The lies behind the ‘conversion therapy’ panic

There is no evidence whatsoever that LGBT Brits are being tortured because of their identities.

Malcolm Clark

Topics Identity Politics Politics UK

The Scottish government is refusing to learn from its mistakes. Its first flagship bill of the year will be a ban on conversion therapy – a proposal that is steeped in the same rhetorical obsession with trans rights that gave us the political disaster of the gender-recognition bill. Even more inexplicably, the government’s latest policy suffers from the same fatal flaw as that bill: it betrays a cavalier attitude towards facts and evidence.

The Scottish government says that a conversion-therapy ban is desperately needed to stop LGBT people from being beaten or bullied into changing their sexual orientation or gender identity. But these claims are a veneer to mask the true substance of the bill, which is an attempt to prevent therapists and parents challenging any young person who declares they are ‘trans’.

What is shocking is how little evidence the Scottish government has provided to back up its claims of widespread attempts at conversion of the ‘LGBTQI+ community’. In fact, the only source it has cited is a notoriously ropey and unreliable National LGBT Survey commissioned by Theresa May in 2017.

Supporters of the ban endlessly quote the fact that five per cent of the survey’s respondents said they had been offered ‘conversion therapy’ and another two per cent claimed to have undergone it. They are less keen to admit that the survey didn’t bother to define what it meant by ‘conversion therapy’. Respondents were left to decide for themselves if they felt attempts had been made to convert them.

The survey was also self-selecting, recruiting people through LGBT lobby groups and at Pride marches. Furthermore, respondents were told the results might influence government policy, which gave them an incentive to lay it on thick. Surveys like these are so susceptible to bias that no serious government would construct policy based on them.

That’s why, in 2019, Westminster decided to commission new research to try to assess the real scale and severity of conversion therapy in the UK. A team of researchers from Coventry University published its report in October 2021. The head of the Coventry team, Adam Jowett, is a paid-up LGBTQ+ activist who cares so little about neutrality he has retweeted attacks on Rosie Duffield, a gender-critical Labour MP. Yet even this research is almost never cited by those trying to ban conversion therapy. That’s because the Coventry report struggled to find much evidence of it in the UK. The researchers were so desperate to find examples they even admitted they had to trawl through ‘entries for conversion therapy in Wikipedia’.

The highlight of the Coventry research was a series of interviews with people who claimed to have experienced conversion therapy. You might imagine they could barely cope with the onslaught of sufferers from this alleged epidemic of abuse. In fact, they managed to find just 30 people from the past two decades. Even more embarrassingly, given the proposed ban’s focus on trans people, the researchers could find only six trans or ‘nonbinary’ people who said they had been offered conversion therapy. And just three of them claimed to have undergone it.

Yes, just three people. In 20 years.

By comparison, in 2022 there were 1,051 drug deaths in Scotland, the highest in Europe. There are an estimated 18,000 problem drug users and 133,000 problem alcohol users in Greater Glasgow alone, and only 23 publicly funded rehab beds. Yet the Scottish government seems more concerned with tackling a non-existent problem than an actual crisis.

There’s another reason the campaign to ban conversion therapy has ignored the Coventry research, which was published a mere three years ago. A third of the 30 interviewees actually reported some ‘secondary benefits’ from their experiences. ‘In some cases, lasting friendships were formed with those they met at conversion-therapy weekend retreats’, the research said. ‘The most common benefit reported was experiencing a sense of belonging and connection.’ Whoops.

The tragedy is that there is a genuine conversion-therapy problem in Britain right now. And it affects far more than just the 30 people the Coventry team managed to find. Thousands of vulnerable kids, many of them gay or autistic, are being misled into believing they have some inner gender identity that is different from the sex of their body. And they are encouraged to take drugs and have surgery to ‘correct’ themselves.

This transing of young – often gay – people is the real conversion-therapy epidemic in Britain. Yet it has the fulsome support of the LGBT lobby and the Scottish government. This is one of the great scandals of our age. And yet too few in politics seem to care.

Malcolm Clark is a TV producer.

Picture by: Getty.

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Topics Identity Politics Politics UK


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