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Conversion therapy is the practice of attempting to change an individual’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression to align with heterosexual and cisgender norms. It is a form of pseudoscience which has been outlawed in multiple countries around the globe.


Prior to the 1980s and the 1990s, psychologists utilized many extreme methods in such therapies, namely castration and electroconvulsive therapy. According to a report by the Beijing LGBT Center (北京同志中心) and the Institute of Psychology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (IPCAS) published in 2014, “among the reported cases of conversion therapies in China, counselling/treatment methods include psychoanalysis, Vipassana, cognitive understanding therapy, problem-solving therapy, aversion therapy, hormone therapy, medication, hypnosis, and electroshock therapy”. In the same year, LGBT Rights Advocacy China (同志权益促进会) and other LGBT organizations conducted random samplings and found that around 107 psychological counseling or other similar medical institutions in the country are carrying out conversion therapies. Other “legally” established institutions, a wave of “Schools for Internet-Addiction Preventions”, have also risen for similar reasons to reap benefits. 


Hidden behind the staggering medical bills is something much more appalling: it is the ruptures of family ties; it is the structural oppression brought by the patriarchy and the risk of having to undergo conversion therapies for the mere cause of violating mainstream social values. It is also the tormenting physical harm and the agonizing mental pain.


Nowadays, the lack of open conversations and discussions on these critical issues adversely created a harmful environment where the stigmatization of marginalized communities and minority groups thrives. However, every voice raised and every action taken, no matter how small, are all essential pieces required to build a safe space and break free of societal norms.


It is crucial knowing that these survivors have been carrying a tremendous amount of pain and pressure beyond our imaginations. While facing the discrimination inflicted on them by society as well as their families due to their sexual identities, some are also forced to undergo conversion therapies, enduring severe mental and physical damage. In the report mentioned earlier, many victims stated the primary reason they underwent conversion therapy is “for [their] parents”, rubbing salt into the wound created by the family strains, causing alienation and permanent divisions. At an art therapy session, a victim shared, “before everything, I have only noticed the strains it had put on my familial relations. I have never noticed that, in fact, I barely ever had a sense of safety and I believed nothing could ever assure my protection. In the end, the safe space I imagined for myself had nothing but the ground beneath me.”


To this end, we hope to invite everyone to face this absurd reality together through exhibitions and various other activities. We have organized case study files and other documents related to conversion therapies to transform this online exhibition into an open-access database. At the same time, we will also offer in-person art therapy workshops where we can connect with each other in a safe space. Furthermore, numerous online roundtable discussions will also be organized to accompany the specific case studies and put forward courses of action. Most importantly, we wish to use this opportunity to amplify the voices of the victims and raise awareness for this cause.


Even though it is impossible to empathize with the victims merely through the series of events we offer, we nevertheless hope to provide everyone with a basic understanding of conversion therapies as best as we can. Finally, the central question remains: how can we work together to create a broader, more inclusive, safe space?

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