Another Spectrum

Personal ramblings and rants of a somewhat twisted mind

Conversion therapy: only partially banned


Last week, the Conversion Practices Prohibition Legislation Bill passed the final stage of becoming law in Aotearoa New Zealand It’s pleasing to note that only 7 parliamentarians (all who happen to be members of the centre-right National Party) voted against the passing of this legislation.

So why was the passing of this law a disappointment to many in the autistic and neurodiverse community? The autistic community has borne the brunt of conversion therapy for decades, well before it became a “treatment” for those in the LGBTQI+ community. The practices developed in the “treatment” of autistic people are the very practices prohibited by the new law, but only when it comes to the “treatment” of sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. Conversion therapy for other “conditions” remains lawful.

During the Select Committee stage of the process, over 100,000 public submissions were received and considered by the Justice Select Committee. I know many autistic, neurodiverse and other minorities made submissions asking for all forms of conversion therapy be banned. It seems we didn’t have the numbers or the persuasive powers necessary for the Select Committee to expand the ban beyond gender identity/expression and sexual orientation.

Reading a random selection of written submissions (78,416 are available on line), it’s pleasing to see that the vast majority of submitters professing a religion supported the ban. What is disappointing is that so few submitters (religious or not) considered how harmful conversion practices can be outside the confines of sexual orientation and gender identity/expression. When you consider that 80% of autistic children who are given conversion therapy in an attempt to make them “appear normal” exhibit symptoms of PTSD as adults, there is urgent need to ban all forms of conversion therapy. Now.

Author: Barry

A post war baby boomer from Aotearoa New Zealand who has lived with migraines for as long as I can remember and discovered I am autistic at the age of sixty. I blog because in real life I'm somewhat backwards about coming forward with my opinions.

3 thoughts on “Conversion therapy: only partially banned

  1. This is an interesting post Barry. I notice that in the summary of the legislation on the govt website [your link in the first line] autism didn’t even get mentioned as a ‘key stakeholder’ – but I guess if you go beyond the the trans community, you’ve got to open up completely, to cover every kind of conversion.

    For example, here in Canada we are currently wrestling with our guilt for a century or so of trying to convert native people to some kind of white European model. But I’m not aware of any legislation being put forward to prevent such things again, other than the basic rights in our constitution.

    It’s interesting too that much more effort seems to go into fruitlessly trying to convert autistic people, vs some others – like sociopaths.

    • It’s apparent that the drafters of the bill had considered only sexual orientation and gender identity/expression, and nothing else. For example some conversion practices that some religions use, and past practices of trying to convert Māori into brown Pākehā. (Pākehā can mean either New Zealanders of European descent or non-Māori New Zealanders, depending on context). And of course Neurodiversity was ignored as well. Isn’t the usually the case?

      I’m not sure how many submissions to the Select Committee were related to autism and I think many were “form submissions” – individual submissions having the same wording. A collection of form submissions are viewed as one submission from the Select Committee’s perspective.

      That puts Autistic people at a disadvantage immediately as many of us have difficulty expressing ourselves in our own words. I know I often use whole paragraphs and more originally expressed by someone else because those words more accurately reflect my own thoughts than any words I could cobble together myself.

      Māori culture has had a significant resurgence since the 1970s, and as they make up more than 15% of the population the resurgence has had a more profound effect on the whole of New Zealand society, than perhaps can be achieved by the indigenous people of Canada. So much so that there’s been a backlash within a tiny minority of the Pākehā population that they’re facing a form of reverse apartheid. Nonsense of course, but nevertheless it has its vocal supporters.
      Māori is one of two de jure official languages, the other being NZ sign language. English is a de facto official language. Nearly all Government and formal events start with a pōwhiri (formal greeting ceremony) and karakia (a form of prayer that may or may not be specifically religious).

      The Māori understanding of the relationship between humankind and nature is now recognised even in legislation where entire forests, river basins and mountains have been granted personhood – they have intrinsic rights of their own instead of being public or private property, or a resource to exploit.

      It’s horrific how much effort goes into autism research, especially regarding “cures” and “treatment”. I can’t find statistics specifically for Aotearoa, but in the US, less than 5% of autism funding goes into support for autistic people. I think that in some quarters, autistics are viewed more negatively than sociopaths.

      • That was very interesting. I’ve seen hints about these Māori ideas being recognized, but it was nice to have it explained.

        As someone who loves individual places, I especially like their idea of mountains, etc having ‘personhood’. I can’t wait to confront people here with that idea. I suspect they won’t know what I’m talking about.

        As for sociopaths being preferred to autistic people – oh, yes! All they have to do is get very rich and speak out continuously, and they are admired, even worshiped

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