Alicia Kearns (Rutland and Melton) (Con)
Thank you for calling me to speak so early, Sir Graham. I rise to speak with a heavy heart, because I do not think we should be here. This issue is not something we should have to debate. I am furious, but my fury is nothing compared to the deep-set harm that this announcement has already caused to the transgender community, which has been harmed by us saying that trans people do not deserve the same rights and protections as their LGB brothers and sisters. Shamefully, the entire ban was almost cancelled; were it not for the actions of Conservative Back Benchers to ensure the ban was protected, it would have been.
The entire manner of the debate should shame us all. We need more compassion on all sides—there should not be any sides in this issue. So much of this debate has been misrepresentative and bears no relation to the reality of what such a ban would do. The ban is about preventing those who use so-called therapy as a smokescreen for their homophobic and transphobic exorcisms, and who claim that LGBTQ+ people do not deserve to love, be loved or live their life as they truly are.
Today, rather than explaining why we need an inclusive ban, I want to focus on the claim that any ban on conversion therapy would allow for only one form of therapy: the so-called affirmative model. It is usually accompanied by the claim that the ban on trans conversion therapy is designed specifically to push so-called gender ideology. I would like to know how the groups making such claims have seen the legislation, because I know that no Members present have. The Minister probably has not either, because it has not been drafted.
Conversion therapy often takes the form of one-directional talking therapies conducted by quacks in unregulated settings. There can be only one outcome for someone from such therapy: rejecting their trans self. Regulated psychotherapists and those from similar professions have always insisted that exploratory therapy should have no set outcome, but that outcome is what conversion therapy produces. What our children—indeed, trans people of any age—deserve and need is fully explorative and challenging conversations with accredited and regulated individuals who adhere to ethical tests, are regulated and would not push any pre-determined outcome. A regulated therapist would never say that someone must act on their attractions or feelings, or that they must eliminate them, and surely no one here can disagree with that.
Some claim that gay and lesbian people are being forced to convert to being transgender. There are always isolated cases—we can never say never—but let us not suggest that this is some widespread conspiracy. Even if someone did ascribe to such a belief, the legislation could help them, because it would ensure that the critical conversations took place with professionals, not the well-meaning.
Let us take on the claim, mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Elliot Colburn), that a ban on CT would criminalise health practitioners. If it would, why do the Royal College of Psychiatrists, the British Psychological Society, the Albany Trust, the British Medical Association, Mind, Relate, the Royal College of General Practitioners, the Association of Christian Counsellors and many more stand behind a ban? The psychiatric and psychological professions reject conversion therapy because it is the opposite of open-ended exploration; it is a therapy with only one stopping point. It is not about keeping choices, but eliminating them entirely, and that is why mental health practitioners back the legislation. It will not criminalise them, or teachers, or parents who want to have conversations with their children. I know that, because I have worked since my election to secure a ban on conversion therapy. I came to this place saying that I would help deliver one.
The discussions have been methodical, serious and cautious. Licensed bodies want to get this right, and to have serious safeguards in place. Given that search for safeguards, I want to make it abundantly clear that psychological professionals have been clear and unequivocal that trans conversion therapy is a definable concept. They might have different views about many others things, but they are agreed on that.
The Cass review, which many cite as a reason to exclude transgender people from a ban, is unequivocal. It calls for expanded support for trans healthcare and better service provision. Hilary Cass has said that her work does not impede the bringing forward of a conversion therapy Bill that includes trans people, and that any Bill does not need to wait until the end of her work, so why is her work being appropriated in arguments against a ban? Her work is well under way.
I wish to clear up some misunderstandings about the Bill, and I am sorry that I will slightly run over. Despite how hard others are pushing to misrepresent it, the ban is not about transgender people in sport or prisons, any medical interventions or procedures, or gender-neutral toilets. The Government do not propose that the ban defines gender identity in legislation; they note that we already have the Gender Recognition Act 2004, and hate crime legislation that acknowledges transgender people. Nor are LGBT community groups asking for gender identity to be defined or introduced in law, so why are so-called lobbying organisations saying that we are trying to do that?
I want to make it very clear that an inclusive ban on conversion therapy is not some woke frontier for those who want to suppress freedom of speech. It is not some new frontier for politicians to weaponise in a culture war that they think is vote winning. My standing up for my rights—I hope that colleagues would agree that I have fought for the rights of women since I came to this place—is not incompatible with fighting for the rights of others. Women are people with cervixes. We are women. I do not chest-feed; I breastfeed my baby. Of course biology matters, but these positions are not at war with one another.
If we can come together, we can find mutual understanding. This is not a back-door effort to have a battle about rights, or to criminalise dissent from gender ideology. It is about punishing practices that leave real and enduring psychological scars, and about holding to account those who cause the misery. The only people who should fear the ban are those quacks and charlatans who profit from bigotry and torture, and who believe that their views are so superior to others’.
Let us protect our children and leave the professionals to do their jobs. Let us include transgender people in the ban, in order to protect them from those who are so divorced from decency and compassion—so hellbent on their world view and brand of torture—that they would cause people to end up depressed, with severe mental suffering or committing suicide. I will not stand for a ban that devalues my transgender friends, and I will amend the legislation if, when it comes forward, it does not include trans people. I will not stand for the division of the LGBT community—division that would give bigots a green light to continue torturing our trans friends. I call on the Government to do what is right and bring forward the work on transgender rights and inclusion in the Bill that they have promised. I ask them to stand by trans people, and give protections to those who urgently need them.