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Redefining 'conversion therapy' will only harm young people

The Scottish government’s plan wrongly conflates sexual orientation and gender identity

Published in The Times Thunderer on 11 January 2024, this ScotPAG response to the muddled thinking of the Scottish Government, lays out the origins of the term 'conversion therapy', the erroneous conflation of gender identity with sexual orientation, and the subversive drive of the Scottish Government to prevent vulnerable children and young people being professionally and clinically assessed for mental distress.


Carolyn Brown

Thursday January 11 2024, 3.45pm, The Times


On Tuesday Emma Roddick, the minister for equalities, published the consultation document Ending Conversion Practices in Scotland. The term “conversion therapy” was used originally to describe a range of medical and psychotherapeutic interventions offered to gay men and women in the 1950s. The interventions, or “therapies’, were aimed at disrupting association between same-sex sexual stimuli and sexual responses. The idea was to reorientate individuals’ sexuality towards heterosexual stimuli.


“Therapies” included electric shocks, medically induced vomiting, religious counselling, talking therapies and hormonal treatments. These attempts to convert gay and bisexual (LGB) people to heterosexuality did not work.


Move forward in time to the past few years, and activists have promoted gender ideology by piggy-backing on gay rights issues, hence the conflation of sexual orientation and gender identity: the two are constantly and erroneously combined as if they are the same (LBGTQI etc).


Same-sex attraction is not the same as gender identity. Same-sex attraction has existed throughout history; gender identity is a recent and unproven invention. What the Scottish government is attempting to do is to control our thinking and our therapeutic approaches towards our most vulnerable individuals in society by changing what society means by the term “conversion therapy”.


The Scottish government is telling us that only by affirming an individual who says he/she is “trans” is the accusation of attempting to convert the individual avoided. This is not only confused thinking, it is positively harmful where children and families are concerned. Extensive research — including the Cass Review and the investigative journalist Hannah Barnes’s book Time to Think — have found that most children identifying as “trans” are actually gay.


Changing their biological sex is the last thing they should be encouraged to do. Young children and teenagers are suggestible and highly vulnerable to the social contagions of online influences. There are already hundreds of Scottish families affected by schools which have promoted gender ideology in the curriculum. Add the threat of parental imprisonment for not affirming a child who states they are “trans”, as this proposed bill intends, and the Scottish context is set to become a woeful one.


We will see further increases in children and young people’s mental health problems, an increase in the number of damaged and unhappy detransitioners, and an increased tax burden due to individuals suing the government for malpractice and wrong intent.

All these consequences will come as a result of failing to take account of research findings which already highlight that there is no good evidence for gender ideology nor for the medicalisation of children and their families who have been coerced into its grasp.


Carolyn Brown is a retired depute principal psychologist

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