by Maya Forstater
Monday, 8
November 2021
Reaction
07:00

Therapists must be allowed to question gender identity

The plan to ban "conversion therapy" is being too broadly defined
by Maya Forstater
Credit: Getty

“Would you rather have a happy son or a dead daughter?”

That is the terrible proposition that is put to parents of children who, in increasing numbers have been suddenly declaring themselves to be transgender over the past few years. If children and young people are not “affirmed” as being “born in the wrong body”, and given drugs that stop puberty and change their secondary sex characteristics, they are supposedly being put at risk of suicide.

The latest scientific sounding backing for this ominous claim comes from Dr Adam Jowett of Coventry University, whose new study into “conversion therapy” was commissioned by the Government Equalities Office. He told Radio 4 last week that there is a “growing body of evidence that exposure to Conversion Therapy is associated with poor mental health including suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts” — and defines conversion therapy as “any efforts to try and change somebody’s sexual orientation or gender identity.”

The government proposal is to make it a criminal offence for anyone to deliver a talking therapy to a child “with the intention of changing them to or from being transgender”. Those found guilty would face up to six months in prison or an unlimited fine. But the campaign seeks to make use of justifiable opposition to abusive gay conversion therapies to ban potentially important explorative therapy for children with gender dysphoria.

While the government says therapists would still be allowed to undertake exploratory therapy with children who are “questioning” their gender, this is slim protection. If a child of any age declares that they are definitely trans, then a therapist, teacher, parent, social worker or anyone else who engages in a talking therapy that doesn’t affirm them as the opposite sex would face the threat of prosecution. 

At Sex Matters we have analysed the Coventry University study. Dr Jowett claims that they found “increasing evidence” that attempts to change a person’s gender identity “can cause serious harm”. But despite undertaking an extensive review of the scientific literature Jowett and his team found no robust evidence of what they call “conversion therapy” in relation to gender identity; no evidence that it happens in the UK; and no detail of its nature or proof of its impacts. Its claim of harm rests on a single question in a non-representative, self-reported survey done by a US Transgender advocacy organisation.

In addition to searching for published studies, his team interviewed just 30 people — of these four were transgender and two identified as non-binary. None of these six reported childhood conversion therapy. One middle aged male living in a religious community reported being encouraged to go to counselling after adopting female clothing. One person with a diagnosis of schizophrenia and another with PTSD complained that a psychiatrist had suggested that feelings of gender dysphoria might be related to other mental health factors. 

Dr Jowett meanwhile behaves more like an activist than the author of an unbiased review of evidence. Just last week he attacked comments by Malcom Clark of the charity the LGB Alliance that the proposed new bill is too extensive as part of an “anti-trans agenda,” and imputed the views of his research subjects to support his own agenda. It is perhaps less surprising when you learn he is the Chair of a group that has been campaigning for a ban on conversion therapy. In May, as Chair of the British Psychological Society’s Sexualities Section he welcomed the announcement of the legislation saying: “It is vitally important that a ban is implemented as soon as possible” and pledged to “hold the government to account on this issue”. 

All of which suggests that the Government Equalities Office is not the right department to be commissioning research into the therapeutic treatment of children with mental health issues — and Dr Jowett is not the right person to conduct it in any case.

The Department of Health on the other hand has commissioned Dr Hillary Cass to undertake an Independent review of gender identity services for children and young people. She and her team are carefully considering evidence without a predetermined outcome. The Government should resist the LGBTQIA+ lobby’s encouragement to rush to criminalise therapists who refuse to tell parents they have a choice between a “dead daughter and living son”. Instead it should be patient and allow the Cass Review team to do their job.

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Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
10 months ago

I stand with Maya Forstater.

Peter LR
Peter LR
10 months ago

Glad someone is fact checking these claims, Maya. ‘Conversion Therapy’ (CR) has not been clearly defined anywhere yet the Government is considering legislating for a ‘crime’ which it has not legally defined!
The loose idea of changing orientation or gender identity immediately creates legal problems. If a bisexual seeks help to be faithful to one person, is that CR? If an asexual person seeks counselling to engage in an intimate relationship, is that CR? And if a lesbian teenager is told that actually they are trans is that CR? What happens if a trans person seeks help to detransition, is that CR?

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
10 months ago
Reply to  Peter LR

Does not any psychiatric or therapeutic intervention to deal with the many forms of delusion that people can develop constitute Conversion Therapy? Is not the whole point to try to rid the sufferer of their delusions, whether paranoid, manic or other form of delusion, and to convert them from a state of madness to sanity? Why criminalise only attempts to persuade people who have the delusional belief that they are trapped in the wrong body that they are mistaken? How are such therapies to be legally distinguished from normal therapies or are all who harbour delusions to be entitled to have their therapists arrested and imprisoned?

Last edited 10 months ago by Jeremy Bray
James Joyce
James Joyce
10 months ago

When will UnHerd publish an article like the sub-heading of this article:
The plan to ban “hate speech” is being too broadly defined.
UK imprisoning someone for racial abuse online? Where is the outrage? I’m against it, I wouldn’t do it, it’s the dumb action of some football hooligan, but is should not and never be a crime.
We, the UnHerd crowd, cede the moral ground–and the power–by allowing their terms to control the debate. We must resist every time. Examples too numerous to list, but include “conversion therapy,” “hate speech,” “progressive,” “anti-fa,” etc.
If a ten year old who is bullied and unpopular wants to be cool and accepted says he is trans or non-binary or whatever is popular at the moment, and a therapist says something like “Hey, what is really going on here?”, is that “conversion therapy?
UK has lost the plot!

Simon Denis
Simon Denis
10 months ago

Supporters of the inadequate cosmetic surgery known as “transitioning” are the only perpetrators of harm and damage in this area. They fill young bodies with destructive hormones, slice away portions of their anatomy and offer inadequate, painful and malfunctioning simulations in their stead. The whole thing is an appalling instance of fanaticism allowed access to the scalpel. It is as rational and compassionate as the Aztec rituals which tore living hearts from sacrificial victims. Would it be at all surprising to know that the sponsor of such loathsome cruelty were also quite willing to lie his head off?
Let us consider for a moment. Were someone to claim that he were an angel and needed to have swan’s wings fastened to his shoulders would anyone agree with him? Or would we not persuade him that such wings would need constant medication to remain attached, let alone free from disease? That they could never carry him so much as an inch away from the ground?
“Trans” is the not so thin end of a driving, Marxist wedge which explicitly denies reality and morality; it stinks of Pol Pot and other abominations; and it is time – even if it results in the immediate immolation of their careers – for politicians to stand firm for truth. In situations like these, the only way forward is for somebody in public life to risk everything in the hope that others will follow them into the breach.

Last edited 10 months ago by Simon Denis
Andrew D
Andrew D
10 months ago

So, there is a “growing body of evidence that exposure to Conversion Therapy is associated with poor mental health including suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts”. In that case we can look forward to the closure of the Tavistock clinic and the banning of all attempts at so-called gender reassignment.  

Caroline Watson
Caroline Watson
10 months ago

It is universally accepted that gay and lesbian conversion therapy is abhorrent. What is not recognised is that ‘affirming’ the delusion of a child that they are ‘really’ the other sex (which they can never be) is a form of sexuality conversion. Most of the young people who believe that they are the other sex are actually gay and lesbian. Their confusion is due to the homophobia of their parents, of religion and of society. For girls, particularly, being a boyish lesbian is simply no longer allowed; the choices are bimbo with ridiculous eyebrows or ‘trans’.
A more realistic choice to present their parents with would be a happy lesbian daughter or a mutilated, infertile, pseudo-son in lifelong thrall to pharmaceutical companies.

Jane Watson
Jane Watson
10 months ago

I don’t agree that wanting to transition is necessarily driven by homophobia (unless you include internalised homophobia). Many gay people will tell you they didn’t want to be gay, and fought against it; don’t want their own children to be gay etc. It’s not the ‘norm’ so can make life harder.

I agree that ‘affirming’ children who claim they are ‘in the wrong body’ could be seen to qualify as ‘conversion therapy’. I’ve spoken to parents who believe their vulnerable (often autism spectrum) children are being groomed by online groups who are aided and abetted by gender identity services within the NHS.

But no therapist can dare to work in a ‘non-affirmative’ way with these children and young people.

There is a thing fairly recently named as Body Integrity Identity Disorder. I first came across it 20 yrs ago, when a surgeon in Scotland was reprimanded for removing a perfectly healthy limb from someone who wanted to be an amputee. This was justified as being preferable to allowing the patient to mutilate himself. The problem for the hospital, and the NHS, (apart from the press getting hold of the story) was that a queue was apparently forming in the wings…

If an adult chooses to mutilate or ‘modify’ their body (some want to look like aliens), someone somewhere will no doubt oblige. Or the individual may take things into their own hands. But I do believe there is a valid argument that the NHS should revisit the ‘first, do no harm’ ethical principle in relation to gender transition in children.

Last edited 10 months ago by Jane Watson
Michael Hanson
Michael Hanson
10 months ago

“A more realistic choice to present their parents with would be a happy lesbian daughter or a mutilated, infertile, pseudo-son in lifelong thrall to pharmaceutical companies.”
Much saner and more honest!

Last edited 10 months ago by Michael Hanson
Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
10 months ago

At a time when the courts are full to bursting the government keeps passing new laws.
When the government banned hand-holding of phones in cars, the car companies brought out complex touchscreen systems and watchmakers allowed you to read texts on your timepiece. The texts are so small on my watch that I take much longer to decipher them.
In Wales they have plans to make all built-up areas into 20mph zones by April next year; this has already happened in Cardiff. When I drive at 20mph for more than a few seconds I tend to lose interest in the road and I look around at the houses because I am so bored. Is this safer? Does it save fuel? I think not. But more new laws going nowhere. More to be policed.
So, we will have strings of new laws about transgender issues. Will these laws actually do anything? I think not. But it makes the politicians believe they are achieving something.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
10 months ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

The examples you cite often have wide support but are ineffective or counter productive.

What has happened with the transitioning issue however is that a tiny minority of fanatical activists with an agenda posing as experts (governments are confused about the distinction) have worked to impose their dangerous ideology on society and in particular vulnerable children. It is now fashionable for primary school kids to declare themselves trans or non-binary, a phenomenon which has never before been documented in world history!

Unfortunately laws can have very baleful effects, such as in this case potentially banning the proper counselling and support of confused teenagers (which is almost an oxymoron).

Instead of sensitively interrogating the child’s feelings, the ‘right’ thing to do seems to be to take everything they say at face value, and to encourage them to make an (irreversible) transition process. This is already happening. Such children will never be fertile and many will not be able to experience sexual climax. Not a trivial matter.

Last edited 10 months ago by Andrew Fisher
Claire D
Claire D
10 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Fisher

Agree with you except I’m not sure that “sensitively interrogating the child’s feelings” is even the right thing to do.
The less we care for children within the family in traditional ways the more we seem to fetishize them – out of collective guilt perhaps.
Children might be a lot happier if they were cared for sensibly, fed fresh food, put to bed at a regular time, kept away from gadgets and the internet, and with the maximum amount of fresh air and outdoor exercise possible. That pattern of proper care requires loving parents, decent housing, enough money coming in, commitment and time.
Children are becoming neurotic because we are neurotic in response to lifestyles that are untenable for health on all levels.

Last edited 10 months ago by Claire D
Patrick Fox
Patrick Fox
10 months ago

Dictatorship is no longer the prerogative of the State. It is now that of those minorities whose “ ideologies” are so much amplified by both the social medias and the more traditional medias in search of sensationalist headlines in order to prevent their financial decline, that the politicians who are themselves in decline in the eyes of the people and believe that re-election is the final objective of politics jump on the opportunity believing that it is the expression of the majority.

So de facto the States( Politicians)have fallen victim to a new form of social dictatorship and thus end up themselves acting in a dictatorial way by passing laws to accommodate every “single bark in the dark“ believing that law is the expression of democracy not justice . This reveals a complete ignorance by politicians of the real meaning of democracy and perhaps a return to Bentham’s utilitarian approach where the interests of the majority should be preserved would be welcomed and not the opposite.

Gillian Johnson
Gillian Johnson
10 months ago

One of the first things which should be sought is a definition of Gender Identity. I am in my mid sixties and I do not have a gender identity. I happen, because of biology, to be a woman but I don’t feel like a woman or identify as a woman it is simply a matter of biological fact. As a young woman I believed I was fat and started down a lifestyle choice of extreme dieting. Fortunately for me, no-one affirmed my belief that I was too fat when I was obviously of normal or even slender body composition and eventually I desisted in this belief as I matured. We need more people to care for the confused and body dysphoric by not affirming damaging beliefs but by gently questioning why they feel so bad about themselves and reassuring them that it will be alright eventually if they give themselves a chance.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
10 months ago

I find it utterly depressing that a supposedly Conservative government is considering legislating to impose extreme Trans ideology on children! When will these idiots wake up?

As stated, Dr Jowett is more of an activist than a scientist. It is those people who threaten parents with the grotesque accusation that they will cause their children’s suicide – by failing to 100 % back up this insane and evil fashion – who should be prosecuted.

Last edited 10 months ago by Andrew Fisher
Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
10 months ago

“…children who, in increasing numbers have been suddenly declaring themselves to be transgender over the past few years…”

Is there incontrovertible evidence for this? On a global scale? Is it caused by the proliferation of biochemicals that are a product of the modern world? If so, you would expect the same phenomenon happening in China at scale, because a side effect of China’s uber-rapid climb into modernity is that the country is awash with the chemical and biochemical byproducts of modern life, and the levels of every kind of pollutant is incredibly high. Similarly polluted is India much further behind in wealth and ordered governance but as a result equally saturated with plastics and pollutants – one visit early in the morning to any of Mumbai’s beaches will illustrate. So is the phenomenon the writer describes happening worldwide?

Last edited 10 months ago by Prashant Kotak
James Joyce
James Joyce
10 months ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

No, it’s caused by bullying, childhood, teenage angst (in the vast majority of case). If you’re not cool, but want to become cool, declaring yourself trans is the quickest way to popularity, support, everything you thought you wanted….
Kids are playing a game as old as time–I’ll do something cool to be a cool kid–but sometimes they get caught up in their own ploy.

Claire D
Claire D
10 months ago
Reply to  James Joyce

Perhaps it is also because here and in America we have gone out of our way to deliberately blur distinctions between the sexes, to make them officially “equal” in all things, to eradicate so-called sexism and make it as unacceptable as racism at the behest of feminism and Marxism.
Sex has therefore morphed into something called “gender” which we can put on or take off, or ultimately ‘change’.

Last edited 10 months ago by Claire D
Caroline Watson
Caroline Watson
10 months ago
Reply to  Claire D

Not at all; in fact entirely the opposite. ‘Gender’ is about stereotyped behavioural expectations around sex. If you tell a girl that she can’t have short hair, be a lorry driver and sleep with other girls, she will decide that, because she wants to do those things, and would be utterly miserable following female behavioural stereotypes, then she must be ‘really’ a boy. Tell her that she can do all those things as a proud lesbian woman, then ‘transitioning’ will never occur to her.
Human beings are either male or female, along with every other mammal on the planet. It is a difference that is only relevant for reproduction. It has no other purpose and no other expectations should be attached.

Claire D
Claire D
10 months ago

I disagree, I think it is more complicated than that.
Because of a family relative I knew many lesbians when I was a young woman, a few chose mannish work as you describe but not many. If any of their parents had tried to influence them they would have been ignored, young people don’t tend to listen to their parents, they rebel.
If you are wrong and I am right then there is something more insidious going on today. Confusion, social contagion definitely, and quite possibly a generation of girls finding themselves in a feminist world they did’nt ask for that is quite frightening – men and women on an equal footing who must compete against each other; young men brought up to view girls as rivals, no longer the gentler sex that should be respected and looked out for.
That is partly what I think is going on but there may be other aspects that I don’t understand as yet.

Last edited 10 months ago by Claire D
Jane Watson
Jane Watson
10 months ago
Reply to  Claire D

There is a limit to what anyone can say on this issue without appearing transphobic, but I think it is not controversial to say that the vast majority of transwomen were previously heterosexual males. They continue to choose female sexual partners.

The young women increasingly presenting to GIDS, with no prior history of gender confusion, seem to be more varied. A good number appear to be on the autism spectrum (as are some male to female transitioners). Others may indeed be lesbian, but not all are.

A young woman can be masculinised relatively quickly with testosterone alone (beard, body hair, potential acne, baldness, voice change). Female hormones, in contrast, have limited and reversible impact on the male body.

If no one dares ask these young women who they imagine their future romantic partners to be, it is nothing short of criminal.

Claire D
Claire D
10 months ago
Reply to  Jane Watson

Awaiting approval for nothing really, exasperating.
Agreed with you anyway.

Last edited 10 months ago by Claire D
Lindsay Snoman
Lindsay Snoman
10 months ago
Reply to  James Joyce

It’s certainly a good defence mechanism for the bullied, suddenly the YP in question isn’t simply being bullied but is the victim of the worst kind of hate crime imaginable today!
There have also been numerous articles lately in the MSM that suggest that less and less trans actually want to surgically transition and are even microdosing their hormones. So not so much transgender as Transvestites! All the rights without the commitment.

Jonathan Weil
Jonathan Weil
10 months ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

Where does this idea that it’s caused by biochemicals come from? All the evidence suggests either social contagion (what we used to call peer pressure) and a desire to tap into a new form of cultural cachet, or a more liberal cultural attitude leading the hitherto repressed legions of trans people to come out of the closet (often in very dense clusters of closely linked peers, but hey…). Either way, you would totally expect the increase to be concentrated in the West, especially the Anglosphere, where the idea that “we should celebrate trans” has taken hold recently. And this is indeed what we see.

Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
10 months ago
Reply to  Jonathan Weil

I don’t know. I’m just asking the question. There are various articles floating around about traces of chemicals from the pill and HRT found in the water supply and foodstuffs, and unlikely as it may seem I’m asking if this is linked. I don’t see any significant evidence of this phenomena in the east, but I’m wondering why is this happening now, what is the trigger right now for this. If the cause is not physiological, it must be some form of mass-delusion phenomenon where swathes of the young, the corporate world, politicians, and even the clergy of the old-world religions, are all buying in, even to the detriment of their own interests (think of Boris Johnson’s prevarication when asked on TV which I think will undoubtedly eventually hurt him), and the question is why? If it is some kind of mass delusion, it is very disturbing because it implies perhaps a chain of delusional knock-ons at the highest levels, with very unpredictable consequences.

David Morley
David Morley
10 months ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

There are various articles floating around about traces of chemicals from the pill and HRT found in the water supply and foodstuffs

And, coincidentally, sperm counts are falling, and the cause seems to be hormonal.
Of course, there may be more than one explanation, and some quite complex causal interactions. The number of girls wanting to change sex seems to have something to do with social contagion.
Could it even be that the kind of gender neutral education we have been giving to kids has led not to liberation but to gender confusion. Perhaps reinforcing gender is a good thing.
so many possible correlations, but so hard to show a causal relationship.

Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
10 months ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

No. It’s a fad.

Judy Englander
Judy Englander
10 months ago
Reply to  Drahcir Nevarc

But a very dangerous fad because in a few years time we will have a much larger trans population than now, with their demands and requirements. I feel sure that’s why there’s such a push to increase and validate child ‘trans’ identities – there will be an irreversible shift towards a higher trans population, it will be more normalised, and the queering of society one step closer.

Last edited 10 months ago by Judy Englander
Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
10 months ago
Reply to  Judy Englander

You may well be right.

James Joyce
James Joyce
10 months ago
Reply to  Judy Englander

There was also a fad–mass hysteria, really–in child day care in the US. Google “Little Rascals” daycare. It was somewhere in Massachusetts, Witch Burning history–where somehow allegations of sexual abuse were made. They became “the pre-school teacher brought donkeys and dogs and cats into the class and slaughtered them and smeared the blood on all of us every day…..” Got more and more incredible, despite the fact that parents were in and out all day. Bottom line: this did NOT happen, but lives were ruined, people went to prison as child molesters….. MASS HYSTERIA. And these children were “supported” by the so-called adults, who encouraged them to tell “their truth.” (Actually, this might have been before “your truth” as opposed to “truth,” but you get the idea).
Complete mass hysteria, supported by so-called adults as here.
Finally, there will also be a higher population of trans people w/o the correct bits who realize–Hey, I was only 9, I was only kidding, and now my p***s is gone….
I was only trying to get attention….
No disrespect to the small number of people with legitimate gender dysphoria. Treat them with respect, support this small number of individuals, but don’t succumb to mass hysteria.

Lindsay Snoman
Lindsay Snoman
10 months ago
Reply to  James Joyce

I wonder how hip it would be deemed if Trans people were referred to as eunuchs? There is a good reason most trans don’t want to commit to surgical transition beyond gaining a pair of t!ts or removing a pair of t!ts! Children, however are being mutilated before they really understand what is at stake!

James Joyce
James Joyce
10 months ago
Reply to  Lindsay Snoman

It took hours for my comment to go up because of the p word. T!ts is ok
oh, just saw the !

good point though.

Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
10 months ago
Reply to  James Joyce

Exactly.

Jane Watson
Jane Watson
10 months ago
Reply to  James Joyce

Great book by Joan Acocella, ‘Creating Hysteria’, 1999, about Multiple Personality Disorder (since renamed but still theoretically out there). Mass lunacy influenced (apparently) by a film called Sybil. Hundreds of therapists ‘trained’, memories of abuse ‘recovered’, untold numbers ‘diagnosed’, specialist facilities opened, fathers (usually) sent to prison. Eventually insurance companies pulled the plug by refusing to fund the ‘therapy’. It’s a good read, written by a journalist.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
10 months ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

It is mostly fashion!

Claire D
Claire D
10 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Fisher

I wish it was. The reality is more sinister by far; transgenderism is recognised and justified in law both nationally and internationally; it is encouraged by the NHS and in our sex education policies; billionaires sponsor it; international law firms like Dentons are directly involved in spreading it; the BBC and other channels support and advertise it. Don’t underestimate what is going on.
And this new law to ban conversion therapy, if it is allowed to go through, will encourage it even more.

Last edited 10 months ago by Claire D
Jon Hawksley
Jon Hawksley
10 months ago

This whole debate needs defined terms and better science. If you use the term “sex” for the evolved biological anatomy for sexual reproduction then sex currently is an objective property that cannot be changed functionally. If you use the term “gender” as the social characteristics that have evolved that differentiate the sexes then a person can adopt the social characteristics of a gender that is different from their sex but they cannot adopt a reproductive function that is different from their sex. They can remove an anatomical function that is part of the sex they were born with but they cannot add an anatomical function of the sex they were not born with. 
The brain has inputs that can tell you that something is red or blue or that you are happy or sad and you can verify the description in conversation with another person by sharing your experiences. These inputs are useful. No one has identified a comparable input to your brain that has evolved to give you a subjective experience that your sex is male or female. Nor has any comparable input evolved to give you a subjective experience for your gender. The terms for sex and gender are language based, they are not raw conscious experiences of body states or feelings. They mean what they do because society has defined them in objective terms not in terms of a particular conscious experience.
If the law ventures into this territory it needs to define its terms.

Marcia McGrail
Marcia McGrail
10 months ago

They tell me I am not the horse I know I was born to be. They are wrong and I shall sue them until they get it right. Which should just about pay for the surgeries to my stifles…

David Morley
David Morley
10 months ago

Just by way of a mental experiment: if trans liberation had preceded gay and lesbian liberation, and the latter was happening now, what would this discussion look like?
Would not the established trans lobby be asserting that gay and lesbian activists were simply denying the reality (in their view) that some people are simply born in the wrong body.
Indeed, would they not point to sexual orientation as a proof of their position. Why else would some women be attracted to women and men to men?
(not taking sides here, just wondering about the implications of a historical counter factual)

Last edited 10 months ago by David Morley