What’s my Beef with Conversion Therapy?

So having consolidated my “TERF-War” position in the previous post, why have I not been wholeheartedly coming down on the side of the campaign to ban “Conversion Therapy” you might ask?

Stonewall and Pride, etc originated in a 20th Century LGB rights context. Some LGB at the time were also into drag / transvestite / cross-dressing activities, but this was never then about Trans as in trans-gender. Males claiming female rights.

Conversion therapy per se is about the wholly misguided idea that homosexuality can (and should) be “cured” by therapy, medical and/or psychological. A view that persists only in extremely conservative and religious ideologies. Easy to agree to ban that in an LGB context, in minors and adults alike. Even adults who might claim a right to their own individual conversion would be better advised to seek “affirming” therapies to come to terms with rather than attempt to change reality. (Still possible to envisage exceptions though?)

However this campaign has been happening under an LGBT(+) banner in the 21st C, and promoted by activists that firmly say “no LGB without T”. It’s wonderful for different potentially oppressed groups to stand in solidarity with each other, but not OK to conflate different issues in campaigns for future legislation. That requires much clearer thinking, even if activists prefer direct actions based on simple slogans. Activists are essential to achieving change, but not well placed to define what the change should be.

In unambiguous trans cases, there are (obviously?) quite strong ethical rights for individuals to seek gender assignment therapies, affirming and/or converting. Transition therapies that should be available and not banned. In fact for biological males to identify as transwomen – claiming the same rights as biological women – there is also a strong social case that says therapy must involve more than self-ID alone. Exactly which surgical, medical and psychological therapies are appropriate and ethical – or even practicable or effective at all, in any number of dimensions – is massively complex in itself across many ambiguous / intersex / dysphoria possibilities. Too complex to elaborate here, and these specific cases tend to be very small populations of individuals compared to the wider social rights issue. (For more on the real physiological, psychological, ethical and political complexity read Alice Dreger referenced in the previous GC/RadFem post.)

The even more complex problem arises where these two potential LGB and T/I cases overlap and arise in cases of minors where the rights of their perceived wishes and needs come up against those of adult guardians and professionals as well as society at large. Individual minors will sense aspects of their own condition – gender and sexuality – that don’t necessarily fit with their expectations within peer-group and social experience. That confusion and exploration requires careful therapeutic advice across all the aspects above. To establish whether it’s as simple as “you’re sexuality is probably L (or G or B) and that’s fine” or whether it’s … something more complicated. The thing is it’s crucial this is done with care and professionalism, since a T/I-case may go unrecognised and individual or parental prejudice may be against LGB. Valid therapies on one diagnosis may work against an LGB outcome, whether deliberately or accidentally, and miss a T/I possibility. Of course young people discovering their sex-gender and sexuality are growing-up from minors to adults, so both rights and puberty mature in parallel. Some “puberty-blocking” therapies may deliberately stall that process, for good reason (say) to avoid a decision too soon on a more drastic risky intervention or to bring the individual’s adult rights into play, or for a bad reason (say) as part of perceived need for (banned) LGB conversion. Every intervention has risks and consequences – see care and professionalism.

If we’re going to do legislation against conversion therapies under an LGBT banner, we need a much more detailed tabulation of conditions and potential therapies to be interpreted by professional experts. It’s a sad irony in the UK that the most qualified institution, The Tavistock, appears to have been captured by the woke end of the agenda and, for whatever reason, been guilty of malpractice and generated its own whistle-blowers. If anything this tells us how complex the reality of the situation is, and how we need more caring professionals and more dialogue in this space.

The scary interpretation is that the LGBT(QI+) activists are intent on a “zero therapy” state, where any individual can self-identify as any “gender” with zero therapeutic input ever needed or even permitted. A dangerous over-simplification for the sake of catchy slogans. “TWAW” anyone?

If we’re going to talk about banning all conversion therapies in an LGBT(QI+) space, we definitely need more good-faith dialogue.


[Post Notes:

None other than JK Rowling with an important thread on the awful ironies at The Tavistock NHS Clinic:


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