuals from freely undergoing conversion therapy.

Mr Rice rejected this argument, saying: “You can’t consent to torture, you can’t consent to really harmful practices that will do damage to you.”

Conversion therapy is an umbrella term that describes a range of practices which specifically aim to change or suppress an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity expression.

Kate Byrne

Kate Byrne is the Deputy Comment Editor at Trinity News and is currently in her Junior Sophister Year studying History and Political Science.