By Hugo Greenhalgh
LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Oscar-winning screenwriter and film maker Dustin Lance Black on Wednesday accused Britain of "ignoring the lives of queer people" by failing to fulfill a three-year promise to ban LGBT+ conversion therapy.
The United Nations has called for the practice, which aims to alter a person's sexual orientation or gender identity, to be outlawed globally.
Brazil, Ecuador, Malta and Germany have instituted forms of nationwide bans, while parts of Australia and Canada are mulling restrictions and at least 20 U.S. states outlaw it for minors.
Black – who has built a stellar U.S. screen career out of chronicling LGBT+ rights – said his adopted homeland of Britain knew the treatment's risks yet had not acted.
"This government is ignoring the lives of queer people," the U.S. screenwriter told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in a video call from his home in south London, shared with husband British Olympic diver Tom Daley and their two-year-old son, Robbie Ray.
"There is no urgency from this government to protect LGBTQ people," said the 46-year-old Oscar winner. "We keep hearing, 'Soon, soon, soon'. Well, I'm so sorry to inform this government that 'soon' came and went years ago now."
Former prime minister Theresa May promised to outlaw conversion therapy in 2018.
Yet Black – who won an original screenplay Oscar for the 2008 film "Milk" about LGBT+ activist Harvey Milk – noted that more than 1,000 days had since passed.
"I feel fairly certain that if there was a therapy in the United Kingdom that targeted heterosexual people to change something fundamental about them, and that the primary outcome of this therapy was depression, thoughts of suicide and suicide, that it would be banned in 24 hours," he said.
A 2019 survey by suicide-prevention group The Trevor Project found 42% of young LGBT+ Americans who underwent conversion therapy reported a suicide attempt in the last year.
Nearly 700,000 Americans have undergone conversion therapy, half when under 18, according to the UCLA's Williams Institute.
A spokeswoman said the British government wanted to "stamp out conversion therapy" and would set out proposals shortly.
Black, who was behind the hit ABC series "When We Rise" charting LGBT+ rights, said delay had wrought a "measurable" impact on British lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
"The government itself did a study on this and still has done nothing," he said. "They must care very little about LGBTQ people, our self-esteem, our self-confidence."
In its 2018 National LGBT Survey, the British government said almost 2% of respondents had experienced conversion therapy and a further 5% had been offered it.
(Reporting by Hugo Greenhalgh; Editing by Lyndsay Griffiths. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org)