Government U-turns on gay conversion therapy, but still allows it for trans people

Yesterday we acknowledged the Transgender Day of Visibility with a post that highlighted comments from a number of Liberal Democrats.

In that post we mentioned that the Government had decided not to ban conversion therapy, to much consternation.

Amazingly, overnight the Government has U-turned again and is now planning to bring forward legislation to ban conversion therapy in the next Queen’s speech. But – and a very big but – the ban will not cover trans people.

On the one hand it is pleasing that gay conversion therapy will at last be outlawed. But it is deeply disappointing that trans conversion therapy will still be allowed.

Now we should start by saying that counselling and psychotherapy should, of course, be made available to all people who are considering transitioning. It is a complex and difficult journey to take, and many will be helped to understand themselves better through professional help. But the key here is “professional” – someone who is fully trained and recognised by their professional bodies. Such people do not approach sessions with any preconceived notions about what the outcome should be for their client, except that they should emerge with a clearer understanding of themselves.

Conversion therapy is different. Last year many professional bodies, including the NHS, signed the updated Memorandum of understanding on conversion therapy in the UK. It states:

Conversion therapy is the term for therapy that assumes certain sexual orientations or gender identities are inferior to others, and seeks to change or suppress them on that basis.

The 2017 Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) makes it clear that conversion therapy in relation to gender identity and sexual orientation (including asexuality) is unethical, potentially harmful and is not supported by evidence. It updates the 2015 version released at the Department of Health, which focused exclusively on sexual orientation.

It is truly shameful that the Government now wants to allow the practice to continue for trans people.

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