Responding to news that the Government will now ban ‘conversion therapy’ for gay or bisexual people, but that this will not include transgender people, Dr Latifa Patel, acting chair of the BMA’s representative body, said:
“It’s some relief to hear that the Government has now decided to ban the horrific practice of so-called conversion therapy for gay or bisexual people in England and Wales. However, it’s with great dismay to read reports that this will not extend to transgender people, despite there being no evidence whatsoever that it is a credible form of medicine.
“In fact, ‘conversion therapy’ has been debunked countless times as an unethical and damaging practice that preys on victims of homophobia, transphobia, discrimination, and bullying. For those subjected to it, it can also increase the risk of long-lasting psychological harm, substance abuse, or even suicide. Many acts of conversion therapy amount to torture, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment - a violation of international and UK law. That the Government can recognise a set of practices, methods and activities as ‘abhorrent’, damaging and cruel for one group but suggest that those same practices, methods and activities can be acceptably perpetrated on another group is profoundly troubling.
“The BMA has long opposed ‘conversion therapy’ and believes it must be banned in its entirety. While this is now supposedly happening for gay and bisexual people, it seems the Government will only rely on current legislation or non-legislative options for transgender people who are subjected to the practice. And yet it’s clear that this isn’t enough. Trans people are already most vulnerable to being subjected to so-called conversion therapy, with one in seven trans people reporting that they had been offered or had 'conversion therapy'.
“Services for trans individuals in the NHS are already insufficient; the waiting list for young people to access gender identity development services can be two years or more. Alongside banning all forms of ‘conversion therapy’, the Government must take urgent action to improve access to more appropriate support and services for LGBTQ+ people.
“Allowing practices like this drives societal prejudices about transgender people and further isolates the trans community. While the Government might feel they have secured a moral victory in banning ‘conversion therapy’ for gay and bisexual people, it means nothing until every member of the LGBTQ+ community is freed from this barbaric practice.
“That this news became public knowledge on the Trans Day of Visibility (yesterday) makes it even more important that we highlight the impact that this backward ‘treatment’ has on trans people, who only serve to suffer as a result.”
Notes to editors
The BMA is a trade union and professional association representing and negotiating on behalf of all doctors in the UK. A leading voice advocating for outstanding health care and a healthy population. An association providing members with excellent individual services and support throughout their lives.