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Children

Therapy for gender dysphoria must be protected

Without access to explorative therapy, many more children could be denied the treatment that would help them be reconciled to their biological sex.

Some young people simply need to be reconciled to their biological sex

Liz Truss’s commitment to ban gay conversion therapy earlier this year is a welcome decision. But while nobody is defending the horrific practices of the past — electric shock treatments, for example — some psychotherapists worry that normal therapy may be banned at the same time. A petition expressing such concerns started by James Esses has already raised over 10,000 signatures.

Esses worries particularly about children presenting with gender dysphoria. As he writes: “We have seen a worrying number of young people de-transitioning and regretting medical treatment.” Keira Bell, who brought a high-profile case against the Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust, is just one example.

Without access to explorative therapy, many more children could be denied the treatment that would help them be reconciled to their biological sex. Of particular concern were gay children who clinicians feared were being pushed to change gender until “there would be no gay people left”.

Just this weekend, Dr Matt Bristow — a gay psychologist, formerly at the Tavistock — said that he feared the trust was ignoring the possibility that children who said they wanted to change sex might simply be gay. He feared that some might have been bullied.

These concerns are not new. Two years ago, The Times reported the fears of then unnamed clinicians at the Tavistock. They believed that physically healthy children were being medicated in response to pressure from transgender lobby groups and parental anxieties.

Those children need psychological support, not cocktails of drugs and surgical interventions. But they are far less likely to find clinicians to help them if those clinicians fear the law might view their actions as trans conversion therapy. With powerful transgender lobby groups in the wings, it could take just one complaint from an unhappy patient to end a career.

Esses noticed the danger and now that his petition has hit five figures the Government will need to respond to him. Before they do, they should consider Bristow’s evidence. Unless explorative therapy is protected, we risk gay conversion of the worst kind perpetuating in plain sight: gender non-conforming children, who would otherwise grow up to be gay, being railroaded into gender transition to try and make them normal.

If it is wrong to “pray away the gay”, as some religious groups have been accused of, then why is it any better to “trans away the gay”? If Truss is so concerned about gay conversion therapy, this is a scandal she needs to investigate.


Debbie Hayton

* This article was first published by Unherd on 21 June 2021: Therapy for gender dysphoria must be protected.

By Debbie Hayton

Physics teacher and trade unionist.

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