Conversion therapy is a clumsy and useless umbrella term for everything that falls under it- from simple talking therapies to violence, rape and castration, it is a term that does not encompass the horror which it can, does, and has entailed for those who have suffered at it’s hands and – thanks to the conservative government, will continue to. This violence against the trans community must be stopped at all costs.
Firstly a disclaimer to the “gender critical” LGB and perhaps even T people who enjoy consuming my content to harass me: they were going to ignore any suggestions of a ban: you’re on the side of people who would happily see you tortured because of your identity too. Be careful throwing around the term ‘handmaidens’ in future because we may not be able to hear you over the flapping of your collars.
Anti trans activists have fastened their hands around some key phrases I want to debunk: “we are just women with concerns”. Many (not all, perhaps) of the concerns that anti trans activists have revolve around the bodies of trans people, information they are not entitled to: they revolve around baseless claims of transgender people as predatory, or about the damage that transition does to trans people rather than the successes of those who have been helped immensely by it- focusing on the small percentile who desist in their transition rather than those who happily, safely transition and live in their gender or those who choose to re-transition down the line. For women with concerns there is also a surprising amount of virulently anti woman commentary- Steve Brookstein, an X factor competitor tried to have a tweet saying “can we all agree the main purpose of a woman is to procreate” go viral.
We also see a surprising paucity of coverage of other concerns for women: a cursory search of some of the more prominent anti trans figureheads like Maya Forstater, JK Rowling, Kathleen Stock, Graham Linehan, Helen Staniland- reveal little to no discourse around topics like the horrific murder of Sarah Everard at the hands of a policeman, or Blessing Olusegun’s mysterious death, Sabina Nessa’s murder in a London park. They, of course, will argue that they see trans people as the biggest threat to women, that women are being erased in favour of a hopelessly small minority. Not to insult your intelligence dear reader, but can you spot the flaw in claiming that trans WOMEN are erasing the word women, or erasing women in general when trans women ARE women?
The other phrase often repeated is “standing up for women and girls” which I find a truly bizarre sentiment when those who spend hours online describing the rising transgender menace rarely speak out on topics like medical misogyny, period poverty, the disproportionate ageism women face, rape culture, body shaming- yet today the daily mail, with a photoshoot, lauds Forstater with a campaign she deems “the most significant women’s rights movement since the suffragettes”.
Suffragettes committed acts of what would today be called terrorism in desperation to be legitimised as human beings, as people with feelings, thoughts, brains, pride, and a fierce determination to be treated with respect: one could easily argue that Forstater’s virulent anti trans rhetoric could be pushing trans people so far to the wall that they are the oppressed facing a violent struggle for legitimacy. There is also the often spotted repetition of anti trans activists stating glibly that they can ALWAYS TELL someone is trans then blithely calling non trans allies trans: and it brings up a philosophical point: if you can “always tell” why is there also a huge push for trans women to disclose their medical history to you? Perhaps transphobes like being told things they apparently already knew: it does explain why the discourse is so hopelessly circular.
I doubt that there are many readers who believe that women have equality or equity in society: for those that disagree, you are wrong. Women have been maligned by men for all of history and are now, and unfortunately will continue to be because whether you believe in patriarchy or not, some form of male supremacy does exist, persist and propagates in society. One must ask though whether the anti trans movement is a cause that champions women’s equality or whether it opens the door for further oppression of women and girls.
Looking at LGBT+ oppression specifically which obviously encompasses that of women and girls- cis and trans- let us view the statements the UK government itself has made;
there is no robust evidence that conversion therapy can achieve its stated therapeutic aim of changing sexual orientation or gender identity
the types of practices tend to be similar for conversion therapy for sexual orientation and for gender identity – for example, talking therapies delivered by faith groups or mental health professionals
conversion therapies were associated with self-reported harms among research participants who had experienced conversion therapy for sexual orientation and for gender identity – for example, negative mental health effects like depression and feeling suicidal
there is indicative evidence from surveys that transgender respondents were as likely or more likely to be offered and receive conversion therapy than non-transgender lesbian, gay or bisexual (LGB) respondentshttps://www.gov.uk/government/publications/an-assessment-of-the-evidence-on-conversion-therapy-for-sexual-orientation-and-gender-identity/an-assessment-of-the-evidence-on-conversion-therapy-for-sexual-orientation-and-gender-identity
If you create a ruling against transgender people being able to access certain healthcare, that ruling likely speaks on the individual’s bodily autonomy. Bodily autonomy is already (for ridiculous reasons) still questionable when it comes to women: from seeking abortion rights to whether or when they may access birth control and which method- to the simple right to say no to men in some cultures. Propagating an argument about bodily autonomy against trans people can- and will – be weaponised against these supposed moral crusaders for women’s rights because it’s plain to see that the anti trans panic is being championed by those who also work against womens’ rights: fundamentalist christians and hard right figures who believe that their entitlement to control women’s bodies is paramount to women’s own rights to choose.
Don’t believe it? Vladimir Putin has, before defending JK Rowling, called trans acceptance a “crime against humanity”. Donald Trump almost immediately enacted a ban on trans people serving in the army (it is more nuanced than written here for the sake of expedience but is no less true). Trump’s son lauded Rowling’s scorn filled tweets about “penised people”. Let us also highlight the irony of Putin’s rhetoric- he claimed JK Rowling was “cancelled” and that the west is trying to “cancel” Russia: bold words from a man so afraid of political rivals he has them murdered, imprisoned or injured. Rowling enjoys wealth, influence and adoration untainted by her increasingly outspoken verbiage against a community she’s previously expected praise from for the crumbs of a non sexual gay character who went full wizard Nazi because his boyfriend wanted him to.
This does, however, run deeper than left or right wing politics though the case is easily made that this is right wing propaganda, especially as we see that the only thing the tories are levelling up on is the rhetoric that labour are woke lefties as we prepare for the announcement of an early election. MPs who would normally take pragmatic views step back on making clear statements of support for those they normally would for fear they would upset bigots. I myself have written to my local MP in disgust of both sides of the political aisle, from Rosie Duffield’s endless platforming to speak out against trans people to Wes Streeting’s repeated and ignored transgressions against trans people, and conversely to the openly empty sentiments of permanently angry sentient felt tip Sophie Corcoran tweeting “don’t call me cis!”.
Prominent news outlets like (and I won’t say respectable because) talk radio, sky news, LBC, The BBC, all dedicating portions of their air time to questions like “can a woman have a penis” or “should we ask men if they’re pregnant in hospital”.
Insanity incarnate rules the media: because who cares? Shall we entertain discourse about how big a penis has to be before a man is a man? Does a micropenis mean a man is not a man? Genitals do not define you wholly.
Non parody-parody commentator Darren Grimes leapt to an impassioned defence of conversion therapy on twitter- it’s strange that Darren is so passionate in the availability of conversion therapy and yet hasn’t gone through it. Mayhaps he hasn’t run out of hope that he’ll find someone who can overlook his personality, lack of intelligence and disturbingly toothy face in favour of his good qualities, like his mam’s cooking. Mayhaps Darren hasn’t partaken in conversion therapy because:
These troubling ethical practices have raised alarm in major mental health professions, particularly because of the harm to patients. Further, all of these factors raise another ethical issue: Even if the questionable claims of conversion therapy’s effectiveness are valid, should the conversion of some “homosexuals” to heterosexuality condone the iatrogenic harm done to other patients who later come out as gay or lesbian?
In other words, should it not matter how many gay or lesbian people are hurt in the process of creating a few heterosexuals?https://meridian.allenpress.com/jmr/article/102/2/7/80848/The-Growing-Regulation-of-Conversion-Therapy
The argument has always been that you are what you are born, that biology and nature matter. This of course discounts the gene therapy people can have to prevent inherited conditions, the plastic surgery people can have on lunch to hide signs of ageing, the cancer destroyed by gamma knives, the towering blocks of concrete and glass we erect. Denying trans healthcare is to deny the progression of a species scientifically out of fear and bigotry: we live in a world where these things are possible- what does preventing it do?
There is no weight to arguing that women are women because of breasts which some women do or don’t have for one reason or another, or uteri, or hormones or this or that: combined, these things may- MAY – make up a huge proportion of woman, but cis or trans some women do not fit all or even any of these stereotypes. It is ultimately YOU who decides what makes your womanhood and though that can have commonality with other women’s ideas it absolutely does not make you more correct than the woman whose breasts never developed, who never had a period, and so on and so on. Nobody though is denying the biological reality of sex: but gametes do not dictate our societal treatment of each other (I would hope).
There is SOME weight to arguing that women are women because from the moment they grow they are treated as women are, for better or worse. But pause and ask the commonalities between trans and cis women’s growing experience and see whether you believe those common threads are enough that the experience is not wholly unique.
Now let’s move to a question on the topic at hand: do you believe conversion therapy works?
The government’s own compiled dossier on conversion therapy states as above that “there is no evidence that conversion therapy can or does achieve the aims it seeks to”. Those wishing to keep it legal will ask why it would then harm to keep it legal. This dry sentence does not encompass the horror that lurks beneath.
Documentaries covering the repeated brutal rape, beating, ECT, medication, physical and mental abuse that can- and does- encompass conversion therapy are widely available online. So is research into what these tactics achieve: high morbidity rates and for those who are “successfully converted” a lifetime of PTSD and dissatisfaction that may or may not prevent you from continuing to be exactly what you always were.
There is an irony I enjoy pointing out in fundamentalist anti LGBT+ thinking: you are the ones who sexualise us. The mere mention of gay men has people covering their children’s ears and hissing about inappropriate topics! But my penchant for finding men attractive is quite a distinguished topic from anal sex, poppers, doucheing. Did you know that the recently signed “don’t say gay” bill in the US had two proposed amendments offered? One suggested that it would be appropriate to provide assistive materials to those who a teacher reasonably assumed to be LGBT+ so they would be able to access materials to help them understand their identities? It was voted down. Another amendment suggested that it be made completely blanket illegal to talk about sex (of any kind): it was voted down. So you can talk to a 6, 7 or 8 year old child about heterosexual sex but not homosexual sex: because, it seems, it’s wrong to talk about gay sex but not straight sex? But this act is oft touted as “not homophobic, it’s about stopping children hearing about inappropriate topics”. No. It’s erasure.
There’s a saying which has deep roots in mythology: “we are legion”. And this applies to the LGBT+. You can legislate against us. You can demonise us, imprison and kill us; no doubt people will continue to do so. But we are born, not (to my knowledge) made- evidence backed up by the solid failure of conversion therapy to do it’s stated aim- convert.
We will continue to persist no matter what you do to us. Those of us with decency stand together. And again a reminder that you can only push a community so far before they need to resort to desperate efforts to defend themselves.
Please consider writing to your MP today regarding this fallacious state of affairs: the government must stop the rhetoric of transgender people being less deserving of dignity and safety and must start looking after the citizens of the UK. Legal torture protects nobody.
Daviemoo is a 34 year old independent writer, radicalised into blogging about the political state of the world by Brexit and the election of serial failures like Trump and Johnson. Please check out the rest of the blog, check out Politically Enraged, the podcast available on all streaming platforms and share with your like minded friends! Also check him out on ko-fi where you can keep him caffeinated whilst he writes.