I went through ‘conversion therapy’ – no trans person should face that torture again

You hear it all the time, the question: “When did you know you were trans?” The question should really be: “When did I know that the rest of the world didn’t behave in the same way as I did?”

When I came out at 14, 多于 30 几年前, my mother thought I was gay and confused. She thought that if I could just learn to pee standing up and toughened up a bit, there wouldn’t be a problem.

And so she tried to get me “help”. She approached a church group which was, as far as I could tell, a coffee morning for Catholics. They advised her to get the parish priest to see me, who suggested these weekend retreats run by a commune that would, 他说, “sort me out”.

I was happy to go at first. I knew there was a problem and when you’re 14 and adults say they are there to support and help you, you believe them. But I quickly realised that they were not there to help me – they were there to condition me.

I would get there on a Friday evening, in time for mass. I would have food, and then it was time for prayer, which went on until 1am. Then I’d be allowed to go to sleep, but I had to be up for 6am for another mass. The lack of sleep was deliberate – to make you more compliant. It’s simple – if you’re tired, you’re more likely to agree to things.

After morning mass, I’d sit for hours and hours in an office with someone talking at me. And I genuinely mean talk at me, I never got to speak. “You’re not gay, you’re not gay,” they said repeatedly. “Why do you think you’re gay?” They tried to convince me that being gay was a terrible choice. I told them that I wasn’t gay, it was my sexuality that I was in conflict with – my gender identity, or what I now call it: that I was transgender.

But they didn’t understand it. They said I was a straight man. They were determined that through prayer, through these long talks, that I would reach a kind of holy conversion.

But that was just never going to happen. So I just shut down.

随着时间的推移, I became withdrawn. To be told for hours at a time that what you say is wrong, you learn that it’s better to say nothing at all. It went on like this for three years. I didn’t have anybody to help me – and I started to believe that, 实际上, they might be right. I collapsed mentally – I was doubting my gender, my sexuality, my own mind.

I bombed out of school and became a kitchen porter. But even then, for some reason, I took myself to that place every weekend. It’s a similar process to grooming – it happens slowly and incrementally. By the time you realise just how bad it is, it’s too late – you’ve been conditioned, so you go, because you have nothing else.

A sous chef at work noticed a pattern: at the beginning and end of the working week, I’d be sullen and uncommunicative. Wednesdays were the days I would talk to people. It took him two months, but after a while I trusted him enough to tell him what was going on at the weekends. He helped me realise that this wasn’t how I should be living. He got me a job in Spain collecting glasses in an LGBT bar, and paid for my ticket there – he told me to go and figure out who I was.

I spent five years in Spain and my gender expression changed greatly. 最终, I was essentially living in a feminine role and was treated so by the people around me because it was an LGBT bar.

But that came to an end. 当我是 21, I met someone, a woman, and we got married and I went back to playing the part as the guy. 之后, I got married again, to another woman. I never told anyone about the other part of my life – about being trans and going to “conversion therapy”. I kept it all bottled up.

My confidence had been absolutely smashed. The “conversion therapy” messes up your ability to have relationships with people and you’re also left with sexual hangups because you’re so confused. I was playing a part because I didn’t have the confidence to say: “This isn’t me.”

My mental health unravelled – by the time I was 45 I reached a breaking point and my wife sat me down and demanded to know what was going on. I just put my head on the table and said: “I’m trans.”

现在, recalling the conversation, 她说: “I came to the conclusion that you weren’t lying to me. You were lying to yourself.” And that’s exactly what happened, thanks to this conditioning. I believed that I could play a role – and I couldn’t.

The suicide attempts for trans people is statistically very, very high. I attempted it, multiple times. 在 1991, 1993, 1995, 1998 和 2022. I don’t want anyone to go through what I went through. It’s a form of torture and it must be banned. While the government has banned conversion practices for gay people, it has not done so for trans people. If people say they are trans, we need to believe them. And then genuine therapy can begin where they can explore their identities.

I know first-hand that “conversion therapy” doesn’t work. But it does destroy people’s self-worth, pick them apart, mentally make them doubt themselves, make them confused. There is no set of guidelines for trans conversion practices, there is no manual, no Nice clinical guidance. These so-called “therapists” have no idea what they are doing.

Trans people should have exactly the same rights as everybody else. If conversion practices are abhorrent for a gay men, abhorrent for lesbian women, and abhorrent for bisexual people, then they are abhorrent for trans people too.