‘Protect us, and mean it’: Conversion therapy survivors call for bill without religious exemptions

Survivors of conversion therapy shared their stories outside Parliament today and called for a bill banning the practice to have no religious exemptions.

The survivors spoke before a petition calling for urgency on the ban was presented to Parliament by the Green Party.

The Government revealed yesterday it planned to bring legislation banning the practice to Parliament by the middle of the year, which would see conversion therapy outlawed by February 2022 at the latest.

The Green Party said a petition launched last week – which has now gathered 157,764 signatures – had put pressure on the Government to bring forward the legislation.

Trinity Thompson-Browne had travelled from Christchurch to share their experience of conversion therapy and said it was healing to see so many people in support of the ban.

“It’s amazing to see and incredibly healing to see so many people in support of this,” they said.

“I’m here to share my story in the hopes that it helps other people feel seen and validated in their own experiences.”

Conversion therapy is based on a belief that people with diverse sexual orientations or gender identities are abnormal and should be changed so they fit within hetero-normative standards.

Thompson-Browne said the experience had been very damaging.

“Homophobic and transphobic Christian doctrine positioned me in a place of total disempowerment and self-hatred, from the outset of needing to be fixed,” they said.

“But who I am and who I choose to love was never something that needed fixing.”

They said if the bill included religious exemptions, it would not provide protection for the rainbow community.

“There cannot be religious exemptions from this, otherwise it is not protection,” they said.

“It is a farce and it is insulting. Protect us and mean it. To everyone who is currently undergoing conversion therapy, please keep breathing.

“You are loved. You are enough … We will not stop fighting for you.”

Green Party rainbow spokeswoman Elizabeth Kerekere said the party would work to ensure there would be no religious exemptions to the bill. But so far they had no promises from Government.

“We need to ensure from the beginning that [there] will be no religious exemptions,” she said.

“In this case, free speech should never be used as an excuse to allow people to cause harm.

“For people whose faith – their spirituality and their religion – is core to who they are, it should not have to compete with their sexuality and gender, or getting acceptance within their whānau, or within their church and community.”

Opposition Leader Judith Collins said this morning she would like to see a bill on conversion therapy, as it had been promised in the election campaign.

“The conversion therapy that I have looked up and have discussed with people is something that we would ban,” she said.

“We just think that that is inhumane, actually, in today’s world.”

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