The Article That Got Me Cancelled
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As many of you know, I am in the midst of fighting litigation, on the basis of discrimination, after I was expelled from my Masters’ degree in Psychotherapy for speaking out about the impact of gender ideology on the wellbeing of children.
People often ask me what I had said or done at the time to set in motion this chain of events.
Primarily, I had started a petition to the UK government, asking them to safeguard explorative therapy for children with gender dysphoria. This was off the back of the government’s proposal to ban ‘conversion therapy’ for ‘gender identity’.
However, I had also written an article for an American publication. It was entitled ‘Replacing One Kind of Conversion Therapy with Another’, and it was the very first piece of substantive writing I had engaged in on this topic.
Not long after the article came out, did I find myself expelled for supposedly “bringing the profession into disrepute”. Having re-read the article, I firmly believe that the only individuals bringing the profession of psychotherapy into disrepute are those who push children down a pathway towards irreversible medicalisation.
More than 2 years have elapsed since I wrote this first article and the landscape is as messy as ever.
I have decided to re-publish the article in full, for readers to make their own minds up. Here it is:
“This week, British MPs called for a legislated ban on “conversion therapy.” This is a phrase traditionally used to describe pseudo-therapeutic techniques aimed at convincing gay individuals that they are actually straight. Given that a person’s sexual orientation cannot be changed by therapeutic intervention, such a legislative initiative would appear to be justifiable (even if many such discredited therapies would already be illegal under existing laws).
However, the term “conversion therapy” has taken on a broader meaning in recent years, and now is often taken to include efforts to scrutinize a person’s belief that he or she was “born in the wrong body.” The result is that the term can be used to conflate responsible therapeutic treatment of gender dysphoric children with harmful attempts to suppress homosexuality. Such conflation is unwarranted, as abundant evidence now shows that “desistance”—the reversion of trans-identified individuals to a gender identity consistent with their biological sex—is a common outcome of childhood trans identification. Indeed, Dutch research suggests it to be (by far) the most likely outcome.
The example of Keira Bell, the 23-year-old woman who recently prevailed in her legal case against the British gender clinic that transitioned her to a boy when she was still a teenager, is instructive in this regard: To the extent the concept of “conversion therapy” may be applied to the issue of gender identity, the risk associated with improperly encouraging mistaken cases of dysphoria is as concerning as the possibility of genuinely dysphoric individuals being pressured to ignore their symptoms.
As a trainee psychotherapist and longstanding volunteer children’s counsellor, I’ve come to conclude that the campaign to demand no-questions-asked “affirmation” of a child’s presented trans identification is of grave concern. As Canadian critics of a similar legislative initiative in Canada have pointed out, calls for criminalisation could end up outlawing beneficial therapeutic processes, thereby damaging the profession and the clients we seek to serve.
These initiatives are particularly concerning because the presentation of gender dysphoria—unlike the act of coming out as gay or lesbian—can, in some cases, lead to treatments that are now known to be irreversible. These include puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones and sex-reassignment surgery. Surgery, in particular, can leave both physical and mental scars that may never heal. And once children embark on this medical course, they are typically encouraged to continue on it.
Certainly, some gender dysphoric individuals truly do benefit from these steps. But for those who later desist, such as Ms. Bell, they are harmful. Indeed, Ms. Bell’s situation could have been even worse if she hadn’t realized that her clinic was sending her down the wrong path. Studies show that if a child is encouraged to live as a transgender individual, it can lead to cognitive changes that systematically make it less likely that they will become comfortable with their biological sex—a pattern of learned behaviour that mirrors the effect that homophobic conversion-therapy techniques can imprint on gay men and women.
As therapists Susan and Marcus Evans recently wrote in Quillette, the best way to treat gender dysphoric children and young people is with open-ended discussions. These serve to position the child’s situation within his or her other life factors, since expressions of dysphoria sometimes (though not always) may be associated with feelings of anxiety and shame, as opposed to immutable elements of identity. But such discussions will become impossible if parents, therapists, and other professionals are prevented from responding to a child in any way that does not affirm their announced sense of self.
Bill C-6, which was approved in principle by Canada’s Parliament last year, would serve to criminalize “any practice, treatment or service designed to change a person’s sexual orientation to heterosexual or gender identity to cisgender.” And while the government insists that the definition of conversion therapy “does not include a practice, treatment or service that relates to a person’s gender transition or exploration or development of a person’s identity,” the entire text is otherwise written in a way that suggests an individual’s announced identity corresponds to a revealed truth that cannot be challenged. Given the five-year jail term that the legislation would authorize, therapists would understandably fear that mainstream treatments might be categorized by government investigators or prosecutors as going beyond “exploration” or “development.” Even an unsuccessful prosecution could end their careers.
One ironic outcome of such legislation would be that it would serve to inflict more conversion-based pseudoscience on gay boys and girls—as gender dysphoria sometimes is exhibited by children trying to reconcile their identities with straight expectations and stereotypes (e.g., a gay boy might prefer to imagine that he is actually a straight girl). Indeed, past research suggests that most boys who demonstrate gender non-conformity in childhood will eventually end up coming out as gay or bisexual.
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