On Monday, I was grateful for the opportunity to open the debate on the important petition on Ensuring Trans people are fully protected under any conversion therapy ban in Westminster Hall.
The petition was created following the Government’s announcement that it will introduce a bill to ban so-called conversion therapy looking to change a person’s sexual orientation, whilst at the same time omitting transgender conversion therapy. It states that:
It’s shameful that the UK intends to deliberately exclude trans people from a ban in contrast to the approach taken by many countries, despite trans people being at a greater risk of experiencing the harmful & degrading practices.
The government’s own figures show that trans people are nearly twice as likely to be at risk of experiencing the harmful & degrading practices of conversion therapy. A ban needs to ensure all forms of conversion therapy are banned.
The petition is still open, with over 145,00 signatures as of 15th June, of which over 220 were from those living in Carshalton and Wallington. It is indeed an issue I’ve had a number of residents get in touch over.
In the lead up to the debate, I received numerous briefings from the petition creator, charities, and those survivors of so-called conversion therapy. I am extremely thankful for, and indeed in awe of, their courage in speaking out about their experiences – the debate was stronger for it. Indeed, I hope that our discourse going forward will be, too.
The debate itself was well-attended by MPs from across the House of Commons and the public gallery was full as well. This set us up for a wide-ranging debate, which, at times unfortunately veered off of course by some intent on blurring the lines as to what the debate had been called for. Arguing instead against a raft of trans issues including reform to the Gender Recognition Act 2004, whilst warning of a state-sponsored clamp-down on paternalistic and medical advice for those with suffering with Gender Dysphoria.
As I said in my opening remarks following up such points – that was not the reason for the debate, nor what the petition is calling for. At its heart the petition specifically calls for a full ban on the harmful practices of so-called conversation therapy, including those that target trans people.
I fully believe, as I argued in the debate, that nobody should be denied access to justice if they are being subjected to the abhorrent practices encapsulated by so-called conversion therapy. I was keen to point out that whilst such practices take many forms, they all have the same aim and all are harmful. They aim to change someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Taking away their choice to be who they really are.
Indeed, some argued that most offences that could be included in the eventual bill are already an offence. Whilst many of the physical aspects of so-called conversion are indeed illegal by their very nature – rape or physical violence for instance - it is the pseudo-psychological and spiritual so-called talking and behavioural therapies, exorcisms, deliverance prayers and other such things—that are not currently illegal and are included in the proposed ban. Acknowledging the multitude of different vehicles that such practices can take will be key going forward.
What became clear as the debate went on was that there is indeed much common ground, when it is approached with an openness and tolerance. Many speakers agreed that so-called conversion therapy does an erroneous disservice to actual therapy, and what is being targeted in the petition’s ban is trans conversion practices. As I argued, these are abhorrent practices - practices that cause people to have to undergo years of psychological therapy to try to get over what has been done to them, which is why they need to be banned in law.
The Government is not going into the drawing of this bill blind. Trans-inclusive conversion therapy bans have been achieved in multiple countries and territories, and with no unintended consequences whatsoever. There is also the support – from survivor organisations, charities, healthcare providers and religious bodies, to craft such a bill.
All sectors of British society back the ban on so-called trans conversion therapy – and if the Government does too, it should present a bill that includes all forms of conversion therapy.
It’s what is right, what is needed, and what should not be delayed a moment longer.