LONDON, Sept 15 (Openly) – Doctors once prescribed long, hard bike rides and testicular transplants to cure gay men of their “sexual abnormality”. More than a century on, fear and controversy still dog the secretive world of conversion therapy. From injections to electric shocks, prayer to rape, myriad methods are peddled by medics, counsellors and moralists to suppress the sexual desire or gender identity of LGBT+ patients. Interviews with practitioners and patients worldwide reveal a deep divergence over practices that dozens of medical associations have condemned as ineffective and harmful. In Egypt, a young man sought the help of a famous TV doctor on the advice of a friend he came out to. Years later, he remains traumatised by an anal examination. In post-Soviet Georgia, a teenage lesbian was injected with hormones as a “cure” initiated by her mother. The prayers of a Mexican pastor persuaded a trans woman to cut off her own hair in a bid to obliterate her identity. All are examples of modern conversion therapy, which thrives in the shadows even as moves to ban it gather pace globally. “Wherever homophobia and transphobia exist, there will be a form of conversion therapy available as well,” said Randy Thomas, a former vice president at Exodus International, a U.S-based umbrella organisation of “ex-gay” Christian groups. In 2013, Exodus was disbanded by its then-president, Alan Chambers, who apologised for promoting “sexual orientation change efforts” and for the “pain and the hurt” it caused. Conversion therapy did not end with Exodus, though. Its chief advocates are often religious or conservative groups. Many work in secret, but those who are open say it works, is safe and that adults should be free to undergo it.