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Everyone has the right to treated equally and without discrimination. A person’s sexual orientation and gender identity do not need to be fixed; they are not broken.

 

Change or suppression practices are not supported by medical research. There is no evidence that sexual orientation or gender identity can be changed or suppressed. Not only do these practices not work, but they are also deeply harmful.

Sexual orientation and gender identity

Someone’s sexual orientation is the inherent way that person experiences emotional, romantic, and sexual attraction to other people. This could be towards people of a different gender, the same gender, more than one gender or none.

Gender identity is different to sexual orientation. Gender identity is someone’s personal sense of being female, male, a blend of both or neither.

The physical features that someone was born with do not necessarily determine their gender or their sexual orientation.

There are lots of ways to describe sexual orientation and gender. The term LGBTQIA+ captures many of these.

Supporting and affirming someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity

The way someone describes their sexual orientation and gender is completely up to them. Everyone deserves to be surrounded by people who understand and support them.

If someone has confided in you, ask them how you can support them.

People without this support are more at risk of homelessness, economic instability, self-harm and suicide and substance abuse.

We recommend reading and watching the following resources:

What are change or suppression practices?

It is against the law to try to change or suppress someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity, even if they ask for help.

To fall under the Act’s definition of a change or suppression practice, the conduct must include three elements. It must be:

  • directed at an individual
  • because of their sexual orientation or gender identity
  • undertaken with the intention to change or induce that person to change or suppress their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Willing participation

An individual may be willing to participate in these practices, however, survivor groups have indicated this willingness is heavily influenced by a desire to be accepted, whole and worthy, which comes from a deep identification with that person’s faith or other community.

Someone’s willingness to participate does not change the unlawfulness of these practices.

There is no evidence that sexual orientation or gender identity can be changed or suppressed

In the 1970s, the most widely recognised psychiatric guidelines, the American Diagnostic and Statistical Manual removed any reference to same-sex attraction as a condition that required diagnosis or treatment.

The Australian Psychological Society’s 2010 Ethical guidelines for psychological practice with lesbian, gay and bisexual clients and the American Psychological Association Taskforce’s 2009 Report of the Task Force on Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation ensure same-sex attractions, behaviours, and orientations are no longer regarded as disordered (in themselves) or requiring ongoing treatment by secular health authorities.

The Australian Psychological Association’s ‘Information sheet: APA recommends mental health practices that affirm transgender people’s experiences’ recognises there are no robust empirical findings that demonstrate any therapeutic success in directing transgender people to conform to the gender expected of the sex they were assigned at birth. By contrast, the information sheet reports a growing body of empirical research has demonstrated that affirming clinical responses can make a significant positive contribution to the mental health of transgender people.

The Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Change Efforts (SOGICE) survivor statement outlines the history of the LGBTQA+ conversion movement, the various practices of the movement, the ideology that underpins almost all conversion practices, and the rationale for the recommendations of survivors.

What is allowed?

The Act is not intended to ban general behaviour or mainstream religious practices. Examples of conduct that would not be considered illegal under the Act include:

  • a religious sermon expressing a general statement of belief (provided the sermon is not being directed at an individual in a group setting)
  • explaining a religious view of relationships
  • an individual expressing their view on sexuality and gender
  • discussion with a religious leader about exploring sexual orientation and/or gender identity.

It is completely legal – and encouraged – to undertake activities that support or affirm someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity, including:

  • assisting a person who is undergoing a gender transition​
  • assisting a person who is considering undergoing a gender transition ​
  • assisting a person to express their gender identity​
  • providing acceptance, support or understanding of a person​
  • facilitating a person’s coping skills, social support, or identity exploration and development​.

Medical and psychological treatment – in line with professional standards – that are necessary (in the health service provider’s reasonable professional judgement) are also legal. This includes:

  • providing a health service
  • complying with the legal or professional obligations of the health service provider.

Scope of responsibility

Questions for faith communities

General question

Read more about change or suppression practices

About the Act

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Address
Level 3, 204 Lygon Street Carlton Victoria 3053

General enquiries
enquiries@veohrc.vic.gov.au

Reception
1300 891 848

Enquiry line
1300 292 153 or (03) 9032 3583

Interpreters
1300 152 494

NRS Voice Relay
1300 555 727 then use 1300 292 153

Media enquiries
0447 526 642

The Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission acknowledges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as First Australians and recognises their culture, history, diversity and deep connection to the land.

We acknowledge that the Commission is on the land of the Kulin Nation and pay our respects to Elders past and present.