What can we do  to protect LGBT+  people in Brazil  from "gay cures"?

LGBT+ people in Brazil, especially children and teenagers, are very vulnerable to efforts to "correct" their sexual orientation, gender identity and expression – also known as "conversion therapies" or "gay cures".

Different international research, articles, and studies indicate that these "correction" efforts can amount to a type of torture.

That's why we're pushing the Brazilian Congress to introduce and approve a bill to ban "conversion therapies" in the country.

Goal:  0

To: The Brazilian Congress

Studies, research, and reports by Brazilian and international organizations show that efforts to "correct" sexual orientation, gender identity and/or expression – also known as "gay cures" or "conversion therapies" – cause irreparable physical and psychological harm to the people subjected to them and can amount to torture.

That's why we're calling on the National Congress – Federal Congresspeople, Senators – to introduce and pass a national law banning any attempt to change or "correct" a person's sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression in Brazil.

READ THE REPORT  Between 'cures' and 'therapies':  efforts to 'correct' the sexual orientation and gender identity of LGBT+ people in Brazil

After hearing from survivors of these efforts and experts from various fields, the research carried out by All Out and Instituto Matizes identified 26 ways in which "conversion therapies" happen in Brazil.

On this page, we summarize the main findings of the research report, and you can take action to protect LGBT+ people from these practices in Brazil.

The full report is officially available in Portuguese and Spanish. An approximate translation is available in English.

What are these so-called "conversion therapies"?

They are attempts to "correct", "change" or "erase" the sexual orientation and/or gender identity of an LGBT+ person, so that they "become" heterosexual and/or cisgender – which is actually impossible.

These efforts are based on the completely false idea that being LGBT+ is a "mistake" that must be "corrected".

And why refer to them as so-called and put so many things in quotes?

Generally, the terms "conversion therapy", "gay cure", and "correction" efforts are used to make it easier to explain what we are talking about.

The formal way of referring to these practices is Efforts to "Correct" Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity or Expression.

It's a useful term to know if you want to research it, but it's hard to even remember all the words to talk about it in conversation, right?

So, are "gay cures" prohibited in Brazil?

With some frequency, Brazil is cited in international materials and research as one of the pioneer countries in the prohibition of this type of practice. But sadly, this is still not a reality.

The reality is that we're far from being able to protect all LGBT+ Brazilians – especially children and teens – from this type of violence, because it happens in many different ways, across different contexts.

Brazil does have specific regulations for some professions (such as psychologists), that prohibit any effort to "correct" sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, but this is not enough for LGBT+ people to be broadly protected.

Who are the most vulnerable people to these so-called "therapies"?

Young LGBT+ people – particularly those under 18 – are much more vulnerable to this type of “correction” effort.

Of the people who participated in the research, more than half experienced these types of attempted "therapies" or "cures" when they were underage. The youngest person was only 6 years old.

The vulnerability of children and teens is increased because of two main reasons:

Lack of consent: Children and teenagers do not yet have the legal capacity to consent to "treatments" or "procedures" that may pose a risk to them, or harm their physical and mental health.

Use of emotional bonds: In general, these are efforts induced and conducted by people who represent authority, trust and affection – such as family, religious leaders, teachers, therapists, and doctors.

How do these "correction" efforts happen?

In Brazil, the research identified that this type of effort happens in diverse ways, spread across different areas and times of an LGBT+ person's life.

The research found 26 formats of efforts to "correct" sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, divided into 4 contexts.

Below we have put together a summary of these 26 formats.

Religious context

9 formats were identified in this context.

Who was responsible for the efforts in this context:
Members of the person's religious community, religious leadership, youth group participants, and other colleagues.

Family context

8 formats were identified in this context.

Who was responsible for the efforts in this context:
Parents and legal guardians, grandparents, other relatives, family friends, neighbors.

Physical and mental health context

6 formats were identified in this context.

Who was responsible for the efforts in this context:
Psychologists, psychoanalysts, psychiatrists, pediatricians, clinical philosophers, holistic therapists, coaches.

School context

3 formats were identified in this context.

Who was responsible for the efforts in this context:
Physical education teachers, religious education teachers, school principals.

How do these so-called "therapies" happen?

The strategies applied to try to "correct" LGBT+ people are quite broad. In common, they all include psychological violence. In some cases, physical violence was also present.

Some of the tactics reported by survivors:

> Emotional blackmail
> Threats of confinement
> Public embarrassment
> Forced fasts
> Physical punishment and penance, including the use of a cilice (a religious garment used for mortification or penance, made from of coarse cloth or animal hair, to which spiky pieces of metal are attached)
> Isolation from society
> Long cycles of forced prayer
> Strenuous and abusive physical labor
> Extortion
> Indiscriminate application of hormones without consent
> Use of psychoactive drugs without medical prescription

What are the consequences of this type of effort?

"Conversion therapies" have serious and permanent consequences. They include:

> Suicidal thoughts
> Suicide attempts
> Depression
> Eating disorders
> Social isolation
> Post-traumatic stress

> Feelings of worthlessness
> Feelings of inadequacy
> Difficulty trusting people and institutions
> Self-harm
> Anxiety
> Loss of self-esteem
> Sexual dysfunction

How does the cycle of "conversion" attempts work?
cycle of "conversion"

Despite such a variety of formats and contexts, it was possible to identify a cyclical pattern in the efforts to "correct" or "cure" LGBT+ people.

It is represented in the graphic.

The cycle starts when the person is in DOUBT and begins to question whether being LGBT+might actually be something they should "fix".

In the BELIEF stage, the person now believes that being LGBT+ is wrong, that it can be "corrected", and that they need that "correction".

The third stage is CONSCIOUSNESS, when the person realizes that they were being manipulated and induced to believe that they needed "correction".

At this point, the person has two options, indicated by the arrows: they manage to get out of the cycle and detach themselves from the induction and manipulation, or they're taken back to the DOUBT phase, where the cycle begins again.

It is very difficult to escape this cycle of "conversion" attempts.

Why is it so difficult to break out of the cycle and report the efforts of "correction"?

The practices that attempt to cure someone are very diverse, they happen in different places and spheres of a person's life.

This means it is very difficult to identify a specific moment or action – which, in turn, makes the reporting and investigation process more difficult.

Also, in most cases, the people responsible for the efforts are people in the survivors' community or family, figures of authority, people they respect, or with whom they have emotional bonds. Reporting can mean losing everything and everyone.

And, in more practical terms, it is very difficult to report anti-LGBT hate in Brazil in general – even after LGBTphobia was criminalized in 2019. For more info on this, you can see this 2021 research report by All Out and Instituto Matizes (in Portuguese), which lists 34 barriers to the reporting of anti-LGBT+ crimes in Brazil.