When Liz Truss confirmed that the government was committing itself to banning LGBT conversion therapy, there was some bemusement: is the middle of a pandemic really the time for this? The decision was announced back in May, and Truss – who serves as equalities minister – conceded that ‘many forms of the practice are already prevented under current legislation’. But this ‘new ban’, she added ‘will ensure that it is stamped out once and for all.’
Let’s be clear: coercive and abusive practices need rooting out. But if existing laws doesn’t work, will new ones really help? Or could they have unintended consequences?
James Esses – a trainee psychotherapist – worried that normal therapeutic practices could get caught in the net. He petitioned the government not to criminalise essential, explorative therapy, especially regarding gender dysphoric children. He was surely right to do so. After all, the landmark Keira Bell case exposed the folly of uncritical affirmation.
While the government offered assurances that a consultation would take place to ensure that free speech would be defended and religious freedom upheld before new conversion therapy legislation was introduced, the thought police have been brutal to Esses.
Following complaints about his social media activity, he was expelled from his training course. Three years into his five-year degree – which has cost him thousands of pounds – Esses claims that the Metanoia institute cancelled him by email.
‘I was simply told I had brought them into disrepute,’ he says. Heaping further pressure on Esses, Metatonia went public. In a tweet shared with their 2,000 followers, the charity said:
‘Whilst we do not publicly comment on our internal processes, today we have terminated a students’ membership to Metanoia Institute.’
His volunteering contract with Childline was also subsequently terminated.