Leading UK medical bodies tell government: Trans conversion therapy must end, without delay

NHS doctors walk in Pride in London

The UK’s leading medical bodies have further discredited the prime minister’s attempt to ban LGB conversion therapy, but not trans conversion therapy.

The British Medical Association (BMA), the UK Council for Psychotherapy and Royal College of Psychiatrists, among others, have all urged the government to extend the ban to trans people.

Dr Latifa Patel, acting chair of the BMA’s representative body, said the trade union has long opposed “backwards” conversion therapy.

For the government to exclude trans Brits from the ban simply “isn’t enough”, she said.

“It’s with great dismay to read reports that [the ban] will not extend to transgender people, despite there being no evidence whatsoever that it is a credible form of medicine.”

The UK Council for Psychotherapy said that gender-affirming therapies for trans youth can be a lifeline.

It added that it has “repeatedly offered to support the government in developing legislation in this complex area, to protect people from conversion therapy without impacting safe, ethical therapy”.

Boris Johnson has insisted banning trans conversion therapy is “complex”, wrongly suggesting that a ban could prevent discussion of gender identities.

The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy said it was “shocked and disappointed” by the prime minister’s move.

“A ban that only addresses conversion therapy for sexuality and not gender identity is inadequate,” the body said.

Dr Adrian James, president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, agreed.

Conversion therapy causes severe physical and psychological suffering, violates the human rights of all LGBTQ+ people, and has been called a form of torture,” he said.

The British Psychological Society, the Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families and mental health charity Mind issued similar statements, questioning why the government has apparently ignored its own research that found trans Brits are more likely to have undergone or been offered conversion therapy.

The government has confirmed that a long-promised, trans-inclusive ban on conversion therapy was being dropped for one that outlaws practices seeking to change sexuality only.

In response, more than 120 LGBT+ organisations and HIV campaign groups pulled out of the government’s flagship LGBT+ conference, Safe To Be Me, resulting in its cancellation.

On Wednesday (6 April), health secretary Sajid Javid said that the government excluding trans people is part of a more “sensitive approach” – an idea quickly dismissed by the trans-led charity Gendered Intelligence.

“What the health secretary is suggesting is that practices that are so barbaric and outdated that they ought to be banned should remain legal against a single vulnerable group,” a spokesperson said.

In December, 20 health, counselling and psychotherapy organisations published a sprawling document updating previous calls to ban sexual orientation conversion therapy.