The SOGIECE/CT Survivors Support Project, co-written by Reilla Archibald, highlights supports that are needed by survivors, the barriers they experience recovering from harm, and the supports and resources that help their recovery.

MPH student co-writes report identifying supports needed by 2SLGBTQ+ people in Canada who have been harmed by conversion “therapy”

May 16, 2022

By: Geron Malbas

A recently published report, co-written by Master of Public Health (MPH) student Reilla Archibald, provides clear findings on what supports are needed for 2SLGBTQ+ people in Canada who have been harmed by sexual orientation and gender identity and expression change efforts (SOGIECE)—which includes conversion “therapy” (CT). The SOGIECE/CT Survivors Support Project’s findings highlight barriers experienced in recovering from harm, as well as supports and resources that were helpful during survivors’/participants’ recovery.

Archibald worked as the research assistant for the project leading the qualitative and quantitative survey analyses, as well as supporting the project lead with focus groups and interviews. She highlights that the report’s participants identified the need for increased public awareness and education and that our society should be mindful that SOGIECE still exists.

“It’s a big surprise for a lot of people that it’s still happening in Canada and around the globe; there is a lot of harm that continues to happen, and there are a lot of recovery needs,” Archibald explains. “Healthcare providers should make conscious efforts to not reinforce the cisgender and heterosexual norms that society commonly enforces, which continue to perpetuate harm among survivors. It’s important to approach people in respectful ways that aren’t assumptive.”

Jordan Sullivan

Jordan Sullivan - project coordinator, interviewer and co-writer – is a survivor of CT from a religious-based context. His experience helped him engage and form trust with survey participants, as well as illuminate the support and advocacy needed from people that work in health care. Specifically, he hopes health care practitioners better understand trauma - especially religious forms - to recognize harm.

“81% of participants asked for resources to help people understand that small, subtle statements to change are just as harmful as the blatant statements and pressures to change,” he explains. “There is a serious lack of support available for survivors of conversion practices – experienced in both religious and healthcare contexts.”

The report recommends four categories of support and actions: 1. The development of a variety of survivor supports, along with necessary funding; 2. Increased education and awareness among the general public and specific communities; 3. Education, training, and tools within the healthcare system; and 4. Continued research. While all four are important, Archibald and Sullivan point out the intersectional and additional considerations that can be made.

“Awareness of the public and continued research is really important; in this project, we weren’t able to focus on specific populations, since we first sought to understand what is needed by the survivor community at large,” Archibald explains. “But we have identified that there are many intersectional needs specific to different sub-populations, such as BIPOC individuals that have experienced harm, that require further research to properly understand their unique needs.”

“The creation of a multifaith coalition of 2SLGBTQ+ affirming faith-based networks leaders and allies that are strategically created as anti-racist and anti-oppressive would help to act as a conduit to the grassroots advocacy that is already helping the religious communities,” Sullivan explains. “Healthcare practitioners/providers, scientists, and researchers should not assume that all 2SLGBTQ+ people want to leave their religious communities, or abandon religion altogether if they do leave, or that they don’t still carry within them open wounds from religious trauma in addition to SOGIECE related trauma if they do leave religion altogether.”

For those interested in working in the health care or research field, Archibald and Sullivan reiterate the importance of being cognizant of environments and individuals that may differ from your lived experience.

“Be affirming of all sexual and gender minorities – approach work, not from a binary lens, but a neutral lens where there is a spectrum,” Archibald says. “You cannot assume for people, so try your best to make an inclusive, affirming, and welcoming environment.”

“People who experienced CT need support, not judgment or dismissal; they need to hear stories of healing and liberation experienced by survivors of conversion therapy practices, who know the pitfalls and dangers of religious abuse and conversion therapy practices,” Sullivan explains. “We need to be there to affirm the validity of their experience when they start looking for information not provided by their gatekeepers.”

If you are looking for opportunities to help connect with work in this area, or with Reilla’s team or colleagues, you can participate in the UnACoRN Study, or connect with The Roundtable. If you want to connect with Jordan’s work, you can stay tuned to CBRC’s projects.