Transgender Conversion Therapy

Julian Lewis 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 absolutely agree with the hon. Lady. I want to talk about some of the concerns that have been brought forward about a trans-inclusive ban, particularly those focused around unintended consequences —the potential of criminalising legitimate conversations between trans people and, for example, their parents, doctors or religious leaders. Those concerns are legitimate, and it comes down to us as legislators to ensure that we pass good legislation that does not catch those out.

I and many other hon. Members have seen the legal evidence provided to the Government Equalities Office that shows that it is perfectly possible to pass a ban without such unintended consequences. What is important is having a tightly worded Bill with clear language, as well as an extensive list in the legislation about what is and is not intended to be caught by a ban on conversion therapy. Let us be very clear: campaigners who have been fighting for this say that a ban is not intended to capture legitimate conversations, questions or even disagreements between individuals and their parents, doctors or religious leaders, for example. Legitimate explorative therapies, the teaching of scripture or even the ability to say that they do not agree with a person’s identity is not intended to be covered within the scope of a ban, and that should be explicitly stated within it.

The argument is also made that to exclude trans people is the right thing to do because sexual orientation and gender identity are different and so should not be covered by the same legislation. However, although they are different parts of a person’s individual identity, separating them would create big problems for the Government in law, as many trans people are also LGB, and vice versa. Plus, I believe that it would allow conversion therapy for LGB people to continue through the back door, because it could be claimed that it was being done because of their gender identity. We have seen that happening already. I have heard of cases of survivors who have come forward—for example, camp gay men and butch lesbians who have undergone conversion therapy because of their gender identity, not because of their sexual orientation. I believe that that is the reason why all leading medical, psychological and therapy organisations back an inclusive ban. Twenty-five organisations have signed up to the memorandum of understanding on conversion therapy in the UK, and more than 370 religious leaders from around the world are also calling for a ban on conversion therapy.

However, I do not think that I can put the need for a trans-inclusive ban much better than by referring to this perverse situation, which I would just like colleagues to consider. It is based on a real-life example of a set of twins—one gay and one trans. Both are forced to undergo hours of talking therapies to get them to change their identity. They are taken for exorcisms, with people shouting over them. They are monitored to ensure that they are not meeting anyone who might be considered “wrong”. They are unable to seek out accredited counselling and support and they have to endure treatment that is degrading and shaming.

Julian Lewis Portrait Dr Julian Lewis (New Forest East) (Con)
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I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving way, because I genuinely have come to this debate to learn about the issues. I thought the most important word that he just uttered was “forced”. I think everyone could agree that no one should be forced into any sort of therapy. The question is whether we would be banning people from seeking this therapy if, for whatever unaccountable reason, they wished to do so. That is where a line needs to be clarified.

Elliot Colburn Portrait Elliot Colburn
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I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for that intervention. Indeed there is a consent clause in the Bill. That is an entirely separate debate. I know that many colleagues on both sides of the House do not agree with that—I am one of them.