The UK government is running a consultation on their proposed ban on conversion therapy. This is open to the public and closes at 11.45 on the 4th February 2022.
We are very concerned about the inclusion of ‘gender identity’ in the proposed legislation.
In response to the consultation we have written the below letter which we are using to contact the Minister for Equalities, Kemi Badenoch. Please use this letter as a template to write to your own MP and express your concerns.
Dear Kemi Badenoch
Conversion Therapy Ban
As an organisation focussed solely on the safeguarding of children, we would like to call on the government to pause the proposed conversion therapy ban. Our reasons are manifold and outlined below.
- We are very concerned about conflating two very different issues under one piece of legislation. Conversion therapy aimed at trying to change a person’s sexuality (the so-called “gay cure” therapy) is very different to supporting children who are experiencing distress about a perceived mismatch between their biological sex and their “gender identity”. There are many reasons why children may be uncomfortable with their sex and their developing bodies. Discussions with children to help them explore these issues and their distress should not be classified as conversion therapy. Professionals should be free to explore these issues with children without fear of acting illegally. We are hearing from more and more de-transitioners who say they wish that professionals had taken time to discuss their feelings more deeply before setting them upon a path of transition via “affirmation”. A ban on conversion therapy for gender identity would mean these children would not be able to access any treatment and could criminalise parents, teachers, therapists, and other professionals if they do not “affirm” a child’s own assertion they are transgender. There is potential to do far more harm than good with this legislation.
- The Department of Health commissioned an independent review of the treatment of children experiencing gender distress last year. We believe that the government should wait for the outcome of this review which is being led by Dr Hilary Cass. Dr Cass has said ““It is absolutely right that children and young people, who may be dealing with a complex range of issues around their gender identity, get the best possible support and expertise throughout their care.” Given the review is extensive and evidence based, it would be counter-productive to push through legislation before the review has been completed.
- The consultation period is extremely short. Six weeks is simply not long enough to carry out a systematic review of the evidence surrounding this emotive and complex topic.
- The concept of “conversion therapy” in relation to gender identity is poorly defined and therefore cannot be written into law. To view the complexity around supporting a child experiencing gender distress as either “affirm” or “convert” is over simplistic and deeply damaging.
- There is currently very little evidence that there is a need for a ban on conversion therapy.
Our concerns are all rooted in concern for the welfare of children. We think this legislation has the potential to harm the children it purports to support. Therapists, teachers, parents, social workers and other professional should not be criminalised for trying to help and support distressed children.
We would like you to pass our concerns on to the Chief Whip and urge the government to wait for the Cass review before it takes this proposed legislation any further.
Tanya Carter and Tracy Shaw
On behalf of Safe Schools Alliance UK