Trans conversion therapy survivor begs Rishi Sunak to push on with ban: ‘Some would call it torture’

Trans woman was strapped to chair and given electric shocks 'to make her normal'

A conversion therapy survivor has issued a plea to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to push on with the long-awaited ban on the barbarian practice.

Members of the LGBTQ+ community and its allies are growing impatient with Sunak who has yet to deliver on the government’s promise of a ban on trans-inclusive conversion therapy. Although the Tory Party leader has pledged to draft the bill in the King’s Speech in November, heavy pushback from anti-trans MPs has many worried that it won’t go ahead.

Among those campaigning for the ban is 76-year-old transgender woman Carolyn Mercer, who is a survivor of conversion therapy.

Mercer was sent to so-called “gender aversion therapy” as a teenager after confiding in her local vicar about her gender dysphoria and being sent to speak to a psychiatrist.

Rishi Sunak pictured leaving Downing Street.
Rishi Sunak is being urged to push on with the UK’s conversion therapy ban. (Getty)

The horrific practice saw Mercer strapped to a wooden chair in a dark room at her local hospital and subjected to strong electric shocks – a memory that still haunts her 60 years later.

“Although less obviously barbaric, current practices which are intended to make anyone hate themselves because of one aspect of their character have lifelong deleterious effects,” Mercer told The Independent.

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“I needed someone to talk with me – someone who would listen and explain options and offer support for my eventual decisions about my life.”

Mercer eventually began living openly as herself when she turned 55, after retiring early from her job as a headteacher in Lancashire and finally having the freedom to start hormone treatment and live as the woman she knew she was.

But the mental anguish of her time in “treatment” stays with her.

Carolyn Mercer.
Carolyn Mercer, now 76, is still haunted by the “conversion therapy” she endured as a teen. (Provided)

“I’m often asked, ‘You’ve been a well-liked, highly respected headteacher leading a successful school – how could your life have been better?’” she told the publication.

“My reply is simply, ‘I could have been happy.’ Nothing can undo the lasting damage imposed on me those years ago.

“No financial compensation can make up for the sadness, depression, suicidal thoughts, and attempts inflicted on me.

“However, it will be some comfort were I able, by sharing my thoughts and experiences, to make it better for those who come after me.”

Now, Mercer is doing just that, and using her voice to call on Prime Minister Sunak to plough on with the long-promised conversion therapy ban.

“I refuse to acknowledge that so-called ‘conversion therapy’ is therapy in any way. It is mental and physical abuse. Some would call it torture,” she said.

“As prime minister, Rishi Sunak has a responsibility to do what is humane, kind and beneficial. If that means being bold and rejecting the venomous dinosaurs who seek to punish instead of healing – then yes, he should be bold.”

Last year, a YouGov poll found that the majority of Conservative Party voters have backed a ban on trans conversion therapy, despite the party’s frequent anti-LGBTQ+ comments.

It was former Tory leader Theresa May who first pledged to ban conversion practices back in 2018, stating that it had “no place in modern Britain.”

A similar YouGov poll, pointed out by Ban Conversion Therapy Coalition chair Jayne Ozanne, shows that the majority of the British public also want conversion therapy to be banned.

Speaking to PinkNews about the Tory Party’s back-and-forth on the conversion therapy ban, Ozanne said: “It is clear that the Tories have no understanding of the harm they are inflicting on LGBT+ people by their numerous U-turns on promises to ban ‘conversion therapy’. 

“The only thing they have definitely achieved over the past five years is to empower perpetrators to act with impunity. At least Labour understands the importance of a fully inclusive ban and as such has the backs of the LGBT+ community.” 

Suicide is preventable. Readers in the UK who are affected by the issues raised in this story are encouraged to contact Samaritans on 116 123 (, or Mind on 0300 123 3393 ( ​Readers in the US are encouraged to contact the National Suicide Prevention Line on 1-800-273-8255.