Conversion Therapy Update


On January 20th, we were delighted to meet Mike Freer, Baroness Stedman-Scott and the team working on the UK’s proposed conversion therapy ban. We believe we made progress in showing how the wrong type of ban could end up harming LGB youth.

Our key concern is that there’s a huge conversion therapy programme underway right now in the UK which the proposed Bill ignores. In 2020, BBC Newsnight revealed homophobic parents and therapists often conspire to push LGB teens towards thinking they were ‘born in the wrong body.’

For 2 years we’ve been trying to get the government and NHS to protect young LGB people from this sort of misdiagnosis. If the government gets this Ban wrong it could add fuel to the fire and the 4400% increase in girls in particular being referred to GI clinics will increase even more.

We were disappointed to learn the government doesn’t seem to be sufficiently aware of studies that show the vast majority of young people being referred to GI clinics and being prescribed experimental puberty blockers say they are same sex attracted.

What’s more, around 60% of young people diagnosed with gender dysphoria find their discomfort with their body lessens and often disappears if they are allowed to go through puberty:

In fact, one recent study puts this figure as high as 88%:

Many settle into happy LGB lives in adulthood.

We want young people with gender dysphoria to get all the care they need. A minority will never change in their conviction they are trans. We wish them well.

But the evidence suggests a large group of young LGB people are being wrongly diagnosed and they need protection too.

Perhaps this idea, and the facts that support it, are being ignored by the government because the research it relies on, such as a study it recently commissioned, and publicised as part of its consultation process, is so shockingly poor and biased.

A sign the research from Coventry University may be unreliable is that a third of the respondents who’d gone through conversion therapy said they’d found “positive secondary benefits” from the ‘therapy’ such as meeting new friends. This is a distinctly bizarre discovery.

The reason for such a strange finding may be that the research consisted of a tiny sample of just 30 interviews which were self-selected and relied on memories of events years ago. We know this makes the results less reliable because the small print in the study warns us:

The study says “such accounts may not always be accurate”, “their memories …may become distorted over time” and “their experiences may not represent current practices”. As for self-selection in general? We’re warned that “such sampling strategies may introduce biases”.

The numbers of transgender or non-binary people who were interviewed for the government’s research was just 6; only 3 of whom said they’d gone through conversion therapy for ‘gender identity’. Can it be true that legislation is being justified by interviews with just THREE people?

Yes, it can. The type of proposed ban is being shaped by interviews with 3 people whose self-selection we’re warned may “introduce biases”, whose memories “may become distorted over time” and “may not represent current practices”. We think this is a national embarrassment.

We think it’s explained by the fact that too many institutions have come to rely on a few noisy lobby groups which push poorly evidenced messages. This leads to groupthink and creates powerful disincentives for staff who want to ask uncomfortable questions or point out flaws.

While we expresssed strong support for the government’s proposed ban on conversion therapy for sexual orientation, we argued there are so many unanswered questions about the proposed ban on “transgender conversion” it should press pause on that and do more and better research.

One of these unanswered questions is how transgender will be defined in practice. We were told it will not include novel gender identities such as demi-fluid or demi-flux. But the government’s own definition in its consultation would cover those identities and many more.

And more are on the way. We are concerned that WPATH, the World Professional Association for Transgender Health is consulting on a new chapter for its SOC8 guidelines to cover the addition of ‘eunuchs’. Does the government really think this gender identity should be affirmed?

This suggests some young people are embracing surgery for its own sake. Here’s a popular influencer explaining (at 2m:30s) it was surgery they wanted above all. The government should research whether Gender identity claims are increasingly being used to access body modification.

For young LGB people who feel particularly alienated from both gender stereotypes and often their bodies all this may be particularly alluring. Shouldn’t it be the job of clinicians to be gatekeepers and protect these young people from irrevocable decisions… and themselves?

Our stance is resolutely against any wilful attempt to talk young people out of their convictions. But the risks of puberty blockers, a lifetime of hormones and life-changing surgery are massive. Clinicians need the freedom to emphasise that and warn of consequences.

It remains unclear whether this emphasis on risks could be interpreted as an attempt to convert. This uncertainty and the potential for a lawsuit from a troubled young person will tragically mean fewer clinicians will be willing to assist the gender dysphoric.

We look forward to continuing to provide a different perspective to the government on this important issue. We’ve come a long way in just over 2 years from a fearful meeting at the Conway Hall to representing the interests of LGB people, at the highest levels of government.