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A ban on conversion therapy should include protections for trans people

The Government yesterday announced that the proposed ban on conversion therapy will not cover trans conversion therapy. We are disappointed at this decision. At the Tavistock and Portman we believe that talking therapy that has the intention of changing either someone’s sexuality or their gender identity should not be allowed, and should be a criminal offence. We made this clear in our response to the consultation.

As the Government itself acknowledged in its consultation document, conversion therapy is both ineffective and harmful and has no place in our society.

While the current patchwork of legislation may cover many activities that could be considered conversion therapy, vulnerable marginalised people experiencing this kind of abuse cannot be expected to understand what is and is not in that scope. A total ban empowers people to leave abusive situations and creates a sense of safety that their Government supports them. Explicitly removing protection for transgender people sends the opposite message just as powerfully.

As the home of both the Gender Identity Development Service for young people and also the UK’s largest and oldest Gender Identity Clinic for adults, we have a great deal of experience exploring gender identity issues with adults, young people and children. We work with each of them on a case-by-case basis, to explore their feelings and choose the path that best suits them, with no expectations about what their gender or sexual identity outcome might be. A person being gay, straight or another sexuality does not preclude them being trans or cis, or any other gender identity.

The provision of supportive, thoughtful explorative work with gender diverse people would not be at risk from a ban on conversion therapy. It is time to stand with trans and gender diverse people and ensure they too are protected from practices we know to be harmful.