An estimated 22% of LGBTQ people in Colombia have undergone conversion therapy, and they were 76% more likely to attempt suicide compared to LGBTQ Colombians who did not experience conversion therapy, according to a new report by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law.
Researchers surveyed 4,160 LGBTQ Colombian adults to examine the prevalence of lifetime suicidal ideation, suicide planning, and suicide attempts and assess the association between exposure to conversion therapy and suicide. It is the largest survey of LGBTQ people in Colombia to date and the first to study the association between conversion therapy and suicide in Colombia.
Conversion therapy is a discredited practice intended to change the sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression of LGBTQ people.
Researchers found that the rate of lifetime suicide attempts among LGBTQ people in Colombia (25%) is almost 10 times higher than among the general Colombian population (2.6%), with nonbinary people and transgender people most at risk.
“The heightened risk of suicidality among LGBTQ people in Colombia is likely associated with high levels of stigma and discrimination toward sexual and gender minorities in the country,” said author Ilan H. Meyer, Distinguished Senior Scholar of Public Policy at the Williams Institute. “Counter to the purpose of therapy, so-called ‘conversion therapy’ is a minority stressor that reinforces societal stigma and conveys that being LGBTQ is abnormal, sinful, and should be rejected.”
- Suicidality among LGBTQ people in Colombia is higher than among the general Colombian population: 56% versus 6.5% for suicidal ideation, 54% versus 2.4% for suicide planning, and 25% versus 2.6% for suicide attempts.
- Lifetime experiences of suicidal thoughts, plans, and attempts varied among subgroups of LGBTQ respondents, with nonbinary individuals and transgender people most at risk.
- Nonbinary people assigned female at birth had the highest prevalence of lifetime suicidal ideation (81%).
- 77% of nonbinary people assigned female at birth, 73% of nonbinary people assigned male at birth, and 68% of transgender men had planned suicide.
- Nonbinary people assigned female at birth and transgender men had the highest prevalence of lifetime suicide attempts (42%).
- 22% of survey respondents reported having experienced conversion therapy.
- 49% of people who have had conversion therapy received it from a religious leader, 31% received it from a health care provider, and 20% received it from both sources.
- Transgender men (42%) and women (34%) were the most likely to have experienced conversion therapy and cisgender bisexual women (17%) were the least.
“Although there are several laws that protect LGBTQ people in Colombia from discrimination, they do not always extend to the day-to-day lives of LGBTQ Colombians,” said lead author Ana María del Río-González, Assistant Research Professor in the Department of Psychological & Brain Sciences at George Washington University. “This study underscores the need to design and implement policies that change attitudes toward sexual orientation and gender identity diversity, and to ban conversion therapy practices in Colombia.”