Last week in this column [ It’s Still Barking (desmondswaynemp.com) ]I drew attention to the therapies, short of surgery and drug regimes, that will be offered to children following the closure of the Tavistock clinic for those expressing doubts about their gender.
It is a welcome development that children under seven-years-old are to be spared chemical intervention for what might only be a passing phase, but being over seven years old, is still far too young to place any confidence in a child’s judgement about changes that can irrevocably alter the course of a lifetime.
Even adults may need to think and talk things through very carefully before going ;under the knife’ or the chemical cosh.
There is on the horizon however, the prospect of legislation that will make even merely discussing the subject a legal minefield. The Government is committed to banning ‘conversion therapies’. This commitment was initially to apply to therapies that purport to convert homosexuals into heterosexuals. The commitment has however, been extended to prevent any therapy that seeks to dissuade a person who wants to change their sex.
There are some pretty weird and undesirable practices involving beatings and exorcisms (usually associated with minority cults) which have been used to try and change sexual inclination or dysphoria, but they are already unlawful. Even were a person to give their consent to undergo such ‘therapy’ it would still be unlawful: one cannot consent to actual bodily harm, so the perpetrator still commits an offence.
So, I do not believe that the determination to ban conversion therapy is motivated by a desire to spare potential ‘converts’ egregious interventions.
Rather, I believe that the motive is ideological: It is no longer tolerable to believe that there is anything ‘disordered’ about either homosexuality or an intention to change one’s sex. To seek to intervene therefore, and try to ‘cure’ anyone is counted as a shocking form of thought crime.
Nevertheless. Some people do believe that these things are disordered and in a free society they have the right to say so, even if we disagree.
Furthermore, the difficulty any legislation banning conversion therapy will have, is that it is likely to severely constrain freedom of speech. There may be conversations that young people ought properly to have with their parents, teachers, their friends, clinicians and clergy in order to explore what is really right for them. How can these conversations, or -dread the thought, even prayers – avoid coming within the compass of any kind of conversion therapy. At the very least there will be a severe chilling effect on sensible input from professionals.
Even before there is legislation, I understand that the Church of England has already taken a lead in abandoning common sense: it has issued guidance to its schools that any child identifying in a different sex, should not be questioned, but simply affirmed in their chosen identity. We can always rely on the CofE -of which I remain a member – to be completely daft.