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Call to Action – Conversion Practices Bill

Teenage women in conversion therapy

It has been announced that, despite previous statements to the contrary, the government now intends to introduce a Conversion Practices Bill, including gender identity as well as sexual orientation.  We suggest that everyone writes to their MP, explaining why this is a bad idea, so they can be properly-informed and able to engage with the issues.  Whichever political party your MP belongs to, they need to hear from as many of their constituents as possible.

We provide here two template letters.  Please use the information from one or the other, or both, to create your own letter, rather than merely copying and pasting one of these.

You may also want to consider the content of two articles.  Sunday 22nd October’s Observer Editorial says:

 
“No one has been able to precisely define what “trans conversion therapy” is; when the government consulted on a ban, the Equality and Human Rights Commission criticised it for failing on this count. But advocates for a ban clearly envisage it including therapy to explore the causes of a child’s gender distress and help them feel more comfortable in their body as an alternative to medicalisation. One proposal even suggests that a clinician not prescribing puberty blockers could be criminally proscribed by a ban.” 

 

And you might find this article by Janice Turner in The Times useful – as she says “…the conversion therapy ban is a solution in search of a problem”

Once you have composed your letter, if you do not have an email address for your MP – go to the Write to Them site. By entering your postcode, you will be shown your local councillors and your MP – that’s the one you want!  The site will present a page with the name of your MP in the ‘Dear’ part, and you then compose or paste your message.  The site then asks you to enter your contact details, essential for writing to your MP.  As you will see, it says it may refuse identical copied-and-pasted messages.

If you’re messaging your MP directly, make sure to include your postal address, so that they can see that you’re a constituent.

We hope you will able to write to your MP.

Thanks for your help in challenging this harmful legislative plan.

 

LETTER TEMPLATE 1

Dear [MP name]

The proposal to legislate against ‘conversion practices’ (once referred to as ‘conversion therapy’) has several major problems.  The key issues are as follows.

1. The activities understood as ‘conversion therapy’, which were inflicted all too frequently in the past on lesbians and gay men, are now illegal.  It is thus unclear why spending time creating legislation to duplicate existing law is a worthwhile use of parliamentary time.

2. The ‘forced-teaming’ of lesbian, gay and bisexual people (LGB) with those identifying as transgender is confusing and impractical.  The two issues are quite different.  There is also considerable concern, in many quarters, that the rush to ‘affirm’ children and young people claiming a transgender identity is in effect a form of conversion practice when applied to those who might grow up as LGB but whose gender-non-conforming behaviour is seen as evidence of transgender identity.

3. For many young people, feeling unhappy about their bodies is a common feature of adolescence.  Most of us feel differently as we grow up and go through puberty.  Brains do not fully mature until about 25 years old, so making life-changing decisions in their late teens can be a long-term disaster.  Additionally, many children and young people who have been traumatised, through abuse or other experiences, or find social situations difficult because of autistic spectrum issues or other reasons, will latch on to the idea of being transgender which is being offered as a solution to finding life difficult.  It is surely obvious that high-quality psychological therapies are essential for all such problems.

4. These issues, of trauma, social difficulties, etc are dismissed as ‘comorbidities’.  The Interim Cass Report has highlighted the issue of ‘diagnostic overshadowing’ – that once any mention is made of gender identity or transgender concerns, this takes priority over all other matters and the child or young person ceases to receive proper support with such difficulties.  It is thus of very major concern that the Bill is intended to include what is  referenced by some as ‘conversion therapy’, i.e. talking therapies and even simple conversational questioning by parents and teachers.  Hence, for those many children and young people for whom the idea of ‘being transgender’ is seen as offering a way out of other distress, a ban on such ‘conversion practices’ would leave their very real difficulties unaddressed, and set them on a path to a possibly disastrous ‘transition’.

For all these reasons, a conversion practices ban is not only a very poor use of legislative time but could prove to be highly damaging.  Since the decision appears to have been taken to go ahead with such legislation, we urge Parliament to insist on full pre-legislative scrutiny, which hopefully will enable parliamentarians to recognise the need to abandon this attempt at criminalising ordinary conversation and talking therapies which do anything other than ‘affirm’ a child’s subjective, and probably temporary, notion of their ‘identity’.  Proper support and treatment for trauma, distress and social difficulties must not be threatened in this way.

 

LETTER TEMPLATE 2

 

Dear [MP name]

 

A ban on conversion therapy (so called) for children and young people identifying as ‘trans’ is problematic. Although it has been “force-teamed” with a proposed ban on conversion therapy for potentially homosexual, lesbian or bisexual young people, it is not the same – indeed many would argue that the two are fundamentally opposed to each other.

Far from the vivid case studies (none recent, & all involving activities such as kidnapping & physical & mental abuse which are already illegal) of “gay conversion”, a ban on doctors & therapists treating children presenting with gender dysphoria is likely to outlaw talking explorations of why a young person feels alienated from his or her own body, what the feeling of being the opposite sex means to them, what other things may be going on in their lives, and what outcomes they can realistically expect if they continue to socially or medically transition.

While gay conversion therapy seeks to change the young person’s innate sexual orientation by making them resist accepting their own sexuality in a homophobic world, talking therapy for gender dysphoria seeks to identify comorbidities, to explore whether the child can resolve to live at ease with their own sexed body, and to ensure that if they do pursue medical transition, they do so with informed consent and a realistic idea of likely outcomes.

Children, and particularly teenagers, often have ‘phases’ where they try to construct their identities and decide who they are. They may take wrong turnings before they start to settle, and need to be able to do this safely. Their bodies and minds are growing rapidly and this in itself can cause problems for mental health and behaviour.

There is a considerable body of evidence that the “affirmation-only” model, by locking them both physically and socially into a trans identity, short-circuits this exploration. In particular, “puberty blockers”, which act on the brain in order to inhibit release of hormones which in turn act on the pituitary and the gonads, may prevent the phase of intense brain reorganisation which is a function of puberty.

Across 10 long-term studies from different countries, gender distressed or gender questioning children who were neither medicalised nor socially transitioned but supported with “watchful waiting”, 80% resolved their distress after puberty without medication. Most of them realised they were simply gay, lesbian or bisexual. Without intervention it seems puberty is the cure in most cases.

The number of ‘trans’ identified young people who detransition after medical intervention isn’t known, partly because clinics worldwide have so far failed to follow them up or keep records. A growing number describe their experiences and the permanent health effects, and it is likely that many more will have stopped taking the drugs and quietly tried to come to terms with their damaged bodies.

Banning supportive talking therapy and enforcing “affirmation only” will not give distressed children room to explore and discover who they are before they take irreversible steps.

Please oppose adding “trans conversion therapy” to the proposed conversion therapy ban.

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