Although a proposed ban on ‘trans conversion therapy’ was left out of the King’s Speech, the spirit motivating this stillborn legislation appears to live on, skulking in the shadows of Westminster’s less salubrious postcodes and whispering sweet nothings into the ears of any Parliamentarians that happen to pass by on their way towards “The Right Side of History”.
There’s a debate in the House of Lords today about banning conversion therapy, for instance. Another, very similar piece of legislation proposed by hard-Left Brighton MP Lloyd Russell-Moyle, is due to be debated in the Commons in March.
At the FSU we’re concerned about the impact any such ban could have on the free speech of doctors parents, teachers and therapists who raise entirely legitimate questions about the basic tenets of gender identity theory, including the idea that vulnerable children and young adults have an inner “gender identity” that is different from the sex of their body.
The FSU’s Communications Officer, Freddie Attenborough, has written a piece for the Critic that sets out some of our concerns. Here’s an extract:
Although a proposed ban on “conversion therapy” was left out of the King’s Speech last November, the spirit motivating this stillborn legislation appears to live on,
Just before Christmas, a Westminster Hall debate brought by Labour MP Christian Wakeford took place in which a succession of Labour MPs urged the government to bring forward such a bill. In addition, a private members bill in the Lords banning conversion therapy is currently at second reading stage, and another private members bill, this one proposed by the hard-Left Brighton MP Lloyd Russell-Moyle, is due to be debated in the Commons in March.
Back in January, Keir “the wind watcher” Starmer finally got in on that act too, committing the Labour Party to banning all forms of conversion therapy if Labour wins the general election, which will take place later this year.
Flanked by a raft of frontbenchers, including his deputy, Angela Rayner, and the Shadow Women and Equalities Minister, Anneliese Dodds, Sir Keir this week welcomed members of the lobby group LGBT+ Labour to a reception at Westminster in order to celebrate the news. Alongside a “full, trans-inclusive ban on all forms of conversion therapy” Starmer promised the thronging mass of immutable, biological bodies in attendance at the event that the Labour Party “fully support the view that conversion therapy is psychologically damaging abuse”.
Of course, there are some forms of “conversion therapy” that no sensible person would object to being banned, such as attempts to stop someone from being gay or transgender via exorcism, electro-shock therapy, physical violence or food deprivation. No-one is disputing that “treatments” of this kind are appalling, and that they have no place in a free society. But a bill isn’t required to ban them. Such practices are already illegal in the UK.
But if that’s the case, then what is it, exactly, that Sir Keir’s proposed legislation will end up banning?
The obvious, rather chilling answer is that it will target the expression of opinions critical of gender identity theory, and, more specifically, the idea that vulnerable children and young adults have an inner “gender identity” that is different from the sex of their body.
There would be the whiff of Soviet-era Lysenkoism about any state sanctioned attempt to protect a supposedly scientific framework from scrutiny. But given that ours is a culture in which tolerance of dissent from gender identity ideology is already in short supply, it’s easy to see how a trans conversion therapy ban which materialised the concept of a “gendered soul” in this way could quickly be weaponised by trans activists.
In the past few years, a “gender affirmative model” has taken hold in clinical settings like the NHS’s controversial, soon-to-be-closed Tavistock Clinic. Faced with cases of gender distress, this model encourages clinicians to affirm rather than question a child’s chosen gender identity, before then putting them on a medical pathway that can have lifelong, irreversible consequences.
As per the findings of NHS England’s interim Cass Review last year, clinicians at the Tavistock said they felt under pressure to adopt an unquestioning affirmative approach in a manner that was at odds with the standard process of clinical assessment and diagnosis that they had been trained to undertake in all other clinical encounters.
This culture of silencing any evidence-based challenge to gender identity ideology is already deeply concerning given that we now know that puberty blockers — intended to delay the onset of puberty so children suffering from gender dysphoria can have more time before deciding whether to have surgery — can cause lifelong harms, such as bone disease and infertility; that the majority of children wrestling with their identity and sexuality ultimately grow out of their gender dysphoria as they reach adolescence; that many young girls develop dysphoria and/or adopt a transgender identity in clusters of girls in schools or among friendship groups, and in tandem with binge watching social media channels; and that underlying issues like autism, ADHD, homophobic bullying, sexual abuse, and other traumas are as likely to cause gender dysphoria as a supposedly “repressed” gender identity.
But how much more pressure will cautious doctors, clinicians and therapists feel under to take an affirmative approach if trans activists have recourse to a new law while attempting to inveigle employers, professional associations and regulators into agreeing with them that “intellectual doubts”, “research evidence”, “unique patient characteristics”, “longitudinal studies”, “inferences drawn from systematic reviews”, “clinical data”, “past casework” and so on represent little more than transphobia-in-action?
It’s clear that a poorly worded bill risks catching a wide range of conduct, effectively criminalising doctors, parents and teachers who deviate from an “affirmative” approach to gender dysphoria in children and adolescents — even if the deviation is only undertaken as part of a one-off, perfectly legitimate conversation with a child, and irrespective of whether that child is their own child, or a child in their care.
In fact, even a carefully drafted trans-inclusive ban that didn’t catch this type of conduct when presented for first reading in the Commons, would be in grave danger of being amended by members of the LGBT+ lobby as it made its way through Parliament.
Worth reading in full.
It’s for these reasons that the FSU is now lobbying hard against a trans conversion ban, and urging Parliamentarians to consider the unintended consequences for freedom of speech if a bill containing any such interdiction is brought forward, in this Parliament or the next.
Given the severity of the proposed legislation’s implications, the FSU is also urging members to write to their MPs to highlight these concerns.
You can click here to use our automated campaigning tool — it’s a simple and fast process that can have a significant impact.
Please join our campaign and help make sure that freedom of speech remains protected, particularly in sensitive and potentially life-altering circumstances.