What is so-called “conversion therapy” and how can we stop it?

2021, Innovations in Research

In 2019, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health undertook a historic four-month study to understand why, despite decades of incremental legal protections and improved social attitudes in Canada, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and Two-Spirit (LGBTQ2) people continue to face a substantially higher burden of poor health outcomes than our heterosexual and cisgender counterparts. In this talk, I will attempt to answer this question, presenting two case studies from contemporary research with thousands of LGBTQ2 people living in Canada. The first case study concerns so-called conversion therapy—organized attempts to deny or suppress LGBTQ2 identities—and the recent efforts of the Canadian government to ban these practices. The second concerns the role of public health in connecting LGBTQ2 people to accessible and safe mental health supports. I suggest that we need comprehensive, public health-led or -supported strategies that affirm LGBTQ2 lives across the life-course; and, while we are waiting for the long-term benefits of these strategies (i.e., health equity for LGBTQ2 people), we need tailored secondary prevention strategies to address the elevated rates of anxiety, depression, suicide and substance use that this population experiences.

This is an ongoing program of research, based at Simon Fraser University, and conducted in collaboration with the BC Centre for Disease Control, the Centre for Gender and Sexual Health Equity, the Community-Based Research Centre, and The Roundtable: BC's LGBTQ/2S/+ Mental Health & Substance Use Networking Space.

Our program aims to support health equity for LGBTQ2 people through the following pillars of work: community-engaged/prioritized research; public health/community organization partnerships; community capacity building; peer and professional networking; institutional reform that creates LGBTQ2-affirming environments.

About the project

Presentation at Innovations in Research, April 13, 2021

Travis Salway

Assistant Professor, Faculty of Health Sciences

LGBTQ2 health, health equity, community-based research, mental health, public health


Travis Salway

Travis Salway (he/him/his) is an Assistant Professor of Health Sciences at Simon Fraser University, where he teaches and conducts research in affiliation with the BC Centre for Disease Control, the Centre for Gender and Sexual Health Equity, and the Community-Based Research Centre. Through research, community networking, and public health collaboration, Travis works to describe patterns of unjust and avoidable harms to sexual and gender minority populations (i.e., LGBTQ2 people) and then identify policies and practices that can prevent these harms. Travis holds a Michael Smith Foundation Scholar Award (2019-2024). He is trained as a social worker (University of California at Berkeley) and epidemiologist (McGill University, University of Toronto) and fervently believes in the power of social epidemiology to motivate and produce meaningful social change.

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