- Sexual orientation and gender identity are two distinct categories which need to be considered separately.
- We oppose any coercive or manipulative attempts to change or “cure” a person’s sexual orientation.
- Affirming a child as “trans”, when they might otherwise grow up to be lesbian, gay or bisexual, is a form of conversion therapy.
1) Comprehensive research with clear definitions
We call on government to conduct research to discover the extent and manifestation of conversion therapy, and why it happens. This must also establish an accurate definition of what conversion therapy is, as well as what it is not. This needs to include consultation with all relevant stakeholder groups.
2) Enforce existing legislation and guidance
We call on government to enforce any existing legislation that can be used to help #EndConversionTherapy. Government also needs to enforce the existing guidance for schools to avoid misinformation that may lead children to believe either their personality or their body is in need of changing.
3) Investment in transgender healthcare
We call on government to invest in the provision of more high-quality psychotherapy for minors presenting with gender dysphoria, as well as reducing the waiting time before children can access this specialist support.
What can you do?
- Share this page on social media, using the hashtags #EndConversionTherapy and #StopTransingTheGayAway
- Share this page with friends and family who are not aware that sexual orientation and gender identity are being combined as if the concerns were similar, and the harm this can lead to for gender non-conforming children.
- Write to your MP, MSP or MS, to make it clear to them that you oppose conversion therapy and want them to support our campaign asks listed above.
While simply banning conversion therapy sounds like a good idea, creating new legislation – especially with imprecise language – will not #EndConversionTherapy. There are existing laws against most of what we would traditionally understand to be conversion therapy and these need to be implemented. We don’t oppose the idea of banning conversion therapy, but we don’t just want to ban it; we want to #EndConversionTherapy.
Why do you separate gender identity from sexual orientation?
We don’t think anyone should be coerced or manipulated into changing their gender identity. However, sexual orientation and gender identity are two distinct categories which need to be considered separately. One is about who someone is attracted to, based on their sex, and the other is about someone’s self-perception and how they feel about their personality when it comes to constructs of masculine or feminine gender roles/presentation associated with the two sexes.
Experimenting with your sexual orientation as a teenager has no real consequences. The consequences of puberty blockers, followed by cross sex hormones and surgery, are not so short lived. In fact, they’re a lifetime of medical needs and significant changes to an individual’s body. Many detransitioners tell us that they were reluctant to embrace their lesbian, gay or bisexual sexual orientation and mistakenly adopted a “trans” identity instead.
Therapists must have the freedom to help their patients question and explore issues surrounding gender dysphoria and gender identity, especially where this may relate to their developing sexual orientation.
For these reasons, it is essential that sexual orientation and gender identity looked at separately when dealing with the subject of conversion therapy.
Having gender dysphoria or being gender non-conforming as a child does not automatically mean someone will identify as transgender as an adult. Most of the time, these children will grow out of their gender dysphoria, and often grow up to be lesbian, gay or bisexual. For a small minority, transition might be the right course of action if nothing else works to alleviate their persistent gender dysphoria. We support these people in pursuing any course of treatment or intervention they choose – as adults. There should be no pharmaceutical or surgical intervention for children with gender dysphoria, since growing numbers of people, increasingly young women, are coming forward to express their profound regret for having gone down that path.
Do children really grow out of gender dysphoria?
Yes. If not medicalised, roughly 80% grow out of it. Puberty plays an important role in helping them to do so. That means that suppressing puberty is completely the wrong thing to do. Furthermore, we hear from others that there are many other ways of dealing with gender dysphoria. In other words, suffering from gender dysphoria does not necessarily mean a child will grow up to identify as transgender.
Why is this such a big issue now?
The current trend in relation to children who are gender non-conforming, or same-sex attracted, or have gender dysphoria, is to “affirm” them as having a “trans identity”. This is the line encouraged by social media influencers, and it has been adopted by parents, peers, teachers, and even medical professionals. In the past ten years, we have seen a new development. Teenagers, especially girls, are identifying as “trans” quite suddenly, often in clusters. This has been called a “psychic epidemic” – a phenomenon well documented with conditions such as eating disorders and self-harming. It forms a context for manipulating these young people as a form of conversion therapy.
Why more research?
To effectively tackle a problem, you have to understand exactly what is going on. If legislation is necessary, along with other measures, we first need to be in possession of the facts. This means conducting full and detailed research into the extent of practices that would be classified as conversion therapy, as well as exploring and clarifying the reasons these practices are taking place.
How do we arrive at an accurate definition?
We may need more than one definition of conversion therapy to address the distinct characteristics of sexual orientation and gender identity. In that case, a different policy should be developed for each. For any definition, it is essential that sexual orientation and gender identity are not combined under a single heading. It is also essential that any definition is informed by experts and is precise in what is considered conversion therapy. We must avoid any situation where professionals are unable to conduct ethical, neutral therapy, with patients presenting with issues surrounding sexual orientation or gender identity, for fear of being accused of conversion therapy. This extends not only to anything prescribed in legislation, but also to the misperception of something being conversion therapy even if it is not included in legislation.
Who should be consulted?
In consulting on this issue, the government needs to include as wide a range of views as possible. The loudest voices so far in this discussion are those subscribing to gender ideology. It is essential that the voices of detransitioners and desisters are included in any consultation, as well as groups within the L, G, B & T communities that do not go along with the loud voices of organisations that claim to speak on their behalf but do not actually engage or listen to them.
What does “enforce existing legislation” mean?
Many of the practices we typically associate with conversion therapy, such as torture, physical assault, “corrective” rape, kidnapping and something else are already illegal activity. An additional piece of legislation is just a distraction and a chance for government to pat itself on the back for doing “the right thing”. The existing laws need to be enforced and government needs to provide guidance to the police, the Crown Prosecution Service, and other agencies as to which laws are applicable to be used against conversion therapy practices.
Why invest in healthcare?
Waiting times to see specialists in gender dysphoria are long. There needs to be more investment in this specialist area of mental healthcare provision for children to reduce waiting times and increase the number and quality of therapists available.
What does neutral therapy look like?
Ethical therapy is neutral therapy. An ethical therapist neither affirms nor denies the self-diagnosis of the patient. The patient has come to a therapist because they are in distress. It is the therapist’s job to help them explore the causes for that distress from a position of sympathetic neutrality. Enforcing the “affirmation” model is a violation of ethical neutral psychotherapy.
What does the guidance about relationship, sex, and health education in schools say?
Government guidance to schools for planning their relationships, sex and health curriculum are clear:
“You should not reinforce harmful stereotypes, for instance by suggesting that children might be a different gender based on their personality and interests or the clothes they prefer to wear. Resources used in teaching about this topic must always be age-appropriate and evidence based. Materials which suggest that non-conformity to gender stereotypes should be seen as synonymous with having a different gender identity should not be used and you should not work with external agencies or organisations that produce such material. While teachers should not suggest to a child that their non-compliance with gender stereotypes means that either their personality or their body is wrong and in need of changing, teachers should always seek to treat individual students with sympathy and support.”
What if someone wants to change their sexual orientation?
While an individual’s sexual orientation may change during their lifetime, especially during an adolescent period of self-discovery, it is not possible to intentionally change someone’s sexual orientation or to “cure” someone of their same-sex attraction. However, if an adult wants to seek advice from family, guidance from a faith leader in their church, or professional help from a therapist, this is a choice they have the freedom to make. None of these people should coerce, force, or manipulate someone in an attempt to change their sexual orientation, but they also shouldn’t be criminalised for providing someone the space to talk through their feelings about their difficulty accepting their own sexual orientation.
What about religious groups trying to convert someone’s sexual orientation?
In a free society, faith groups are free to believe whatever they choose, but must stay within the law when it comes to their actions. Coercive or manipulative attempts to change or “cure” someone’s sexual orientation because of a religious belief is still conversion therapy and is wrong. This doesn’t mean a religious person who is struggling with their sexuality shouldn’t be allowed to seek guidance or counselling from their faith group or religious leaders, in the same way someone would seek professional therapy. Providing this sort of guidance should not be criminalised, so long as it is not a coercive or manipulative attempt to change someone’s sexual orientation.