CARTOON BY BRIAN DOYLE

Woke politicians around the world want to ban “conversion therapy”, though most of them could not tell you exactly what it is or who is doing it.

For many people, the term evokes nasty scenarios from decades ago, before homosexual activity was legalised, including electric shock therapy and aversion therapy to change sexual orientation, or the subsequent efforts of some religious enthusiasts to simply “pray the gay away”.

What the average person doesn’t realise is that it now includes parents, pastors, teachers and possibly mental health professionals who recoil from the idea of giving drugs to 12-year-olds to stop them entering puberty because the children are unhappy with their sex.

Putting a legal straightjacket on such adults, if not outright criminalising them, is the intent of a bill currently in the New Zealand parliament, and of laws recently passed in Australia and elsewhere.

Such also would be the effect of a policy adopted by the British Medical Association at its annual representatives meeting in mid-September, on a motion from the Junior Doctors Conference. Although the motion mentions only “gay conversion therapy” it is clear from a report that by the time the motion came up for debate, it included transgender people:

“That this meeting finds the practice of gay conversion therapy to be unethical and damaging. We call on the BMA to:- i) lobby the UK government to ensure this damaging practice is banned; ii) lobby the GMC [General Medical Council] to introduce sanctions up to and including erasure of medical practitioners performing gay conversion therapy.”

Although she was giddy with joy over the success of her lobbying, the outcome of the vote on conversion therapy was definitely not expected by its proponent, junior doctor Emma Runswick — some doctors had had the audacity to dissent from the majority.

Oh yes, the motion was passed by a comfortable majority of 59 percent, but the young doctor, who identifies as queer, was shocked that no less than 26 percent of her colleagues at the meeting voted against lobbying the government for a ban (leaving 15 percent sitting on the fence).

On Twitter she hyperventilated, “Some of our colleagues want to have the option of torturing us without consequence … significant numbers of our colleagues believe that we LGBTQ+ folks — especially #trans people — are inferior, or sick, or liars, or dangerous, or some combo of that.”

The vote on lobbying the General Medical Council – the doctors’ licencing body – to erase medical practitioners performing conversion therapy was even more divided: 49 percent for and 35 percent against.

The existence of a different point of view was a bodyblow to poor Dr Runswick’s self-esteem. She told medical journalist Becky McCall that she was so shocked by the voting that it brought on her first ever panic attack. “This is an attack on our personhood as queer people,” she protested. And if she has her way, retribution is coming. One of her Twitter followers asked for a video of the vote, presumably to name and shame the dissenters.

Erasure is a powerful, menacing, aggressive word associated more with the Italian Mafia than with the British Medical Association — up to now, that is. It means “to remove or destroy something, especially something that shows that that person or thing ever existed or happened”. Is this what LGBTQ+ doctors intend to do with those problematic dissidents?

That more than a third of the meeting did not vote for banning conversion therapy is indeed surprising – nothing in the media suggests that so many health professionals are reluctant to criminalise what is essentially talk therapy.

The vote almost certainly would have been different if the motion had been only about “gay conversion therapy”. It was when transgenders were smuggled into the motion that some delegates were turned off.

Before these final votes, in the middle of what seems to have been a fraught debate, one opponent asked for an end to the discussion so the meeting could move to other business. When his motion was put to the vote, 50 percent of the meeting supported him. Since a two-thirds majority was required, they lost the vote, but it was a discouraging sign for Runswick and friends.

Together, though, the various votes are a reassuring sign for those worried about the trend to suck children into the transgender machine and change their bodies before they are capable of understanding the consequences.

If British doctors are less hesitant about banning therapy for people who are unhappy with same-sex attraction, there are still some who think bans are out of place and individuals should be left free to choose. One, Dr Gerald Freshwater, commented on McCall’s Medscape article:

“Odious though ‘conversion therapy’ is … [f]or so long as it is not inflicted on people against their will, it should remain a matter of free choice. In the occasional case where someone truly wishes to change their sexual orientation, they at least have that option, which would be denied if the proposed lobbying were successful. We are perhaps too ready to ban activities which we believe may be harmful, even ones as unpleasant as this.”

So, what has Dr Runswick learned from all this? Only that some colleagues will be hard to re-educate. While recognising that “the inclusion of trans people was difficult for a lot of doctors,” as she told McCall, it only demonstrated that there was “a lot of transphobia among the profession and it needs dealing with.”

Those who stubbornly resist will, if she and her friends have their way, face the ultimate in conversion therapy: erasure.

Carolyn Moynihan

Carolyn Moynihan is the former deputy editor of MercatorNet