Statement on Conversion Therapy

In response to the British Psychological Society’s call to include transgender people in the current ban on conversion therapy, it is important to be clear here as to which conversion therapy we are talking about in fact. Gay men and women of course have a right to be themselves; but let’s also extend this right to gender dysphoric young people, the great majority of whom will in due course be gay adults, happy with their birth sex and not needing to transition*.

We have to avoid converting gay young people into trans-gender adults.

The United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP) with which I am registered has stated that ‘any ban [on conversion therapies] that does not explicitly protect trans, asexual, non-binary and other people at risk of conversion therapy will not be fit for purpose’. Accordingly, practitioners must not adopt ‘coercive practices towards a pre-determined outcome’. In truth, this may prove untenable and self-contradictory given that to assume a ‘non-judgemental’ approach – that is, not to question or to raise concerns about a patient’s experience – is in some cases to corroborate a belief that, for instance, ‘my gender dysphoria inherently means that I am transgender’, when it may in fact resolve differently. In order to understand and appreciate the nuance of each case, therapists sometimes have to ask searching, perhaps even difficult questions.

My own view is that I will always support someone to live the life they choose for themselves. However, I will not do this unquestioningly.

*See Soh, D. ‘The End of Gender’ (2020).

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