Criminalising parental love

More and more nations are making it an offence to steer your kid away from transgenderism.

Brendan O'Neill

Brendan O'Neill
chief political writer

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Topics Identity Politics World

Mums and dads in Canada who have gender-confused kids need to be careful what they say from now on. Because it is now potentially an offence to discourage your son or daughter from going down the transgender road. A new law, enacted this month, updates Canada’s criminal code to make it a crime to ‘repress a person’s non-cisgender gender identity’ or to ‘repress… a person’s gender expression that does not conform to the sex assigned to the person at birth’. You’re a dad who loves his son and refuses to let him wear a dress or adopt a female name or swallow some puberty-blockers? Well, you could be in trouble. That could count as ‘repression of gender identity’. You could be locked up for five years.

The new law means that Canada’s criminal code now outlaws ‘conversion therapy’. But this doesn’t only refer to the kind of conversion therapy that sends a shiver down the spine of most right-thinking people – for example, the forced, pseudo-psychological attempt to turn a gay man straight or to exorcise the demonic lusts from a sinful lesbian. No, conversion therapy now means any ‘practice, treatment or service’ that is designed to meddle in any way whatsoever with a person’s sexuality, gender identity or gender expression. So the ‘practice’ of seeking to ‘change a person’s gender identity to cisgender’ is now counted as conversion therapy in Canada and potentially carries a heavy punishment. Just think about what might fall under that category. The loving mum who flat-out refuses to let her young daughter shave her hair off and wear boy’s clothes and become a he / him – is that a ‘practice’, and is it a ‘practice’ designed to ‘change a person’s gender identity to cisgender’? Does mum deserve five years in the slammer?

Graciously, the Canadian state makes allowances so that certain kinds of chit-chat about gender identity can still take place. But the allowances are so narrow, and so prescriptive, that they end up highlighting just how illiberal and potentially damaging this new law will be. The law says the definition of ‘conversion therapy’ does not include any ‘practice, treatment or service’ that relates to ‘a person’s gender transition’. Phew. So this means experts and maybe even parents can be frank and possibly even a tad discouraging if they think a person’s gender transition is the wrong way to go, right? Wrong. Very wrong. The law makes clear that even discussions that take place during a gender transition must ‘not [be] based on an assumption that a particular… gender identity or gender expression is to be preferred over another’. Got that? Tell a gender-confused person that they’d be better off staying as their healthy, natural male or female self and you could find your collar being felt by the law.

This is extraordinary stuff. Under the guise of tackling a practice that most people find repellant – the heaping of psychological pressure on to gay people to try to make them ditch their allegedly perverse desires – the right to dissent on matters of ‘gender identity’ and ‘gender expression’ is being eroded. The right of parents and other adults to tell the boy who thinks he’s a girl that actually he is a boy, and that he will carry on living as a boy, is seriously undermined. No clear guarantees have been made that the ability of parents or counsellors to have candid, critical conversations with kids who want to ‘transition’ will remain intact. According to the Conservative MP Ted Falk, critics of the new law ‘repeatedly’ asked the law’s drafters if ‘conversations with a religious leader, counsellor or parent continued to be protected and possible’. ‘Sadly, these requests were not considered’, he says.

We need to be clear about what is happening in Canada. Counselling young people who are confused about their gender has essentially been criminalised. All that adults are permitted to do is affirm whatever their child tells them. If your seven-year-old son tells you he’s a girl and you seek out counselling that might help to disabuse him of this ridiculous fantasy, you could be breaking the law. This is a brutal enforcement of the state’s woke morality under the guise of defending the rights of LGBT people. Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau crowed about the new law, declaring that ‘it is now illegal to promote, advertise, benefit from or subject someone to [conversion therapy]’. ‘LGBTQ2 rights are human rights’, he said, managing to remember the acronym this time. Trudeau is engaging in doublespeak. What has really been made illegal in Canada is not conversion therapy as most people understand it – such therapy is an incredibly rare practice in a modern, progressive nation like Canada. Rather, it’s the right to discuss gender identity, to dissent from the cult of transgenderism, and, yes, to dissuade someone from embracing a made-up gender.

This conversion-therapy law is about forcing the state’s views on the masses. In thrall to wokeness, ensnared by the cult of genderfluidity, the 21st-century Canadian state thinks it is possible to be born the ‘wrong sex’. It thinks sex is something that is ‘assigned’ at birth rather than something that is observed far earlier than that, in the womb. It thinks hormonal or surgical treatment to ensure that there is an alignment between a person’s ‘gender identity’ and their outward bodily representation is a good thing. And, worst of it all, it thinks that anyone who disagrees with any of this, anyone who believes it is a lot of postmodern hocus-pocus that causes grave harm to confused teens in particular, should not be permitted to engage in discussion, even with their own kids. This is a tyrannical law that pressures the people of Canada to bend the knee to the cult of transgenderism. The irony is too much – in the name of outlawing ‘conversion therapy’, this law forces the masses to convert to the religion of wokeness and its gospel of genderfluidity, on pain of imprisonment if they actively refuse to do so.

Canada isn’t alone in making a heresy of gender-critical interventions into the thinking and choices being made by gender-confused young people. France, Brazil, Malta and other nations have also moved to outlaw ‘conversion therapy’ that targets either sexuality or gender identity. New Zealand, too, has made it an offence to deploy ‘practices’ that discourage a person from expressing or realising his or her ‘gender identity’. Critics of NZ’s law say it could criminalise parents ‘for trying to advise their 12-year-old child not to take puberty-blockers’. Hilariously, and terrifyingly, an article calling into question this notion that parents could be criminalised was published under the headline, ‘Why New Zealand’s proposed law banning conversion practices is so unlikely to criminalise parents’. Unlikely? Are you reassured by that? No, me neither.

That piece argues that the use of the word ‘practice’ in the New Zealand law, which appears in the Canadian law too, suggests that, in order to be criminalised, conversion therapy would need to be a concerted, active effort. But in recent years we have seen trans activists demonise parents who refuse to ‘affirm’ their kid’s ‘gender identity’. It doesn’t take a huge leap of the imagination to foresee a situation where the mother or father who devotes energy to ‘repressing’ their kid’s belief that he or she was born the ‘wrong sex’ could be accused of carrying out a conversion practice. And heaven help the religiously inclined parent who calls upon the services of a priest or imam to try to convince his kid that he is not in fact non-binary or transgender or whatever. That parent, and that religious leader, would very definitely put themselves on the wrong side of the law.

We are witnessing the criminalisation of parental love. The outlawing of parental concern. The proscription of the fatherly and motherly instinct to shield children from potentially damaging courses of action. Here is the frank reality – many people, possibly a majority of people, do not subscribe to the cult of transgenderism. They do not think it is a good thing to indulge their son’s fantasies about being a girl. They do not wish to see their young daughter return from her first term at university with bound breasts, a drug-induced moustache, and an aversion to the words ‘she’ and ‘her’. They do not agree that suspending puberty, so essential to a young person’s development, is a good idea. They do not want their 19-year-old daughter to have her breasts cut off or their 18-year-old son to be castrated. In fact they would do everything within their power to discourage the people they love most in the world from pursuing these aberrant, unhappy, severe modifications. This doesn’t make them outdated or cruel. On the contrary, it is an act of deep love to discourage a young person from believing that he or she is ‘the wrong sex’. Mums and dads know far better than experts or woke blowhards or Justin Trudeau what is good for their kids, and they know that it does not include the eccentric, disruptive idea that bodily modification is a suitable response to mental confusion. And yet their ability to express this loving parental knowledge, far less to act on it, is being criminalised. That is repugnant and Orwellian.

The disconnect between state morality and parental morality, between what the woke elites think and what ordinary people think, could not be more vast. The authorities actively coax the young into the trap of gender delusion while most mums and dads want to steer their kids away from this sorrowful path. From Canada to France to New Zealand, this clash of values between the state and the people, between them and us, is being resolved by the brute force of the law, which is enshrining the morality of the woke state and criminalising the folk wisdom of masses of mothers and fathers. Anyone who thinks this is a campaign against ‘conversion therapy’ is kidding themselves. It is a power grab by the woke elites against the fundamental right of parents and communities to decide for themselves what is good for the next generation. The UK government is currently mulling over a ban on ‘conversion therapy’. It needs to think about this very carefully. Any ban on conversion therapy that outlaws the right of parents, religious elders or counsellors to say ‘Stop this’ to gender transitions is moral tyranny masquerading as equal rights.

One of the most pernicious consequences of wokeness, of the new authoritarianism gripping the Western elites, is the breaking of bonds between parents and children. Convinced that mums and dads are inculcating their kids with ‘backward’ ideas and habits, the woke elites consider it their solemn duty to use education, socialisation and the law itself to circumvent parental authority and impose their own values on the next generation. They want to collectivise children, to rip them from the loving bosom of their parents and turn them into the impressionable property of ‘expert’ educators and other state representatives. That is what these conversion-therapy laws are about – not protecting the rights of gay people to go about their lives as they see fit, which the vast majority of people agree is an important thing, but rather limiting the influence that parents and other ‘unwoke’ adults can wield over the next generation. The state is driving a wedge between parents and kids. It is claiming your children as state charges that it has a responsibility to morally nurture. This neo-Maoism must not stand. The ‘transphobic’ parent is a far better role model for the young than the ‘trans-friendly’ state that wants to criminalise dissent, outlaw parental love, and tear mother from son and father from daughter.

Brendan O’Neill is spiked’s chief political writer and host of the spiked podcast, The Brendan O’Neill Show. Subscribe to the podcast here. And find Brendan on Instagram: @burntoakboy

Picture by: Getty.

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