Dear Lloyd – re your Conversion Therapy Bill

conversion therapy bill

A post went out today on X (formerly Twitter) from Ban Conversion Therapy, with a video of various politicians speaking in support of Lloyd Russell-Moyle’s Conversion Therapy Bill. It was the usual message – that conversion therapy is abuse – with the usual lack of any evidence that it is happening to transgender people. It urged people to write to their MPs to support the Bill’s second reading on March 1st.

The tone of this message is in complete contrast to the measured and properly informed debate on conversion therapy in the Lords last week. You can watch the whole debate here on the Parliament TV website.

We met Lloyd Russell-Moyle in January to discuss his Private Members Bill to ban conversion therapy, and were promised a further meeting. As this was not possible before March 1st we were invited to write with our wider concerns. We thought today would be a timely opportunity to share our letter to Lloyd Russell-Moyle which we sent on February 12th.

Dear Lloyd,

We met you on January 26th to discuss your Conversion Practices (Prohibition) Bill. The Bill faces its 2nd reading in the Commons on March 1st.

We wanted to speak to you about the inclusion of ‘transgender identity’ in the bill and make sure that you understood why it is a harmful and retrograde step to embed the concept in UK law.

However, at your request we agreed to discuss the Bill only, line by line, and to leave aside the wider issues of why there has been such an unprecedented rise in the number of children and young people identifying as transgender.

We felt that you engaged with our points and listened to our suggestions, and you agreed that it would be useful to have a further meeting to discuss the wider social and cultural background to the sudden belief in gender identity. A date was agreed which you then had to cancel for diary reasons and no further date was arranged.

We regret this and if we had been able to arrange a further face-to-face meeting this is what we would have said.

No legislation banning conversion practices will be safe for children and young people. In fact, a bill which includes transgender puts them at risk of homophobic conversion therapy. The overwhelming evidence for this was summarised brilliantly in Kemi Badenoch’s letter of February 7th to the Women and Equalities Committee. Her letter references all the reputable and irrefutable research pointing to the fact that most children with a transsexual identity will grow up to be non-trans gay and lesbian adults. She shows how identity confusion, based on sex stereotypes can become embedded in a young child’s thinking before they experience sexual attraction.

You have said that you believe your Bill has safeguards for this cohort of same-sex attracted young people. We think this is naïve in the current social climate in which every organisation that purports to look after the interests of LGB people also have a foundational belief in the existence of ‘trans kids.’ Stonewall for instance says “Research suggests that children as young as 2 recognise their trans identity.” This flies in the face of all our knowledge of child development and their cognitive understanding. To put it bluntly it is an ignorant lie.

But this lie is repeated ad nauseam by all the major LGBT+ organisations, it is to be found in all the trans toolkits for schools, it is repeated by LGBT+ educational groups. The result is that a belief that has no basis in fact is now embedded in our schools and colleges. This is the idea that a child can have a gender or transgender identity in opposition to their actual biological sex. The major teaching unions also promote their support for this idea. All these groups and organisations advise that ‘trans kids’ must be supported in their belief that they are trans however young they are. This is the social context into which a ban on conversion therapy would land; one highly skewed towards an affirmative approach.

The Cass Review is clear that a narrow affirmative approach led to the problems of diagnostic overshadowing at GIDS, meaning that other co-morbidities were ignored in favour of a transgender explanation for a child’s distress. Not one of the organisations listed above has engaged in good faith with the Cass Review, nor used its finding to inform their thinking.  None of them have incorporated the shocking facts of what went on at the Tavistock’s GIDS into their training, statements, or curriculum ideas.  

Sending a message?

You said you considered that part of the purpose of your bill was to send a ‘message.’ We’d like you to think about what this message is, who will hear it and how will it be understood. If your Bill becomes law, let’s imagine how gender-distressed children and vulnerable young people might interpret this message. They’ve been told repeatedly by LGBT+ organisations that they are hated, and are in actual danger from transphobes, who are defined as anyone who doesn’t affirm their belief that they are the opposite sex. They’ve read online that as a group they are highly likely to commit suicide. They’ve been told that conversion therapy is an ever-present danger, everything they read will repeat these same messages, which will be confirmed by its criminalisation.

This is from the Ban Conversion Therapy website and is typical:

“Hearing about conversion therapy might be difficult for you. This is something that has sadly hurt thousands of LGBTQIA+ people, and something that continues to cause damage to people across the UK today.”

These children are not going to read the specifics of the law itself. The only message that will land is that conversion therapy is banned. Any discussion with parents or a neutral exploratory therapist will be seen through this lens, it will be experienced as conversion therapy. It will make these vulnerable young people fear such discussions. Simple questioning or non-affirmation by a parent will stoke fears that something dangerous is happening, caused by words alone. It’s not hard to imagine a child accusing a parent or therapist of conversion therapy.

The most pernicious part of the narrative that’s been created is that those practising ‘conversion therapy’ may appear to be compassionate and reasonable. This will stoke a child’s suspicion towards genuinely loving and caring parents, which is a frightening state of insecurity to create for a child. Trust is important in any relationship, but in the parent-child relationship at a time when a child is navigating the storms of adolescence, it is key.

Imagine the teenage boy who is fully supported and accepted by his parents as gay, but has been relentlessly bullied at school for his effeminacy. If he suddenly announces he identifies as a girl and is trans, his parents may justifiably be concerned. He has already been told that if his parents don’t immediately affirm him they are, at best, unsupportive, and at worst, transphobic bigots. A legislative ban on trans conversion therapy would teach him that they are also potentially criminals.

A recent New York Times article included an interview with a detransitioner who said this: “I transitioned because I didn’t want to be gay. I believed homosexuality was a sin.” How will your Bill protect young gay and lesbian people who are effectively practicing a form of self-conversion therapy?

If you were a gay teen now you would be experiencing a school and youth culture that was almost non-existent even five years ago. ‘Support’ for gay and lesbian teens all comes through the lens of ‘gender identity’ even to the extent that same-sex orientation has been rebranded as ‘same-gender’ orientation by Stonewall and ‘LGBT’ organisations. Unfortunately homophobia still exists in schools while ‘trans’ is promoted and celebrated. Is it any wonder that same-sex attracted adolescents are increasingly confused about their sexuality?  

A ban on conversion therapy will also send a chilling message to parents, social workers, therapists and teachers who want to follow a watchful waiting approach towards any child with gender distress. Watchful waiting is the gold standard method of treatment for these children, and involves holding a neutral space to explore their feelings without taking an affirmative approach. However we know from news reports and court cases that this is not what is happening and that those who don’t affirm have been investigated or lost their jobs.

Social work: CAFCASS is the largest employer of social workers in England. In guidance published in January 2023 they said:

“Direct or indirect conversion therapy is morally and ethically wrong and the child should be permitted to express their gender in accordance with their needs.”

“Any suggestion that some children state they are transgender for attention, because they have been influenced by social media or others such as parents is wrong.”

“Children are not immune to being exposed to high profile gender critical views and the fact they are children does not protect them from its everyday impact or inhibit those making such assertions.”

Social workers such as Rachel Meade have faced disciplinary proceedings for holding gender critical views, others have lost their jobs. Looked after children make up 0.58% of the general population but 4.9% of GIDS referrals. Hilary Cass was concerned by these numbers and wrote “In discussion with social workers, we heard concerns about how looked after children are supported in getting the help and support they need.”

A conversion therapy ban will confirm the professional practice bias towards affirmation, making it even harder for social workers to offer a neutral perspective to troubled young people.

Teachers: All the main teaching unions take an affirmative approach to pupils with gender related-distress. The NEU policy Supporting Trans and Gender Questioning Students tells teachers to assist a pupil in transitioning by using new pronouns, allowing them to use the facilities of their choice. The NAHT likewise proposes that schools teach gender identity as fact from early years and up. A conversion therapy ban in this environment would simply reinforce the affirmative beliefs that have already become embedded in unions and other educational bodies.

Therapy: Therapists have already experienced the chilling effect of a conversion therapy ban within their profession. With no mandate or democratic oversight The Memorandum of Understanding on Conversion Therapy 2 was passed in 2017. This professional practice guide prevents therapists from practising exploratory therapy with clients with gender related distress. You have heard from therapists who were able to explain why a legal ban would make it even harder to practice their profession. We know that gender identity services are finding it hard to recruit staff due to the pro-affirmation grip in the existing services. Those trying to reform services following the changes introduced by the Cass Review report constant pushback from activists in the NHS. Because this is a contested issue, a conversion therapy ban will be seen as an endorsement of pro-affirmation only.

Parents: There are many accounts of schools and youth groups keeping knowledge of a child’s trans identity from their parents. There is evidence of parents being threatened by social workers that their children will be taken into care if they don’t affirm their child. While education and social work’s governing bodies and unions remain committed to an affirmative approach, these parental fears are very real. For instance, we’ve been contacted by parents who, when seeking an autism assessment for their 14-yr-old daughter, found their daughter referred to as ‘he’ throughout the written report. When challenged, as the parents were opposed to socially transitioning their daughter, the private company carrying out the work referred to their trans inclusion policy and refused to change the wording.

The social and cultural landscape on transgender issues in the UK is not neutral. It is firmly weighted towards affirmation and special opprobrium is targeted at those who raise valid concerns about children and young people. We believe your Bill will simply reinforce these trends. You have been told that most of the GIDS patients were same-sex attracted, 35% are on the autism spectrum. They will be harmed by legislation, however well-intended, that reinforces the idea that conversion therapy is a threat. A Bill will prevent those offering neutral help from speaking out and will prevent those in need of help from listening.

We ask you to withdraw your Bill. There is no evidence that conversion therapy for being trans is happening. The real threat to gender questioning children and young people comes from homophobic conversion therapy in the form of gender affirmation. Please rethink. 

Best wishes

Stephanie and Shelley     

This Post Has 8 Comments

  1. Lyndsey Snow

    I sincerely hope that he takes notice. Sadly I doubt it as it all seems to be some odd agenda dead set on transing everything. 🤦🏻‍♀️

  2. Linda West

    This is a wonderful, well argued letter. Thank you so much for the work you are doing in this contentious and fraught area. Our children need you, as do our teachers, social workers, doctors and therapists.

  3. Sarah

    Very well put.

  4. Karen

    Simply, banning “conversion therapy” will trans the gay away. It is utterly ridiculous unless we see it as a sign that this government knows homosexuality is a sin so needs to change our gay children into straight. Using surgery and hormones our children are also sterilised, so eliminating the unwanted genes (for homosexuality, autism, etc). We see this is eugenics. Other countries do that. Why not the UK?
    The misuse of the word “therapy” is reprehensible.

    1. Clair Honnor

      Agreed, the removal of gay people and Autists from society in the name of inclusion. The sad thing is, plenty of those demanding this nonsense are autistic themselves.

  5. Peter Benjamin

    Thank you for your honest reply

  6. Penny

    Transing the gay away is conversion therapy. Another example of Stonewall et al changing the meaning of language where the opposite is actually true. Great letter, let’s hope it’s read.

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