The ban on so-called conversion therapy is targeted at fraudsters and charlatans — those so divorced from decency and compassion, and so hellbent on the rightness of their world views that their brand of torture frequently drives their victims to depression, severe mental suffering and suicide.
All they ask is for this freedom to be respected, without infringing on the freedoms of others.
These are core Conservative values. To protect the vulnerable from those who seek to harm them, and to ensure people have the freedom to live their lives as they wish.
That’s why a ban on LGBTQ+ Conversion Therapy was in last year’s Queen’s Speech and has such strong support from within the Conservative ranks.
It’s the government’s duty to protect the British people — all of them. It goes without saying that LGBTQ+ people must not be excluded from these protections — including trans people.
We cannot say that so-called conversion therapy is an illegal and abhorrent practice when used against our gay community, but stand indifferent when the same techniques are inflicted elsewhere, especially on those most likely to face it: our transgender community.
I’ve spent years working to secure this important ban, including with religious leaders of all faiths. Everyone is clear: this is not about enforcing affirmative-only therapy.
It’s about cracking down on those who use therapy as a smokescreen for a homophobic or transphobic agenda which causes lifelong harm — afflicting people with the belief they have a pathology and don’t deserve to be loved.
Mainstream religious figures, including the former Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams, are united in their support of a ban on this abhorrent practice — including protections for transgender people.
They do not wish to see their loving faiths perverted to abuse gay or transgender people, and have publicly stated that coercive prayer should not be co-opted as a means of “one person manipulating another”.
Anyone questioning their sexuality or gender identity, deserves explorative, challenging and critical conversations with accredited and regulated individuals.
There are many such professionals who adhere to ethical tests set out by the counselling and psychotherapy professions, and won’t push for pre-determined outcomes.
That’s why the British Psychological Society, Royal College of Psychiatrists, The British Medical Association, the British Association for Counselling, Mind, Anna Freud Centre, British Psychoanalytic council and Relate all support a ban that protects transgender people.
This ban isn’t some new woke frontier for politicians to weaponise in some culture war they think is vote-winning. The words “gender identity” are not even proposed to be in the bill, nor does it cover medical interventions and procedures, nor gender-neutral toilets or transgender participation in sport.
This isn’t a backdoor effort to criminalise dissent from gender ideology. It is about protecting the vulnerable, and doing right by some of the most marginalised in our society.
This ban is about preventing those who use “therapy” as a smokescreen for their homophobic or transphobic exorcisms. No one else has anything to fear from a ban.
Since no one else seems to be saying it, I apologise to our transgender community. Excluding trans people from this ban not only devalues the misery and suffering already suffered by countless victims, but also devalues trans people as less worthy of protection.
A ban isn’t just the compassionate thing to do, it is the Conservative thing to do.
At this perilous time, where freedom and tolerance are under attack, we should embrace delivering a Conservative policy agenda that sets us clearly as the standard-bearers for individual freedoms and protecting the vulnerable — all of them.
This article originally appeared in The Times on 7th April 2022