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Prudence Dailey: Why Banning “Transgender Conversion Therapy” Has Proved a Step Too Far

Prudence Dailey’s Commentary


Why Banning ‘Transgender Conversion Therapy’ has Proved a Step Too Far

When I wrote last month about plans to ban so-called ‘conversion therapy’, I could never have guessed that the government would shortly announce that it would NOT, after all, be introducing such a ban—only to perform quite possibly the fastest U-turn in political history barely hours later, following howls of protest from LGBT activists.

Sadly, in today’s cultural climate, the reversal was as inevitable as the initial announcement was surprising. It remains significant, however, that the U-turn was only partial: although ‘gay conversion therapy’ would be banned, ‘transgender conversion therapy’ would not. The activists remain outraged, and seem unable to comprehend why there should be such a distinction. Several prominent church leaders—including former Archbishop Rowan Williams, who surely ought to know better—penned an open letter to the Prime Minister, in which they claimed that ‘To be trans is to enter a sacred journey of becoming whole’, and asserted ‘We see no justification for the ban… excluding trans people’.

Thankfully, though, the government remains unmoved on this aspect. It dares not seek to ban therapies designed to help people—especially young people—reconcile themselves with their biological sex, for the simple reason that any such prohibition would be a catastrophic disaster that would devastate many lives.

While homosexuality and transgenderism are related phenomena, there are some fundamental differences between them. Most people will surely know whether or not they are attracted to those of the same sex: whilst of course there can be confusion and uncertainty (as well as spontaneous change) around sexuality, this is as nothing compared to the perplexity that many young people routinely feel in relation to their own identity, especially in the early stages of puberty. Even if one accepts (for the sake of argument) that it is possible to be transgender, the question ‘Am I trans?’ is a far more nuanced and complex one than ‘Am I same-sex attracted?’—and the probability of getting the wrong answer is correspondingly much greater.

The evidence tells us that around 80% of gender dysphoric young people will, if only they are left alone to develop naturally, desist when they go through puberty. Meanwhile, the voices of de-transitioners are increasingly being heard in the public square, and there is mounting evidence that (especially in girls) gender identity issues can often be the result of factors such as abuse, autism, or social contagion. In addition to this, the physical changes wrought on the body by puberty blockers, hormones and surgery following a diagnosis of transgenderism are extensive and permanent.

Using the law to prevent people, and especially minors, from receiving counselling to explore alternatives to transitioning would be an appalling prospect—and (unlike the signatories of the open letter, it seems) the British public is not unaware of this. In most other Western countries, coverage of transgenderism has been relentlessly one-sided and ‘affirming’; but here in the UK the attempted silencing of ‘gender critical’ views has been much less effective, with criticisms of the transgender narrative (especially by feminists) frequently breaking through into mainstream debate.

A leading evangelical clergyman, talking about trans ideology, once commented in conversation that ‘I think the Devil has overreached himself on this one’. Religious leaders who stubbornly fail to acknowledge this fact—even after the secular authorities have started becoming wise to it—are doing themselves no favours.

Miss Dailey has been a member of General Synod for over 20 years.