Conversion therapy’ is a pseudo-scientific practice that is used to change a person’s gender expression or sexual orientation. Except for some provinces and cities, this harmful practice is legal across Canada. The Canadian government is currently discussing an amendment to the criminal code (Bill C-6) which would make conversion therapy illegal.
Conversion Therapy: Carry It With You is a public performance in which I carry a backpack that is filled with rocks through downtown Kelowna. During the walk I pause to unpack and repack the rocks to give pedestrians space to observe me and to interrupt their routine. The act of unpacking and repacking serves as a reminder to me of how many people conversion therapy has affected. The performance is an hour long as I want to endure a portion of the burden that others have as a way of furthering my understanding. When strangers engage with the work by approaching or talking to me, I hand them a business card with a QR code linked to an audio-recording. The audio includes sections of Bill C-6 combined with an interview from the Human Rights Campaign that inspired my research.
As a lesbian woman I am interested in exploring my community to further understand my identity. After researching the history of LGBTQ+ experiences, I discovered that conversion therapy continues to be practiced across North America, which was surprising as it is not well-known. Although Canada is seen as an accepting country for LGBTQ+ people, the law is simultaneously harming the same community and trying to ‘fix’ them. This performance is a reminder that there is still work that needs to be done to protect LGBTQ+ people, especially youth. With this work I hope to start an open dialogue about conversion therapy.