Conversion Therapy For Transgender People

Transgender Trend has sent copies of the letter below to UKCP and all professional organisations who are signatories to the UKCP Memorandum of Understanding on Conversion Therapy as well as Pink News and Stonewall. To find out what this is about please read the letter below, and please do write your own letter to any of these organisations, the more people who voice their concerns the better.

Re: UK Council of Psychotherapy Memorandum of Understanding on Conversion Therapy for Transgender People

Dear Jane Ellison MP

I write to you in your capacity as Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Public Health, regarding the UKCP Memorandum of Understanding, which I understand is to be reviewed this month in respect of evidence regarding conversion therapy and transgender issues.

I write as a lay person (I am not a member of UKCP) and on behalf of the UK-based organisation Transgender Trend, a global group of parents concerned about the diagnosis and treatment of children as transgender.

I understand that Dominic Davies, the founder of Pink Therapy, has recently resigned from the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) on the basis of the organisation’s ‘refusal to believe trans people have been subjected to conversion therapy’ and accusing them of ‘hypocrisy.’ Subsequently an open letter to the Governors of BACP calling for the inclusion of trans people in the Memorandum of Understanding on Conversion Therapy has been signed by over 80 professionals, students and activists. This concerns me in light of the recent successful efforts of trans activists in Canada to set the agenda for treatment of ‘trans kids.’

In this case, a prominent, widely-respected and moderate psychologist who led the Child Youth and Family Gender Identity Clinic in Toronto, Dr Kenneth Zucker, was fired by his employer, the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) and his clinic shut down, after a clearly biased ‘review’ following pressure from trans activist groups.

Dr Zucker is a recognised expert in the field of gender dysphoria, having taken a prominent role in developing diagnostic and treatment guidelines, and helping to write the most recent “standards of care” guidelines for the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH). His clinic has had overwhelmingly positive reviews from the parents of gender dysphoric children who have visited it.

Although Dr Zucker advocated ‘gender reassignment’ treatment for adolescents, his ‘wait and see’ approach with younger children has always angered trans activists who have worked hard to smear him as a practitioner of ‘reparative’ therapy and to get his clinic shut down. For the activists, the only ‘correct’ treatment of gender dysphoric children is affirmation of the child’s ‘preferred gender’ and social transition into the opposite-sex role.

A full investigative report into the review and subsequent firing of Dr Zucker can be seen here and an open letter of protest to the Board of Trustees of CAMH, signed by over 500 Health Professionals worldwide, can be seen here.

The power to end the career of an internationally prominent pioneer researcher, clinician and scholar should not be in the hands of political lobbying groups and I am worried that we are already seeing signs of this situation developing in the UK. As a founder of Transgender Trend, I have heard from psychologists, psychotherapists and other clinicians working in the field, who are worried about a politically correct climate which is creating a fear to speak out, and the case of Dr Zucker shows there are grounds for those fears.

I would like reassurance that here in the UK the responsibility for the clinical diagnosis and course of treatment of children with ‘gender dysphoria’ is left in the hands of health professionals and not handed over to social justice lobbyists.

The UKCP Memorandum of Understanding, as the practice guideline for therapists throughout the UK, will set the treatment protocols for all children presenting to gender clinics. It is therefore crucial that clarification of the meaning and application of ‘conversion’ or ‘reparative’ therapy for gender-variant children is clear and unequivocal.

I fully support the banning of conversion therapy for LGB people, which is clearly a violation of human rights, and I obviously support the right of transgender people to access health support without facing discrimination and ignorance. However, the conflation of transgender and LGB people regarding ‘gay cure’ therapy is misleading.

It is recognised by WPATH that the overwhelming majority of children with gender dysphoria grow out of it by adolescence, and that a large proportion of these children will be gay or lesbian. A child’s sexual orientation does not become apparent until the teenage years, or even later – it is not unusual for young people to fully recognise their own sexual orientation only in their early twenties.

As ‘gender dysphoric’ children are far more likely to be homosexual than transgender, to diagnose and treat these children and adolescents as transgender is therefore essentially another form of gay conversion therapy.

Forcing a little boy, for example, to play with ‘boy toys’ and perform a ‘masculine’ role against his will is clearly ‘conversion therapy.’ The only acceptable alternative for activists is affirmation that he is really a girl and socialisation into a ‘girl’ role. Both approaches can be seen as an attempt to prevent him from becoming ‘gay;’ the first by making him a ‘real man,’ the second by making him a heterosexual girl.

Neither approach takes into account his status as a child, his vulnerability to suggestion and conditioning, his developmental stage of understanding, or his immature stage of identity development which is not fixed but in process.

The only approach which is not conversion therapy is the ‘wait and see’ approach: allowing a child time and space to grow up and explore his own gender and sexual identity without being either forced into more typical behaviour for his sex or being labelled ‘transgender.’

The ‘affirmation of preferred gender’ approach puts many children who don’t fit gender stereotypes at risk of being labelled ‘transgender,’ and homophobia must be recognised as one motivation for doing so.

This ‘affirmation’ approach would prevent therapists from helping a child explore the reasons why they feel as they do, or examine the possible factors behind it – including the known links to autism, Aspergers Syndrome, emotional and psychological problems, or even previous sexual abuse. In no other area is a therapist obliged to accept the patient’s self-diagnosis; in no other area of psychology is a patient’s ‘presenting problem’ accepted at face value, nor the words of children taken literally whilst ignoring all knowledge of child development and psychology.

The current spike in teenage girls suddenly deciding they are really boys is especially concerning. There has been an explosion of online Reddit and Tumblr forums, blogs and trans YouTube videos over the last few years, all convincing girls that being a boy is the answer to the very common adolescent rejection of femininity and body-hatred.

If ‘affirmation’ becomes the accepted treatment protocol, then therapists would be obliged to validate all the messages these teenagers are hearing online, leaving them with no protection from the cult-like tactics of trans activists. The risk-taking teenage brain cannot fully comprehend the consequences of setting off on the ‘trans’ path, including invasive treatments, medicalisation for life and sterility. Therapists would be unable to do their job; instead they would become the puppets of a politically powerful lobbying group.

We are seeing the results of this social contagion of transgender theory in the increasing number of young people who, on reaching full maturity in their early twenties, realise that transition was a mistake, and are on the painful path of detransition. There are more and more blogs (mainly from young women) and online secret support forums springing up for detransitioners who find themselves ostracised from the ‘trans’ community who had supported them so much while they were ‘trans.’ Many of these young women are realising that they are lesbians, not transgender, but they are left with permanent effects of hormone treatments, such as a deeper, hoarser voice, increased body hair and in some cases sterility.

The ‘affirmation of preferred gender’ approach raises serious questions about the professional support for these young people. Currently, trans support groups welcome every trans-identifying child or adolescent but offer zero support for detransitioners or those who are beginning to question their transition. Those who start to regret transition are typically reassured that this is a common experience of being trans and nothing to worry about, suggesting that ‘affirmation’ goes only one way, towards a trans identity. The trans community minimises or denies the existence of detransitioners. If therapists offer support to young people in detransitioning, will they be accused of ‘conversion therapy’?

The considered approach which is tailored to the needs of each individual child or adolescent is becoming unfashionable in countries like the US and Canada; my hope is that here in the UK we will remain robust in the face of activists and leave the job in the hands of medical and clinical professionals.

There is so much confusion and misinformation around ‘conversion therapy’ that it is crucial to have clarity in the Memorandum currently under review and I hope that the Government will give full backing to UKCP in producing clear guidelines which are free of any political agenda or ideology. Professionals are calling for much more research in this area – currently there is no research into the long-term health effects of gender reassignment treatments – and for the sake of young people we need to exercise caution before performing invasive treatments on healthy bodies.

Professional clinicians must not be left open to the charge of ‘conversion therapy’ if they do anything less than full ‘affirmation of preferred gender.’

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