The Anti Conversion Therapy Coalition (ACTC) has accused the Irish Times of “using its platform to defend torture” after the paper published an article in which two psychotherapists and a GP expressed concerns about a Bill which the ACTC supports.
The Bill in question, The Prohibition of Conversion Therapies Bill 2018, was first proposed by Senator Fintan Warfield in 2018. Critics have argued that the Bill, as written, is so broad that its implementation would negatively impact upon the provision of healthcare to transgender people and would constitute political interference in what is ultimately a medical discussion.
The Bill’s inclusion of “changing” or “suppressing gender identity and/or gender expression” in its definition of conversion therapy has been the root cause of much of the criticism of the Bill. Attention, however, has also been brought to the Bill’s definition of “sexual orientation,” which defines sexual orientation in relation to gender, rather than in relation to a person’s biological sex; and the Bill’s statement that sex is “assigned at birth” when sex is a biological fact and not merely a label assigned to a person when they are born.
The authors of the Irish Times piece argued that the Bill was in danger of “unnecessarily restricting the openness, efficacy and ethics of therapy in areas such as gender identity.” The authors said that the Bill would create a situation in which therapists and clinicians would be “unsure” to what extent they were legally allowed to “employ therapeutic interventions around a person’s gender identity.”
As an example of a difficulty which the Bill would cause for therapists the article notes that approximately 70% of “gender non-conforming” children who go through a natural puberty “go on to realise they are gay, lesbian or bisexual.” This, the article says, means that if a therapist affirms a child with gender dysphoria as transgender, when they are in fact gay, that therapist would be open to accusations of having engaged in conversion therapy.
Accusations of this type have been levied against clinicians in the Tavistock Clinic, the UK’s only gender transition clinic for children. Medical staff in the clinic have themselves been reported as saying that their work “feels like conversion therapy for gay kids.”
We asked the ACTC if they had considered this potential issue and if they had any comment to make on it. We did not receive a response. We also asked the ACTC on what grounds they thought the article had defended torture, and if anyone in their organisation had any medical qualifications relevant to transgender healthcare, but we have yet to receive a response. We will update this article should we receive one.