Is transgenderism slowing down a new ‘conversion therapy’ law?

26, December 2023

The Telegraph recently reported that the UK’s Equalities Minister, Kemi Badenoch MP, thinks a new law on ‘conversion therapy’ would already be published were it not for the inclusion of transgenderism.

It is easy to understand the logic – both politically and legally.

Most people have some vague conception of what ‘gay conversion therapy’ would include – giving people electroshock therapy in an attempt to make them ‘normal’, for instance. It is gruesome, barbaric, and downright cruel.

The Conservative Party has said since 2018 that it wants to ensure ‘conversion therapy’ does not take place in the UK. Five years ago, most MPs and the public would only have expected this legislation to relate to sexual orientation.

And we already have legislation which refers to ‘sexual orientation’. It is in the Equality Act 2010, protecting people from unfair discrimination due to their sexual attractions. When there are tried and tested legal definitions with precedents set in case law, it is far easier to replicate the same concepts in new laws.

‘Gender identity’, on the other hand, has no legal standing in the UK. Its introduction amounts to a new imposition on the entire population of one particular viewpoint. At the same time, the concept is amorphous, defined largely by one’s own feelings or sense-of-self. It comes from a belief-system that intentionally defies description, blurring the lines between social construction and biological reality. It’s obviously difficult to legislate for.

More than that, the public imagination has little grasp of what ‘transgender conversion therapy’ looks like. Is it people being abused behind closed doors? Or is it doctors who ask difficult questions of children who ask for irreversible treatment?

For most of us, one is intolerable and the other commendable. Doctors must surely ask tough questions, otherwise vulnerable children facing all sorts of struggles will be wrongly led down a one-way path towards life-changing medicalisation. Sadly, for many of the activists this is precisely the sort of sensible intervention they want to see outlawed.

Perhaps you feel on the same page as Kemi: this law would be more legally straightforward and politically expedient had ‘transgenderism’ not been crowbarred in.

But the reality is that the inclusion of transgenderism actually helps to clarify, rather than obfuscate, the whole issue. Because it exposes the motivation and aim of its proponents. It is not to prevent what most of us consider genuine abuse, but to have the law declare that one belief system is incontrovertible and to demand allegiance to it.

Let’s return for a moment to what I’ve described as the understandable elements of legislating against ‘gay conversion therapy’. No one today supports abusive treatments against LGBT people. The horrifying, even torturous, experiments using electro-shocks no longer take place. Broadly, people would support a law against them. But the reality is that abuse like this is already illegal. In fact, anything considered abusive, torturous, or degrading, is already criminalised by UK law.

So, what exactly would a new law on ‘gay conversion therapy’ cover? Activists say it ought to cover activities like prayer, no matter how gentle or loving. It should cover ‘casual conversations’, they say, including pastors or Christian friends helping those struggling with upholding the Bible’s clear teaching on sex and marriage. Even prayer if they ask for it.

That sort of law is entirely unworkable. Legal opinions are clear it would defy the European Convention on Human Rights in a multiplicity of ways. The UK Government simply cannot bring forward such a law.

And while ‘sexual orientation’ has a meaning in UK law, ‘conversion therapy’ has none. It is an umbrella term used by LGBT activists to classify church teaching alongside abuse; and parental responsibility alongside coercion.

This is an extraordinary way to look at the world, but it makes sense to those of a certain persuasion.

You see, they genuinely believe that anything which questions their self-defined identity is an attempt to destroy their very essence; to remove their personhood; to kill the ‘real’ them. In this intolerable belief system, pastors or parents are carrying out heinous abuse if they fail to affirm a person in their chosen identity.

When churches teach that there are right and wrong situations for sexual intimacy, they are denying someone’s identity. They are asking them to stop being their ‘whole self’, say the activists. It is entirely analogous and undifferentiable from refusing to affirm someone’s ‘gender identity’.

These activists declare there is “no LGB without the T” and it isn’t merely a campaign slogan. No, unquestionable self-identification is what they want the new law to establish. Whether a person claims to be gay, or claims they are another gender, questioning that identity is a blasphemous offence against their personhood.

The suggestion then that it is certain types of spurious ‘therapy’ which ought to be outlawed severely misses the mark. The campaign for a new law aims to bring about a moratorium on ideological dissent. Mere disagreement – that is what this new law is really about. Allowing opposition in even very limited cases is tantamount to causing direct harm, they say.

The result is that any suggestion of a somehow ‘diluted’ law is met with a wall of hysteria. The activists talk about a ‘comprehensive’ law or a law ‘without loopholes’. Stonewall wants a law to cover any identity in its canon – including all manner of strange identities that mean nothing to the general public, such as ‘gender-fluid’ and ‘aromantic’. It’s the natural conclusion of a law that’s really all about forcing others to go along with your self-perception rather than tackling any real-life problems.

It is plain to see that a law on ‘transgender conversion therapy’ is almost impossible to legislate without dangerous consequences. But proposing a law on only ‘gay conversion therapy’ would fix nothing; solve no problems; speed nothing up. Real abuse is already illegal: this law is about curtailing the freedom to disagree with someone else’s ideology.

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