Frequently Asked Questions

SOGICE Survivors was founded by a group of survivors of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Change Efforts, otherwise known as LGBTQA+
Conversion practices. This group has produced the SOGICE Survivor Statement (www.sogicesurvivors.com.au), a document that calls on the
Australian Government and Australian state and territory governments to join a growing number of jurisdictions across the world in intervening
to prevent the harm caused by LGBTQA+ conversion ideology and practices.

SOGICE Survivors originally used the ‘SOCE’ (Sexual Orientation Change Efforts) acronym, however this was expanded in 2019 to ‘SOGICE’ (Sexual
Orientation and Gender Identity Change Efforts) to ensure the experience and voices of trans and gender diverse people was included in
advocacy work, particularly in light of the unique experiences of trans people in healthcare settings.

SOGICE Survivors represents the combination of lived experience, expertise, research, and perspectives from long-term survivor support. SOGICE
Survivors developed the Statement using participatory approaches to policy development and the principle that survivors and survivor experts
are best placed to accurately define the movement, conversion practices and conversion ideology. The SOGICE Survivor Statement therefore
presents a much more informed and nuanced image of the conversion movement than is commonly seen in articles, publications and
presentations from non-survivors.

The SOGICE Survivor Statement is the product of combined input from a range of sources including:

  • Brave Network’s long-term survivor peer support
  • Consultation with LGBTQA+ advocates and organisations across Australia
  • SOGICE Survivors’ interaction with lawmakers in other jurisdictions around the world
  • The strongest aspects of legislation from other jurisdictions
  • Recommendations from the Human Rights Law Centre / La Trobe University 2018 report Preventing Harm, Promoting Justice, many of which
    were derived from SOGICE Survivors’ original recommendations
  • La Trobe University 2020 report Healing Spiritual Harms and subsequent publications
  • Recommendations published in reports and submissions from Thorne Harbour Health (Victoria), partially derived from SOGICE Survivors’ work
  • The Health Complaints Commissioner’s inquiry (Victoria, 2018) into conversion practices
  • Recommendations made by the producers of Inside Ex-gay, a JOY 94.9 (Melbourne) radio series produced by Dean Beck and Nathan Despott

Brave Network and SOGICE Survivors support this definition but recommend that conversion practices be defined more broadly as: 

Any formal or informal practice, activity or treatment (in any setting) that seeks, or is used, to suppress, eliminate or change a person’s sexual or romantic orientation, gender identity, or gender expression, where that change is deemed necessary due to the instigator’s belief in or adherence to conversion ideology (see the SOGICE Survivor Statement for a detailed explanation of LGBTQ+ conversion ideology). 

Conversion practices cannot be isolated from conversion ideology and the intentions behind the practices. Any policy, regulatory, legislative, public health, or survivor support responses that separate the two will not adequately address the conversion movement. 

SOGICE Survivors most frequently uses the terms ‘conversion practices’ and ‘conversion ideology’. 

Conversion practices occur in a broad range of settings – from healthcare and human services, to faith communities and families – however the basic parts of the ideology behind these practices are remarkably consistent. Sometimes these practices occur in isolation, however other practices are informed by networking, referrals, and shared materials between proponents. For this reason, SOGICE Survivors often uses the term ‘conversion movement’. 

These terms more accurately reflect the range of survivor experiences than past language. The misuse of the term ‘therapy’, such as in ‘gay conversion therapy’ and ‘conversion therapy’, by media to describe conversion ideology and practices – and the broader movement – has hindered the advocacy of survivors by misrepresenting the nature of the conversion movement as being confined to practices in which there is a clear perpetrator and a participant interacting in defined appointments or programs. 

In reality, conversion practices rarely take a form that participants or external observers would recognise as a ‘therapy’. In fact, many survivors of conversion practices do not realise that they have experienced conversion practices until much later. 

For these reasons, we actively encourage Australian media, advocates and political figures to avoid the terms ‘gay conversion therapy’ and ‘conversion therapy’. 

SOGICE Survivors fully affirms the right to bodily integrity, physical autonomy and self-determination of intersex people – people born with variations of sex characteristics. 

The LGBTQA+ conversion movement is grounded in conversion ideology, a blending of cultural, religious or theological ideas with pseudoscientific ideas that make claims about the causes and nature of same-sex sexual orientation and trans or gender diverse experience and identity. Conversion ideology and practices focus on the psychological, emotional and developmental factors that surround sexual orientation and gender identity, almost always engaging with the conscious experience and self-identification of the sexuality and gender of the people involved. The challenges faced by intersex people have some overlap with the experiences of conversion practices – particularly in terms of the entrenched cultural impulse to construct a binary world of normative men and women. However, the ideology and issues of consent that underpin conversion practices (see the SOGICE Survivor Statement) are different to the problematic medical justifications and issues of consent that are often present in surgical interventions on intersex people, particularly intersex infants. 

Medical and surgical interventions that contravene the rights and bodily autonomy of intersex infants, children and adults are not labelled as conversion practices in LGBTIQA+ advocacy globally. In addition, some of the advocacy priorities can begin to appear contradictory if not carefully delineated. The complexity of intersex experiences therefore requires the implementation of a separate and specific set of legislative interventions, such as in the examples of Malta (Gender Identity Gender Expression and Sex Characteristics Act 2015) and the Australian Capital Territory (Variation in Sex Characteristics Act 2023) where conversion practices and surgical interventions on intersex minors were addressed through separate pieces of legislation. 

For these reasons, SOGICE Survivors uses the term LGBTQA+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer, Ace/Asexual, +) removing the “I”, as the letters LGBTQA represent the identities explicitly targeted by the various proponents of the conversion practices movement. It must be noted however that intersex people are part of the broader LGBTIQA+ community and many have also been affected by conversion practices on the basis of their sexual orientation, gender identity or both. Conversion practices and ideology specifically target LGBTQA+ people with the message that they are ‘broken’. People with variations of sex characteristics are not consciously targeted by proponents of this ideology and proponents have little to say about intersex people unless based in comments about their gender identity/ies and/or sexuality. For example, intersex people who are affected by conversion practices are usually targeted through faith-based efforts or prompting by healthcare professionals to ensure they conform behaviourally to heterosexual/cis-gender norms. Intersex members of Brave have indicated that conversion ideology and practices were directed at them on the basis of their gender (even if that gender was ‘constructed for them’ by others during non-consensual surgeries in childhood) rather than their sex characteristics.  

The terms ‘conversion movement’, ‘conversion practices’ and ‘conversion ideology’ are used by survivors of the conversion movement and have become recognised in a range of global forums. It is vital that survivors of the conversion movement and its distinct agenda are able to rely on a globally recognised standard vocabulary. Survivors of conversion practices and people who have been subject to nonconsensual medical interventions need to be able to use terms and language that allow their experiences to be clearly understood by government without being confused with each other or with adjacent phenomena. 

SOGICE Survivors fully supports the Darlington Statement and the campaigns of associated intersex organisations. 

In some instances, SOGICE Survivors uses the LGBTIQA+ acronym with the ‘I’ included when discussing the broader community and community organisations. 

Discussing the experiences of gay, lesbian and bi folks in religious communities alongside the experiences of trans people in healthcare settings might seem a little confusing. However, there are some very clear reasons for viewing these as part of the phenomenon of ‘conversion ideology and practices’. 

Conversion ideology is grounded in the idea that same-sex attraction and trans identity are ultimately evidence of developmental, spiritual, or psychological problems stemming from early life experiences such as abuse or neglect. This ideology forms the basis of a wide range of practices that aim to change or suppress LGBTQA+ people’s identities.  

Some people who have internalised conversion ideology in religious communities have been referred to conversion practices with psychologists or counsellors. Psychologists are regulated by the Australian government, so it is increasingly rare for conversion practices to occur in psychology practices in the context of sexual orientation. Counsellors are more broadly subject to health complaints regulation and are therefore also becoming a less common setting for conversion practices. Pastoral care workers who meet regularly with adults are almost never regulated, however many of their conversations and experiences resemble those that once occurred more commonly in psychology and counselling settings. 

Many trans and gender diverse people in Australia have reported experiencing opposition from clinical psychologists, psychiatrists or social workers in relation to their gender transition. While some of this opposition may be related to clinical judgment rather than an adherence to aspects of conversion ideology (a factor for which the Victorian Conversion Practices Prohibition Act provides exemptions), some of this opposition has been influenced by the idea that trans identity is not legitimate or real. Many of these instances reflect the misinformation and deception seen in religious experiences of conversion practices.  

The SOGICE Survivor Statement was written by several survivor self-advocates and allies, who are named near the end of the document, after consultation with other survivors, including Brave Network members and participants in private online survivor forums. 

After the first draft was written in 2018, it was sent to numerous LGBTIQA+ and faith groups, community leaders, survivors and survivor groups, for affirmation and endorsement. 

Due to a severe lack of knowledge about the experiences of First Nations people, Aboriginal people in our networks indicated that specific reference to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the first draft of the statement would be tokenistic. We therefore removed this.  

Subsequent versions of the SOGICE Survivor Statement went through a consultation phase with LGBTIQA+ groups. These included people of different faiths and cultural backgrounds.  

From 2020 to 2023, SOGICE Survivors and members of Brave Network participated closely in Victorian and Federal Government funded research led by La Trobe University. This research has produced substantial academic outputs and reports illustrating the nature of conversion practices, also investigating harms, recovery, and methods for community and professional education. Findings of the research have informed SOGICE Survivors’ advocacy. 

Freedom of belief must be protected, however activities, behaviour and practices that infringe on the rights of, or which harm, other human beings cannot be reconciled with the right to religious freedom. Religious Australians and their faith communities currently have the freedom to believe and preach what they like, for example, about whether or not being LGBTQA+ is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. They are not free, however, to harm or promote harm towards LGBTQA+ people. 

Freedom to manifest religious belief cannot be absolute in a pluralistic society. We affirm that “manifestations of a particular belief may legitimately be limited where they threaten to destroy the autonomy of others or threaten other aspects of the social order”. Conversion ideology and practices do this in a number of ways, outlined in the SOGICE Survivor Statement. 

This view is supported by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR Article 18). See The Australian Human Rights Commission page on Freedom of Religion and the AHRC page on permissible limitations for more.  

Before thinking about religious freedom, we need to ask what conversion ideology is and how it fits into a conversation about rights and freedoms. You may be familiar with conservative religious homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia. These take the form of religious beliefs or theological ideas that label same-sex attraction and trans identity as ‘wrong’ or ‘sinful’. These ideas may not align with modern secular and ethical values, however, a faith community that merely holds these values and, for example, preaches that homosexuality is a sin, would not be strictly considered to be directly involved in LGBTQA+ conversion practices. 

In isolation, beliefs about same-sex attraction, sexual behaviour and trans identity being ‘wrong’ or ‘sinful’ are not the same as the phenomenon that has become known as ‘conversion ideology’ by researchers and advocates. Conversion ideology is a contemporary blend of religious and pseudoscientific ideas. In the case of views of same-sex attraction, conversion ideology often draws on early psychoanalytic hypotheses that were developed in the 19th century but later abandoned by modern psychology in the mid-20th century.  

Conversion ideology and practices are one method that conservative religious movements have used to engage LGBTIQA+ people. Other methods have included: 

  • Avoidance, eg. simply not talking about congregants’ sexuality or gender while not allowing any variance from cisgender and heterosexual expression. 
  • Rejection, eg. preventing progressive conversation on the matter, coupled with outright rejection or condemnation of LGBTIQA+ people. 
  • Affirmation, eg. fully accepting LGBTIQA+ people, in which case the community would no longer hold a conservative position.  

Conversion ideology is usually present in faith communities that wish to appear warm and welcoming toward LGBTIQA+ people, yet attach boundaries and caveats to membership, including the requirement to suppress LGBTQA+ identity, remain celibate, or seek healing. It must be noted that this position is not at all a traditional or ancient religious stance. The ideology often connects LGBTQA+ identity to early childhood developmental issues such as trauma and abuse. It makes claims about the function and ethics of LGBTQA+ identity based solely on subjective ideas drawn from the relatively recent pseudoscience noted above and therefore extends far beyond traditional religious belief. These ideas have now been refuted by modern psychology. 

Returning to the question of religious freedom, conversion ideology and practices clearly and consistently cause harm to people who are exposed to them. They also cross the line from purely a religious phenomenon into a set of pseudoscientific ideas and practices that have been proven to be flawed and harmful while directly challenging the validity and equality of a substantial part of the population.  

It is important that governments and allies recognise the difference between the freedom of religious expression, particularly the freedoms required to maintain personal observance, and the life-threatening pseudoscientific concepts and practices that have been carefully disguised as religious traditions or theology. 

It should also be noted that LGBTQA+ people who are exposed to harm due to conversion practices or conversion ideology are often religious or seeking out religious or spiritual community. These people have a right to the freedom to practice and participate in their religion or faith tradition without exposure to harm. 

SOGICE Survivors takes the view that it is impossible to truly offer informed consent to participate in LGBTQA+ conversion practices. This view is reflected in legislation in Victoria (Australia) and New Zealand, which ban conversion practices for both minors and adults regardless of perceived consent. 

The most recent findings of La Trobe University’s Conversion Ideology and Practices Research Project support this view. 

Any perception of ‘consent’ is muddied by the pseudo-scientific and harmful nature of conversion practices. ‘Informed consent’ is present when a person is given the opportunity to anticipate the extent and likelihood of benefit or harm when opting-in to a service. In almost every case of conversion practises involving a religious leader, pastoral care worker, health professional (including unregulated counsellors), or program delivered by a religious organisation, there is a degree of misrepresentation (or even fraud) regarding assessment, need, and outcomes, as well as a high likelihood of harm.  

Adults who appear to consent to conversion practices generally only do-so after having been exposed to a range of false, misleading or pseudoscientific claims. For some, this looks like exposure to conversion ideology over the long term – from childhood or teenage years – causing the person to falsely believe that they are ‘broken’/disordered, in need of ‘healing’ or suppression, or that their LGBTQA+ identity has been caused by adverse influences. It is repeated exposure to this ideology that drives many to seek out conversion practices.