Instagram will block the promotion of “conversion therapy,” which seeks to change a person’s sexuality or gender identity, the social media giant told the BBC.
Activists are urging the government to act now on the two-year promise to make the practice illegal.
This year 200,000 people signed an online petition to ask for an action.
All major UK professional therapy bodies and the National Health Service are opposed for logical, ethical and moral reasons.
Luke, 23, is gay and a young worker who grew up in a strict Christian family in north-west England.
“At school, I had a fairly feminine voice and feminine behavior, which is why I was bullied,” he told the BBC.
“I suppose my dad knew the potential gay signs before me, because he would have forced me to do stereotypically boyish things, which I hated. He knew I hated sports, but he didn’t care, provided that his boyfriend seemed less gay.”
“I thanked them for torturing me”
At 13, Luke’s father saw his Internet search history on the family computer, which included forums for gay boys and gay pornography.
“When my father passed by, he was physically ill. He took me to my youth pastor’s house. I have attended his church since birth, and he had always been so kind to me, which probably made things worse, because I completely trusted him. “
Luke says it was made to feel dirty and disgusting for the kids they love. His deeply religious family was determined to use it as an example for his wider community.
“Within a couple of years, my family and church team completely damaged me. Beatings, exorcisms, fasting, online courses, everything.”
“They told me I was born straight but I had been harmed by my parents’ divorce. They would get my hands on my head and tell me how bad I am. They would ask me to describe how I felt when I saw a boy I imagined on TV I said I felt excited but a little bad, and they would say they were feelings of the devil. “
“The worst part is that I was grateful for their torture. My only goal was to be as straight as everyone else in the world. I would say thank you after mistreating me.”
The term “conversion therapy” refers to any form of treatment or psychotherapy that aims to change a person’s sexual orientation or to suppress a person’s gender identity.
While some violent practices that can be classified as conversion therapy, such as “corrective rape”, are already covered by existing criminal offenses, many religious practices, such as those experienced by Luke, are not.
Puberty eventually lowered Luke’s voice and became more reserved, but inside, he still felt “gay”.
After attempting to commit suicide, another Luke pastor encouraged a more forgiving approach. Luke was told that “gay temptation” is not under his control, but “gay behavior” is, so as long as he has not acted accordingly, he may “live a normal life”.
Eventually Luke fled to London. He never returned to his city, but his family has since apologized for Facebook.
Crying, Luke said that talking to the BBC about his experiences made him realize how terrible his teenage years were.
In 2018, the government announced that “gay conversion therapies” were to be banned under a government plan to improve the lives of gay and transgender people, but activists are still waiting for action. Since then the government has said it “will consider all options for ending the practice.”
The new president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, Dr Adrian James, said: “Any intervention that claims to” cure “something that isn’t a nuisance is completely immoral and should be banned.”
Speaking exclusively with the BBC, Tara Hopkins, EMEA director of public policy, Instagram, said the company is changing the way it manages the contents of conversion therapy.
“We do not allow attacks on people based on sexual orientation or gender identity and we are updating our policies to ban the promotion of conversion therapy services.”
He continued: “We are always reviewing our policies and will continue to consult experts and people with personal experiences to inform our approach.”
Earlier this year, Instagram banned the promotion of conversion therapy in ads, where people don’t choose what they see. From Friday, all content linked to it will now be banned on the platform.
The company points out that it will take some time to update all of its policies to reflect this general ban, so while some content that users report may not be immediately removed, overtime that should change.
‘I just wanted to hide’
In a letter to the government, viewed by the BBC and signed by celebrities and charities, Ban Conversion Therapy asks that conversion therapy “finally” be made illegal.
Signatories include Dua Lipa, Elton John, Stephen Fry and Jade Thirlwall.
The new organization, founded by friends Harry Hitchens and Matthew Hyndman, has already attracted thousands of opinions on social media and has been supported by Stonewall, Europe’s largest LGBT charity.
Ever since he posted a now viral post on Instagram still legal conversion therapy in the UK, Harry has received personal threats and hate messages from groups that have found his address.
“So many people didn’t know that conversion therapy is still legal in the UK and every time a celebrity shared my post, there was another 24 hours of hatred.”
“I received messages like” you should have hidden your address better, [expletive], we will come and get you. ‘ I still haven’t had the energy to report it to the police. I just wanted to hide from everything. ”
Matthew says that the motivations for starting his organization stem from his religious experiences and a lack of “conversion therapy”.
“I grew up in rural Northern Ireland. There was a great sense of community and it was very religious. I was completely denying that I was gay.”
While working as a missionary, Matthew was declared gay. After refusing to publicly confess his “sins” and go through the “council”, he was finally told that he could no longer be a member of his church.
“The church can be a wonderful place. They support people to do a lot of good in the world. No matter if the reason is religious or not, advising someone to change their sexuality or gender identity is wrong. The United Nations has declared conversion therapy as torture. Are we happy to forgive torture? “
“I don’t want to be arrested for my job.”
“We are writing to urge you to introduce a truly effective ban on conversion therapy for all non-lesbian, gay, bi, trans and gender people in the UK,” says the Ban Conversion letter.
“Any form of advice or persuasion of someone to change sexual orientation or gender identity should be illegal, regardless of reason, religious or otherwise – whatever the person’s age.”
However, some people who advise LGBT people in a favorable environment are concerned that a general ban on conversion therapy may lead to problems.
A therapist who spoke to the BBC is concerned that if the government bans conversion therapy, he will not be able to treat his trans clients without fear of being arrested.
The therapist, who wanted to remain anonymous for fear of “losing” his career, said his job to help trans people deal with their acquired gender is legal and encouraged them to obtain recognition certificates from genus, but could be classified by critics as “conversion therapy”.
“Where do we draw the limit? Everyone agrees that conversion therapy is negative, but nobody knows how to define it,” said the therapist.
Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner, leader of the senior faith “does not completely agree”.
“It’s a lie to call it therapy. It’s not – what we’re talking about banning is brainwashing.”
“There is a clear distinction between a therapist who says ‘let’s work together to see what’s best for you’ and them who say, ‘I think you should be this.'”
Rabbi Janner-Klausner is a member of the newly established interreligious advisory committee on LGBT for the Ozanne Foundation, which works with religious organizations around the world to eliminate discrimination based on sexuality or gender.
“Where I stand as a religious leader, conversion therapy must be immediately banned. Anyone in my religion who practices this is wrong, and must be stopped. I don’t want a state that starts limiting people’s prayers, it’s scary, but if someone abuses their authority to make someone else change, it is an abuse of power. “
Follow Ben Hunte on chirping is Instagram.