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My victory over the gender ideologues

I was expelled from my psychotherapy course for opposing trans ideology. But I fought back.

James Esses

Topics Free Speech Identity Politics UK

More than two years ago, in May 2021, I was expelled from a course and excommunicated from a profession that I had spent many years and tens of thousands of pounds training towards.

I was coming to the end of my third year of a master’s degree in psychotherapy at the Metanoia Institute in west London. I was a member of the United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP), the main regulatory body for therapists and counsellors, and I was on the cusp of setting up my own private practice.

However, over the preceding months, I had found myself becoming increasingly concerned by the impact of gender ideology on the therapeutic profession. There was increasing pressure from our institutions to ‘affirm’ clients, including young children, who were struggling with gender dysphoria and believed themselves to be trapped in the ‘wrong body’. In practice, this meant accepting their claims without properly exploring their symptoms.

In turn, this meant encouraging children who wished to ‘medically transition’ to take irreversible puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones and to eventually progress to surgical intervention, if that is what they desired. This, as far as I and many of my colleagues were concerned, flew in the face of core therapeutic principles – not to mention the Hippocratic Oath. These interventions come with significant emotional and physical harms attached – including infertility. And yet we were expected to ignore the risks. This runs counter to the explorative approach taken in relation to every other mental-health condition.

I then spoke to many ‘detransitioners’ – those who have come to regret transitioning and are now living as their biological sex – who told me that they wished their therapists had challenged them and not simply encouraged them to transition. I realised I had to do something.

I wrote a petition to the UK government, asking ministers to safeguard explorative therapy for children, at a time when it looked like it could have been outlawed under the government’s proposed ban on ‘conversion therapy’. The petition received over 10,000 signatures and a positive response from the government, in which it insisted that ‘this ban must not impact on the independence and confidence of clinicians’.

I also wrote to UKCP, expressing my concern about the impact of gender ideology on therapy and the lack of open debate about it. I requested a discussion with senior management.

During this time, I began to receive significant abuse on social media from trans-rights activists who labelled me a ‘transphobe’ and a ‘bigot’. I am no such thing. My sole concern was protecting children from harm.

One afternoon, in May 2021, I received an email from the deputy chief-executive officer of the Metanoia Institute. The subject line read: ‘Termination of Contract.’ The email, only a few paragraphs long, told me that I was being expelled with immediate effect because I had brought the institute and profession ‘into disrepute’. I was provided with no evidence, no hearing and no appeal – in clear breach of the institute’s internal policies. In fact, I was never afforded a single conversation with anyone from the institute.

Within minutes of receiving the email, my access to my university email account and intranet portal had been blocked. That same evening, the Metanoia Institute took to Twitter to announce my expulsion.

With one email, my life came crashing down around me. I was utterly devastated. To this day, I still cannot quite believe what happened.

Since late 2021, I have been engaged in litigation against both the Metanoia Institute and UKCP via the Employment Tribunal, on the grounds of discrimination against me on the basis of my beliefs – something which is outlawed by the Equality Act 2010. I have had to crowdfund the money necessary to fight the case and to date I have raised over £130,000 in donations, from thousands of concerned members of the public. I will be eternally grateful for their generosity.

Now, although it has been a long time coming, I have some extremely positive news to share – I have reached a settlement with UKCP. While I cannot reveal the terms of settlement, I am very pleased with them. Most crucial of all is the accompanying statement published by UKCP, which reads as follows:

‘UKCP recognises that gender-critical beliefs (that sex is both binary and immutable) are protected under the Equality Act 2010. UKCP also recognises the validity of the professional belief that children suffering from gender dysphoria should be treated with explorative therapy, rather than being affirmed towards irreversible and potentially damaging medical intervention. Psychotherapists and counsellors accredited by UKCP are fully entitled to hold such beliefs and any discrimination against them on this basis, including by UKCP-accredited training organisations, is unlawful.’

This statement is of great significance. It makes clear that therapists who believe in biology or speak out against the irreversible medicalisation of ‘trans’ children are protected. It also sends a clear message to therapeutic training-course providers such as the Metanoia Institute – that if they discriminate against their students on this basis, they will be held accountable.

Over the past two years, I have been contacted by therapy students up and down the country who are too afraid to speak out. I sincerely hope that this statement from UKCP ensures that what happened to me will never happen to another trainee therapist.

Although the settlement means that my case against UKCP has concluded, my litigation against the Metanoia Institute continues. I am hoping to head to trial against them at some point in 2024, where I will be seeking full and final justice for what they did to me. If you would like to keep up to date with my case or donate to help me see it through to the end, you can do so here.

People often ask me if I have any regrets about taking up this fight. No, I don’t. Biological reality, child welfare and free speech are simply far too important. I only hope that sense is finally returning to the gender debate – and that others will be spared the ordeal many of us have had to endure.

James Esses is co-founder of Thoughtful Therapists.

Picture by: YouTube.

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Topics Free Speech Identity Politics UK

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