Consultation on conversion therapy

Merched Cymru is pleased to hear that the proposed ban on conversion therapy will go out to consultation, and that research will be undertaken to clarify the extent and impact of this unacceptable practice.

This is not a straightforward issue however and there is a genuine risk of unintended consequences. We believe that:

…the proposed ban on ‘conversion therapy’ for trans-identifying children and young people would potentially criminalise counsellors who wish to treat the whole person, to explore the impact of co-morbidities and to consider all the factors that might be contributing to their gender distress. Critically, it would outlaw any approach that allowed for the (highly likely) possibility that the patient would, post puberty, come to terms with their biological sex, and their sexual orientation.

Children and young people need and deserve supportive, compassionate, and evidence-based care. By conflating ethical psychotherapy with conversion therapy, the proposed legislation will put that care, and gender non-conforming young people, at serious risk.

Transgender Trend have researched the background to this proposed ban. They raise several, well-evidenced, concerns, particularly regarding the lack of a clear definition of ‘conversion therapy’.

Those calling for a ban not only conflate sexual orientation and gender identity but also want legislation to cover all healthcare and religious settings, both public and private, applying to children and adults. In theory, this means conversion therapy encompasses a wide range of interventions, from a teacher telling a 4-year old boy that it’s fine to wear a dress but he can never become a girl – to the extremes of exorcism and corrective rape.

High-qualty psychotherapy is needed

LGB Alliance – people who understand the on-the-ground realities of conversion therapy – are similarly cautious:

Our campaign to #EndConversionTherapy includes calling on the government to invest in the provision of more high-quality psychotherapy for minors presenting with gender dysphoria, as well as reducing the waiting time before such children can access this specialist support. This matters to us because so many of these gender non-conforming children are likely to grow up to be lesbian, gay, or bisexual – provided they are not medicalised.

Others, calling for legislation to ban conversion therapy, are conflating sexual orientation and gender identity and using ill-defined terms that risk banning normal, exploratory therapeutic practices by criminalising therapists who do not automatically “affirm” the client’s self-diagnosis.

Therapy should not be criminalised

The Thoughtful Therapists Network is a diverse group of clinicians, steadfastly against conversion therapy yet concerned about the way such proposed legislation will be formulated. Sexual orientation and gender identity are completely different and so they point out these should be dealt with separately. They are urging the government not to criminalise essential, exploratory therapy. They have launched a petition. Please consider signing it.

Our paper on Conversion Therapy was sent to all Welsh MPs (two responded) and to key members of the Senedd. The response from Senedd members was dismissive, and failed to engage with the substance of our concerns. We will continue the campaign by sending Transgender Trend’s report to MPs and Senedd Ministers.

Merched Cymru will also be responding to the consultation, along with LGB Alliance Cymru.