The UK’s Tory government is facing criticism from conservatives over an upcoming law that will ban trans conversion therapy—therapy designed to help someone with gender dysphoria identify as the gender with which he was born. Ministers have long planned to outlaw attempts to change someone’s sexual identity but have been unwilling to do the same for gender identity—until now.
Former Prime Minister Boris Johnson—who celebrated the fact that the parliament, formed after the 2019 general election included more transgender members than before—faced calls to ban trans conversion therapy during his premiership but decided too many “complexities and sensitivities” surrounded the issue. His successor in Number 10 disagrees, and a spokesperson inside his administration has this week told The Daily Telegraph that the practice is “abhorrent.”
The law, announced in a written statement from the government yesterday, will come after Rishi Sunak blocked Scottish gender reforms, which would have allowed 16-year-olds to obtain official gender recognition certificates. Politics professor Matthew Goodwin suggested this was a tainted victory for conservatives, given that Downing Street was forced to rely on equalities legislation, long opposed by many on the Right, to enact the block.
The timing of the trans conversion therapy ban could, according to the Telegraph, be seen “as an attempt to appease trans campaigners” following the blocking of Scottish reforms. But Ben Harris-Quinney, chairman of Britain’s oldest conservative think tank, the Bow Group, believes the opposite is the case. He told The European Conservative: “The government is intentionally using opposition to the Scottish Gender Reform Bill as a smokescreen to the actions a Conservative government is taking to restrict the liberties of citizens in the pursuance of a radical left-wing LGBT lobby agenda.”
Mr. Harris-Quinney said that “the government’s proposed conversion therapy ban will not only make it illegal for individuals to make their own decisions, it is likely to make it illegal for parents to dissuade their children from pursuing trans therapies or ‘transitioning’.” Equalities Minister Kemi Badenoch is working to settle such concerns and, according to the Telegraph, will soon write to all MPs requesting “that legitimate conversations between parents and trans children must not be outlawed and that freedom of religion must be protected.” A source close to the minister added that the government has been working on the legislation for a “long time” and is “committed to doing this.”
Andrea Williams, chief executive of Christian Concern, suggested in a comment to the paper that no amount of work could fully resolve concerns, warning that the proposed ban “will end up criminalising consensual conversations with those who genuinely want to help.” Mr. Harris-Quinney shares the same view, noting that “it is not the role of government to override the wishes of adults, either to set the course of their own lives or that of their children.” He added that by pursuing this course, the Tory government has proved itself to be “the greatest enemy of conservatism in Britain.” The Bow Group Chairman also asked: “If these proposed laws are not going to restrict parent or individual choice, then what are they for?”
Responding to this criticism, a government spokesperson told The European Conservative:
There are clearly issues that are not fully resolved. We are determined that legislation will not cause harm to children and young adults experiencing gender related distress by inadvertently impacting on legitimate conversations parents or clinicians may have with their children. Pre-legislative scrutiny exists to prevent this, and other unintended consequences, by utilising stakeholder expertise and input from parliamentarians.
A draft bill announcing the ban will be introduced “shortly.”