Like many of you when I first heard that the government was planning to introduce legislation to ban gay conversion therapy my reaction was one of disbelief that it wasn’t banned already. That was swiftly followed by a concern that it was such an urgent and widespread problem that it required legislation to stop what is no doubt an abhorrent practice. I was ready to stand up and fight to protect LGB people from this horror and was glad that the government was finally doing something.
Then I saw that embattled former gay civil rights charity Stonewall has its grubby mitts all over it and my heart sank. This is the same charity that in a response to an article about raped lesbians compared homosexuality to racism because lesbians, by definition, aren’t sexually attracted to transwomen who are males.
It gets worse though because the more I looked into it the more I became concerned; the usual consultation period for this type of legislation was halved, and Stonewall thought that even this was too long. Stonewall wanted no consultation period and no debate to plans it supports. Why the rush?
My gut instinct these days is that if Stonewall is happy with something, and it appears they are with these proposals, then nothing good can come of it for LGB people.
Aside from the fact that the consultation itself is based on research that is problematic, it also suffers from lumping in the observable phenomena that is clearly defined in law as sexual orientation with the confused and contradictory abstract and contested theory of gender identity.
The proposals would appear to prevent teachers, parents, and clinicians supporting children and young people who present with gender dysphoria with anything other than the affirmation approach. Affirmation is increasingly being identified in other countries as an ineffective model when it comes to working with dysphoric children and has been shown to result in poorer mental health outcomes. Many LGB people view gender identity when combined with affirmation as being the modern-day incarnation of gay conversion therapy.
What do I mean by that? A few months back on Lesbian and Gay News I wrote about my experience of being bullied at school, and I shared that I suffered from gender dysphoria that later resolved itself as I grew to accept my sexual orientation. From the responses I had to that article, it seems that my experiences struck a nerve and that many of you have had a similar experience. Like me, many of you have said that feelings of dysphoria were a feature of progressing through adolescence and coming to terms with being same-sex attracted adults. The small amount of research in the area shows that upwards of 80-90% of children presenting with gender dysphoria desist if left to progress through natural puberty, with most of those settling as LGB adults if a watchful waiting supportive and non-affirmation approach is taken.
… what needs to happen is that while the ban on gay conversion therapy needs to go ahead, it should only deal with sexual orientation, any proposed ban on “gender identity conversion therapy” needs to be subjected to much more scrutiny.
Admittedly times have changed in schools and being LGB is better supported and less stigmatised, but I can’t help but wonder what would have happened to dysphoric teenage me if I was progressing through the school system now? Would I have been able to speak openly and freely with the counsellor at school? Would they be able to offer a supportive and non-judgemental way to explore the possibility that instead of being a woman trapped in a man’s body I was in fact just same-sex attracted? Would doing so leave that counsellor open to accusations that they had engaged in conversion therapy?
Considering the very clear and obvious overlap between gender non-conformity, sexual orientation, and what is being constructed as gender identity – which bit takes priority when we’re talking about conversion therapy? Given the research shows that most kids with dysphoria are likely to be LGB in adult life surely mandating in law an affirmation of gender identity is itself state-mandated gay conversion therapy?
Where can young people turn to when they’re struggling to integrate their innate sexual orientation with their self-image? It’s hard enough being young and feeling as though there’s something wrong with you because you’re having confusing thoughts about who you fancy, and because you’re a boy who doesn’t like football and are a bit sensitive or you’re a girl who likes to climb trees and play rugby. Are we going to stand back and see an entire generation of LGB people transported back to the bad old days of Section 28 where same-sex sexual attraction becomes the love that no one dares name because doing so could be constructed as conversion therapy by the ideologically brainwashed? Are we really going to abandon these young lesbians and gay men?
We also need to wait until the independent Cass Review of Gender Identity Services has had time to report back before progressing any proposals.
And what is gender identity anyway? You can never get a clear, consistent, or coherent response when those who promote its existence are asked to define it. There is no actual peer-reviewed science that shows that it exists and it’s often conflated with the mental health condition of gender dysphoria. Are we really going to legislate for something we don’t have any evidence exists and that when combined with affirmation has the potential to cause harm to generations of LGB people resulting in actual gay conversion therapy?
No, what needs to happen is that while the ban on gay conversion therapy needs to go ahead, it should only deal with sexual orientation, any proposed ban on “gender identity conversion therapy” needs to be subjected to much more scrutiny. Then proposals for separate legislation for gender identity should be submitted where it is incumbent on those proposing the ban to clearly define what they want to ban, what gender identity is, provide evidence for its existence, and explain how any proposed ban does not conflict with what will then be the law on gay conversion therapy. We also need to wait until the independent Cass Review of Gender Identity Services has had time to report back before progressing any proposals.
That is exactly what I will be saying in my submission to that is due in by this Friday 10th December: https://equalityhub.citizenspace.com/government-equalities-office/banning-conversion-therapy/
There are, depressingly, more issues with the proposals than what I have touched upon above and I cannot encourage you enough to check out the resources linked to on this page: https://staging.lesbianandgaynews.com/2021/12/the-governments-consultation-on-banning-conversion-therapy-closes-this-friday-10th-december-at-11-45pm-heres-how-you-can-respond-and-take-action-today/.
We have a responsibility as gay men, lesbians and bisexual men and women to look out for the next generation of LGB people in the same way that others looked out for us. The consultation will you take an hour or two, we cannot let our brothers and sisters down. Please read the guidance on how to fill out the consultation and get it submitted by this Friday.
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