The UK Council for Psychotherapy has launched a new Memorandum of Understanding on Conversion Therapy to include ‘gender identity,’ leaving therapists, counsellors, GPs and clinical professionals in a position where they may be afraid to do anything but agree with a patient’s self-diagnosis as ‘transgender.’ Anything other than ‘affirmation’ could lay a professional open to the charge of conversion or reparative therapy.
‘Affirmation’ is an untested approach to children with gender dysphoria, a result of demands by political activists rather than an approach developed on the basis of research and evidence.
Of course, we support the original Memorandum of Understanding on Conversion Therapy which outlaws attempts to change a person’s sexual orientation. But ‘gender identity’ should not be conflated with sexual orientation as if the two things are essentially the same issue. For gender dysphoria, the choice of approach is between ‘affirmation’ and ‘watchful waiting’ but its inclusion in the Memorandum suggests that the watchful waiting approach could be considered to be conversion therapy if a child subsequently desists.
What it means is that for a health practitioner to offer any therapeutic support or exploration of underlying factors, motives or reasons for a cross-sex identity in childhood they are now taking a professional risk. Instead, a practitioner must confirm and therefore reinforce a child’s belief that they really are the opposite sex. If a boy thinks he’s a girl, he’s a girl. If a girl believes herself to be a boy, she’s a boy, no questions allowed.
No concession is given to children and young people whose identities are in development and highly susceptible to influence from parents, peers and professionals as well as an increasingly powerful transgender lobby. ‘Affirmation’ is not a neutral approach, it is a strong statement of belief that a girl can be born in a boy’s body and vice versa. No practitioner should be imposing false and non-scientific beliefs on a child or young person or knowingly mislead them about reality.
Ironically, the new MOU asserts that practitioners should be “free from any agenda that favours one gender identity […] as preferable over other gender […] diversities” and yet ‘affirmation’ explicitly favours one identity over another and is wholly dependent upon the agenda of trans activists who have fought to impose this approach.
The statement “no gender identity is inherently preferable to any other” hides the fact that this ideology says that one kind of sexed body is preferable to the other and that the only treatment pathway is medical change of the body to ‘match’ the identity. Under the guise of ‘support’, the assertion “your identity is right” is a cover-up for the underlying message “your body is wrong.”
Professionals are warned that ‘conversion therapy’ constitutes any attempt to ‘bring about a change in someone’s gender identity.’ In other words, even if a child’s belief does not match reality, it must be affirmed as the truth. In no other area of health care is a practitioner compelled to confirm a patient’s false belief. Protection of a child’s belief about which sex they are, by definition takes away all normal protections for a child’s body and fertility. Afraid to do anything which may lead to a change in identity, therapists are compelled to facilitate treatment to bring about medical change of the body.
With no trace of irony, righteous condemnation of ‘conversion therapy’ is used to justify the most extreme medical ‘conversion’ of the physical body into cosmetic imitation of the opposite sexed body. Why, uniquely in this case, are children and young people’s bodies not protected from unnecessary and invasive treatment with some effects irreversible and others unknown, while their beliefs are considered worthy of our greatest efforts at preservation?
It is well established that cross-sex identity in childhood is overwhelmingly predictive of gay or lesbian sexual orientation in adulthood and not transsexuality. Reinforcing an opposite sex ‘heterosexual’ identity in childhood is therefore effectively gay conversion therapy by another name. Of course children will believe adults they trust to tell them the truth – and to a child, “I am a girl” makes perfect sense, whereas “I will probably turn out to be gay in adulthood” is not yet conceivable in the child’s mind.
Coincidentally there were two news stories published on the same day as the new MOU, both concerning what Ray Blanchard calls ‘pre-gay children’ whose social transitions were predicated by sustained homophobic bullying and torment at school. In both cases the homophobic culture is not challenged but left intact as the child is encouraged by adults to change himself in order to escape it. In this excellent interview, Blanchard points out that it is predominantly heterosexual adult transgender activists who are leading the charge to socially and medically transition these children.
Imagine an experienced therapist’s ethical dilemma now when faced with one of these children, knowing that affirming him as a girl will shape that child’s understanding of himself, as well as give the professional green light for a social transition encouraged by all adults who feel more comfortable with a ‘typical’ little girl than a boy who might be gay.
And what about the counsellor who suspects internalised lesbophobia in the case of the teenage girl struggling with emerging sexuality, but who cannot help her to deconstruct and understand her feelings and motives? Or the teenage girl experiencing the body hatred not uncommon for girls in adolescence, or young people with mental health issues, ASD, or who are suffering the effects of previous trauma or sexual abuse? There is now only one diagnosis allowed: they are all ‘transgender’ if they say so. Parents know that this is already happening, that it is very hard to find any health professional who will not just confirm their child’s beliefs; the new Memorandum just sets this in stone.
Without a mandate to treat each child or young person as an individual and use professional judgment tailored to individual circumstances, practitioners become the puppets of the same ideological activists who are influencing young people on social media. Self-diagnosis by Tumblr is confirmed and young people are left at the mercy of an organised movement which is looking more and more like a cult.
We first wrote about the MOU on Conversion Therapy here when it was reviewed in March 2016. The Royal College of General Practitioners then put out a statement in January this year in support of adding ‘gender identity’ to the MOU. This statement was signed by all organisations under the umbrella of the UKCP with the notable exception of the Royal College of Psychiatrists and NHS England. No new Memorandum was actually published at the time, suggesting perhaps that behind-the-scenes disagreement had stalled its progress.
This very important article reveals that its publication now is due to the “small, but vocal minority in the LGBT community who seem to have an agenda to push the boundaries of trans rights whatever the cost” according to James Caspian, who was involved in the Memorandum review. The whole article is well worth reading for its revelations about the bullying and silencing tactics of activists which led to the addition of ‘gender identity’ to the Memorandum.
The new version has been signed by both NHS England and NHS Scotland. The Royal College of Psychiatrists, however, is not a signatory (although they signed the original Memorandum) and we applaud them for having the courage to hold onto their professional integrity in the face of such pressure.
Earlier this month, having heard a rumour that a new MOU was about to be published, we wrote to UKCP, the National Counselling Society, the Royal College of General Practitioners, the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy, the British Psychological Society and the British Psychoanalytic Council to ask them the following questions:
1. As a childhood cross-sex identity is more likely to result in gay/lesbian/bi sexual orientation in adulthood, not transsexualism, and we have no established criteria to predict the development of individual children, how would gay and lesbian children be protected from a route of medical transition to a ‘straight’ identity?
2. Given the unprecedented rise in the number of teenage girls with ‘sudden onset gender dysphoria,’ a new phenomenon for which there is as yet no explanation or etiology, what is the research which shows that ‘affirmation’ is the most helpful response to this group?
3. Given that this group has a high rate of co-morbid symptoms, including depression, self-harming, psychological problems and ASD, what is the research which shows that these symptoms are a result of being ‘transgender’ rather than a cause of gender dysphoria? Would a health professional be accused of ‘conversion therapy’ for exploring these underlying issues in the case of a young person who subsequently ceases to identify as transgender?
4. How can professionals be protected from the accusation of ‘conversion therapy’ when working with clients who regret their transition and are seeking to ‘detransition’?
We have as yet received no response from any of these organisations, other than a rather curt dismissal from the UKCP who told us that the new MOU is important for the ‘protection of the public’ and that “your questions below fall outside the remit of the Memorandum of Understanding and we are unable to respond.”