ITV News is reporting that the Government has abandoned its plans to pass a law banning conversion therapy. We wholeheartedly welcome this news and are publishing our response to the consultation (below) in which we urged the Government to ditch the poorly-thought-out and unworkable proposal.
Stop Press: The Government has decided it will pass a law banning conversion therapy after all, which is disappointing. However, it intendeds to exclude gender dysphoria from the legislation.
Do you agree or disagree that the Government should intervene to end conversion therapy in principle?
As paragraph 5 of the Government’s consultation paper makes clear, there is an existing criminal law framework that prohibits offences of “physical or sexual violence”. Our concern is that “conversion therapy”, as currently under discussion, is too vaguely defined to form the basis of a new law and such a law would inevitably have a chilling effect on free speech.
We note with concern that any attempt to change “gender identity” (as well as “sexual orientation”) is considered a form of “conversion therapy”. Yet no attempt is made to define what “gender identity” means – a problem, given that it can mean different things depending on whether the context is scientific, medical, sociological or legal. Many legitimate activities – such as referring a young person with a history of mental illness who identifies as trans to a psychotherapist before they decide to have irreversible medical procedures – might fall foul of any legal ban on “conversion therapy”.
There is also a risk that affirming the self-diagnosis of a child who identifies as trans could in itself be a form of “conversion therapy” and fall foul of the ban. Where a young lesbian initially identifies as a man and later changes her mind, could she not urge the police to investigate the health care professional who affirmed her self-diagnosis and referred her to the Tavistock where she underwent life changing medical procedures on the grounds that this professional helped to “convert” her?
Our understanding of transgenderism is still in its infancy and we cannot rule out the possibility that in some cases identifying as transgender, or gender fluid, may be symptomatic of a mental disorder. Indeed, we note that “gender dysphoria” is included in the latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the Bible of the American psychiatric profession. Clinical professionals have both a right and a duty to recommend what in their judgment is the best clinical pathway for a patient who identifies as transgender, particularly if that patient is a minor. It would be an infringement of the clinician’s right to free speech, and not in the interests of their patients, to legally prohibit one possible diagnosis and, in some cases, forcing them to break their Hippocratic Oath.
At the Free Speech Union, we are concerned that any new law will criminalise the expression of beliefs that do not comply with trans rights orthodoxy, as articulated by Stonewall and other organisations that claim to speak (wrongly) for the entire LGBTQ+ population. Others at risk of falling foul of the new law are persons, including clinicians, who are uncomfortable with the current fashion for encouraging trans children to embark on medical transition, as well as followers of the world’s major religious faiths.
Should the Government proposals strengthen the case for disqualifying any person with gender critical beliefs from holding a senior role in a charity, this also raises the question of whether charities can have religion- or belief-motivated charitable purposes or whether some charities – such as Christian Concern – will end up being investigated by the Charity Commission following complaints from trans rights activists.
Free Speech Union’s response to the Government’s consultation about banning conversion therapyRead More »