Health experts condemn attempts to ‘cure’ trans people in wake of controversial BBC documentary
Major medical organisations across the UK have condemned any attempt to try to ‘cure’ trans people, in the wake of controversy over a BBC documentary.
The BBC has been hit with a string of formal complaints about documentary ‘Transgender Kids: Who Knows Best?’, which aired last week.
The programme followed former gender doctor Kenneth Zucker, who was sacked from a clinic treating trans people in Canada because of concerns about his attempts to ‘cure’ transgender children. As part of treatment Dr Zucker encouraged parents to “set limits on things like cross-dressing” and stop them playing with “girlish” toys, in order to convince trans people to “feel more secure about his or her actual gender”. His practices were disavowed by Toronto’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, where he had run the Gender Identity Service, after concerns were raised about the harmful treatments.
In a coincidentally-timed announcement, today 13 groups – including the UK Council for Psychotherapy, the Royal College of GPs, the British Psychoanalytic Council and the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy – signed a statement disavowing any attempts to ‘cure’ trans people.
Plans are being drawn up by the groups for a Memorandum of Understanding a clear message that trying to change someone’s gender identity through therapy is impossible, unethical and potentially harmful. A similar Memorandum of Understanding for ‘gay cure’ therapy was created in 2015.
A statement from the health bodies said: “We the undersigned UK organisations wish to state that the practice of conversion therapy has no place in the modern world. It is unethical and harmful and not supported by evidence.
“Conversion Therapy is the term for therapy that assumes certain sexual orientations or gender identities are inferior to others, and seeks to change or suppress them on that basis.
“Sexual orientations and gender identities are not mental health disorders, although exclusion, stigma and prejudice may precipitate mental health issues for any person subjected to these abuses.
“Anyone accessing therapeutic help should be able to do so without fear of judgement or the threat of being pressured to change a fundamental aspect of who they are.”
The signatories are: UK Council for Psychotherapy, British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy, British Psychoanalytic Council, British Association for Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapies, The British Psychological Society, College of Sexual and Relationship Therapists, The Association of LGBT Doctors and Dentists, The National Counselling Society, NHS Scotland, Pink Therapy, Royal College of General Practitioners, the Scottish Government and Stonewall.
Janet Weisz, Chair of the Memorandum of Understanding group, and Chief Executive of the UK Council for Psychotherapy, said: “We have always been clear that sexual orientation and gender identities are not mental health disorders.
“Any therapy that claims to change these is not only unethical but it’s also potentially harmful.”
“Therefore, this practice has no place in the modern psychotherapy profession. The public must know that they can access therapeutic help without fear of judgment.
“It is great to see so many parts of the psychological and medical profession both in the UK and abroad uniting on this key issue.”
Helen Morgan, Chair of the British Psychoanalytic Council, said: “Forcing a particular view or prejudice upon a patient has no place in therapy and all competent therapists will implicitly understand and appreciate this.
“Psychotherapy aims to liberate people so they can live fuller, more meaningful and more satisfying lives – and patients meeting a psychotherapist should be able to assume that this is always the case in therapy.
“I am pleased to support moves against conversion therapy and I would urge professional colleagues – wherever they may be – to do the same.”
Helen Stokes-Lampard, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: “The Royal College of General Practitioners is proud to support this statement.
“As medical professionals, we are highly trained to treat our patients regardless of their sexual orientation – not because of it.
“Being gay or trans is not a disease, it is not a mental illness and it doesn’t need a cure. Any proclamations to the contrary risk causing harm to our gay and trans patients’ physical and mental health and wellbeing, as well as perpetuating discrimination in society.”
Peter Kinderman, President of the British Psychological Society, said: “The British Psychological Society is very proud to endorse, support, and stand by this statement.
“I am proud to live in a country that is able to celebrate the full range of loving human relationships and gender identities to offer each one of us equality under the law.
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“Many of us have experienced a great deal of persecution and discrimination as a result of our sexual orientation, or gender identity and our role must be to combat such prejudice, not to add to it. When people are distressed, for whatever reason, we have a duty to reach out and help.
“But that must not entail regarding our sexual orientation or gender identity as any form of pathology. I am very happy to be a party to this statement, and I hope it goes some way to contributing to a more caring and equitable society.”
Dr Andrew Reeves, Chair of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy, said: “BACP strongly believes that anyone seeking therapeutic help, regardless of their gender and sexual diversity, should have access to unbiased and informed therapists who provide ethically skilled therapy.
“We agree that there is no place in our society for conversion therapy, which is unethical, harmful and not supported by evidence.”
Ruth Hunt, Chief Executive of Stonewall, said: “The Memorandum of Understanding, hard fought for by Stonewall and the organisations involved, has been great for lesbian, gay and bi people and it’s now essential that trans people are also given this protection.
“It’s important that it’s made clear that gender identity is not something that can be changed. Trans people do not need to be ‘cured’. What they need is to be accepted for who they are.”