Transgender Conversion Therapy Debate

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Department: Department for International Trade

Transgender Conversion Therapy

Jacob Young Excerpts
Monday 13th June 2022

(1 year, 11 months ago)

Westminster Hall
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Elliot Colburn Portrait Elliot Colburn
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I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that intervention, but I am afraid I do not agree. There is nothing in the proposals and the consultation that the Government set out to suggest that there would be an impact on freedom of speech. Although a lot of the practices—a point that I was going to come on to in a minute—are already outlawed, there are many forms of conversion practices that are not, which is why a ban is necessary.

Jacob Young Portrait Jacob Young (Redcar) (Con)
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In relation to the previous point, does my hon. Friend agree with me the fact that so many respondents to the Government’s survey said that they had either been offered, or been subject to, conversion therapy shows that conversion therapy does exist for trans people?

Elliot Colburn Portrait Elliot Colburn
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I totally agree. The national LGBT survey in 2018 showed that trans people were twice as likely as LGB people to be offered, and to undergo, conversion therapy. Those practices can take many forms, but the evidence that has been presented shows that they all have the same aim—and all are harmful. That aim is to supress or change someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity. It is true that many of the harrowing stories we have heard about things such as corrective rape and physical assault, which many survivors have come forward to share, are already illegal.

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Alyn Smith Portrait Alyn Smith
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I will take the intervention at face value as a genuine expression of concern. This is not an easy subject—I would be the first to acknowledge that—but that is why we need to make sure that the legislation is right. That is why we need to ensure that the line is drawn at the right place. I said in my opening remarks—I have them here—that this is not about infringing the right of anyone to seek advice and have an honest conversation, but there is a world of difference between that and the quackery and harm perpetrated by people who set themselves up in business doing this stuff.

Jacob Young Portrait Jacob Young
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I draw the attention of my hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley (Nick Fletcher) to the speech by my hon. Friend the Member for Rutland and Melton (Alicia Kearns), who talked about forcing someone to change their gender identity or their sexual orientation. Is this not all about the intention behind the conversation? There is no problem with a parent having a conversation with their child, but if someone enters a conversation wanting to force someone to do something that is contrary to what they are, that is crossing the line.

Alyn Smith Portrait Alyn Smith
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I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman’s intervention. I am a solicitor, if we go back far enough. The law is well used to dealing with shades of grey. In many other situations—aggravated hate crime; discrimination; words that mean one thing in one context and a different thing in another—it is perfectly possible to come up with a proper legislative framework to protect people and the honest conversations that he is rightly concerned to see protected. I share that concern and would work with him on it.

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Kate Osborne Portrait Kate Osborne
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I do agree. My right hon. Friend referred to section 28. Interestingly, the first march I went on as an activist many years ago—more than I care to remember —was in opposition to section 28.

Jacob Young Portrait Jacob Young
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It is touching to hear the hon. Lady make those historical references. Does she agree that the rights of LGB people were only won by LGBT people, and that it if were not for the T people, she and I would not have the rights that we enjoy today?

Kate Osborne Portrait Kate Osborne
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I absolutely agree with the hon. Gentleman. There should be no division, as the hon. Member for Darlington (Peter Gibson) said.

We know from numerous studies and polls that transphobes are in the minority, but unfortunately, that minority is hardening and seems to have this Government’s ear. As casual prejudice fills the airwaves and column inches, the Government’s failure to deliver a ban on conversion therapy for trans people sends a terrible message. Conversion therapy causes serious mental health problems for those who undergo it, and it has driven people to suicide. Trans people are twice as likely to have been offered conversion therapy as those who are cis, gay or bi, but the Government seem to exclude them even though they are the very people whom the ban would help the most. In Britain today, around half of trans people attempt suicide before the age of 26. Many face harassment, bullying and discrimination daily.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport (Luke Pollard) mentioned, trans people and their very existence are not up for debate. Under the Prime Minister, this Government’s strategy is to harness prejudice and stoke a culture war, pitting communities against each other. It is not surprising that the Tories are undermining trans rights. If the Conservative party had a motto, it would probably be, “Never let basic humanity get in the way of a potential vote winner.” If the proposed legislation does not include trans people, it will not go far enough. It is essential to close all loopholes to prevent the possibility of this abuse continuing.

The Government know and have clearly acknowledged that conversion therapy is abuse, yet they seem willing to allow an entire community to continue to be subjected to it. History has judged how wrong some of our politicians have been in the past, and it will judge those who fail to protect our trans community now.