Conversion Therapy Ban: Support Group Offers Survivors Healing
While conversion therapy is now banned in Canada, a Canadian nonprofit is working to help support and offer healing to survivors of the practice.
Ben Rodgers is the founder of CT Survivors Connect, the first and only federally incorporated non-profit organization in Canada dedicated to helping survivors of conversion therapy.
“We’ve grown from just starting with a small support group to now we’re actually a federally recognized nonprofit, and we’re going to keep building,” Rodgers told CTV’s Your Morning on Friday.
Conversion “therapy,” as it has been called, seeks to change a person’s sexual orientation to heterosexual or their gender identity to cisgender. It can be to seek to suppress a person’s non-heterosexual attraction or to suppress a person’s non-cis gender expression or gender identity.
These practices can take various forms, including counseling and behavior modification, and have been opposed by many health and human rights groups. Calls continue to be made for more mental health support and education for those who have survived conversion therapy.
“They basically present it as a fault or a fear or something that they can kind of set up and grab you and they just build on that and build on your own personal fears,” Rodgers said. “Your own self-hatred is what they develop and make you hate yourself, and that’s unfortunately one of the horrible premises of the practice.”
Conversion therapy became illegal in Canada earlier this year, marking a milestone in LGBTQ2S+ rights in this country.
After parliamentarians came together to unanimously pass legislation to eradicate the harmful practice by the end of 2021, Criminal Code penalties went into effect on January 7.
This means that anyone seeking to subject anyone of any age, consenting or not, to so-called conversion therapy could face up to five years in prison.
Additionally, if someone is found guilty of promoting, advertising or profiting from the practice, they could face up to two years in prison.
Despite the ban, Rodgers said the practice of conversion therapy still continues in parts of Canada, particularly in the transgender community.
“The unfortunate factor is that even when I went through it, it wasn’t called conversion therapy. It was more of a talk session,” Rodgers said.
“They keep it as a silent thing,” he added.
However, now that the practice is illegal, Rodgers said he hopes his organization can help survivors overcome the trauma they have suffered.
“With the existence of a federal law, however, it gives survivors a chance to speak up for once, and that’s something we’ve never had before,” he said.
CT Survivors Connect recently received a grant from the Department of Justice and is using part of the funding to create webinars for survivors.
Additionally, the organization is holding its first event in Kingston, Ontario. on May 21 in the form of a drag and comedy show to honor those lost to conversion therapy and in recognition of survivors. The event will also see awards presented to advocates who have fought against conversion therapy practices in Canada.
“I hope this will be one of many great events to help raise money and get the supports and services that survivors really need,” Rodgers said.
With files from Rachel Aiello of CTVNews.ca