For those of you who missed it, last week the Irish Times published a very interesting column on the question of the proposed ban on so-called “conversion therapy”, which is presently being advanced by the Government.
Co-authored by GP Madeline Ni Dhalaigh, Psychotherapist Jacky Grainger, and Cognitive Behavioural Therapist Stella O’Malley, the article argued that a blanket ban on “conversion therapy” which included a ban on any efforts to change a person’s “gender identity” would be dangerous for children:
“to affirm a 13 year old with recent gender dysphoria as “trans” when they are in fact gay could certainly leave therapists open to accusations of conversion therapy after the client has completed adolescence.
If therapists are fearful of accusations of “conversion” therapy, first the majority won’t work in the area of gender and, second, there will be no chance for gender-questioning clients of this age to explore or be challenged. No room for growth, no time for reflection or self-discovery. The result of which would be a rigidity most alien to both effective psychological therapy and every single child development model that has every existed.
It is bad practice. As ethical therapists and clinicians, we should not support it.”
In essence, their position is that therapies which try to change somebody’s sexuality – changing people from gay to straight – are dangerous (though such therapies have been basically extinct in Ireland for years) and should be banned, but therapies which may result in avoiding a teenager changing their gender (male to female, or vice versa) are an essential part of their work. The Government’s present bill would do just that.
Debating such things, of course, is the very minimum one might expect from the media. And, to the credit of the Irish Times, the piece in question has provoked a lively debate in their letters page – with a slight majority of published letters agreeing with the article linked above.
This, however, was all too much to bear for the Editor of Trinity College’s leading student Newspaper, the Trinity News, which, for the last several years, has had a partnership with the Irish Times:
There are a few things to say here. First, on the practicalities: This will have absolutely zero impact on the Irish Times. Any partnership between the Irish Times, and a student newspaper is, de facto, much more advantageous for the student paper than the paper of record. Irish Times advertising is effectively just a subsidy for the student paper.
Second, on the principle: It is notable here that the Trinity News believes that it is unacceptable for the Irish Times to publish an opinion piece that some people will strongly disagree with. They would deny that, of course, and say that they have no issue with a paper publishing things that they disagree with – but there is disagreement, and disagreement. A newspaper publishing an article advocating a tax cut in the budget might just be wrong, but that’s not something students really care about, so it gets a pass. The truth is that when it comes to things that they really care about, the Trinity News will brook no dissent – however widespread the opposing view might be.
Third, why is it significant? Well, it is significant because the Trinity News, and student papers like it, are the effective training grounds for most journalists of the future. Do you believe the media is biased? If you do, then look no further than where their journalists are coming from. People who care about institutions like the media should look at this decision and be under no illusions: This kind of authoritarian leftism is headed straight for their newsrooms, and in many cases, is already there.
Finally: On the issue itself. It is completely obvious that the move to ban “conversion therapy” is a political one, not a medical one. For the avoidance of doubt, conversion therapy – when it involves trying to change a person’s sexuality from homosexual to heterosexual – is an abomination. If you are a straight person, ask yourself this: What kind of therapy could you undergo to make you into a gay person? The answer, of course, is nothing.
But such therapy, thankfully, is not offered or promoted in Ireland, at least in public. Banning it will have no impact.
Banning therapy for children with gender dysphoria, on the other hand, will do real and incalculable damage, because it will cement into law the basic idea that the only approach to a child who questions their gender is to allow them to change gender – with all the irreversible physical and psychological harms such a change may bring. Therapists and doctors are against it. A small number of extremists are for it. This being Ireland, the bill looks set to pass anyway.
We “listen to the doctors” when it is convenient, you’ll notice, and ignore them when it is not.