Conversion therapy Scotland: Proposals for ban could introduce transgender self-ID by back door

The Scottish Government is looking at proposals to ban conversion therapy

Proposals to ban conversion therapy would allow self-ID to be legalised through the back door, the Scottish Conservatives have said.

The Scottish Government is consulting on proposals to ban conversion therapy, which is defined as any act that seeks to alter or suppress a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. However, the Scottish Tories have said the party is worried any legislation could “criminalise” parents who question their child claiming they want to change their gender.

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This could lead to self-ID being introduced in Scotland, despite previous attempts to legalise this being blocked, the opposition party has claimed.

Scottish Conservative MSP Rachael Hamilton. Image: Phil Wilkinson.Scottish Conservative MSP Rachael Hamilton. Image: Phil Wilkinson.
Scottish Conservative MSP Rachael Hamilton. Image: Phil Wilkinson.

Speaking at the Scottish Conservative Party conference on Friday, Rachael Hamilton MSP said: “We will debate this a bit further, because I do believe that conversion therapy could be a conduit to backdoor reform for self-ID.”

The party’s deputy leader Meghan Gallacher has previously said the party opposes the “abhorrent practice”. This comes after a majority of MSPs passed a Bill to make it easier for trans people to legally change their gender in December 2022.

The Bill would have reduced the amount of time a person needed to live in their acquired gender, lowered the age limit from 18 to 16, and removed the need for a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria, allowing them to self-ID as transgender.

However, Scottish Secretary Alister Jack blocked this legislation from becoming law, saying it impacted on the UK-wide Equality Act.

At an event at the party conference hosted by For Women Scotland, Ms Hamilton said she suffered from nightmares because of the backlash she received for publicly opposing gender reform.

She said: “During the conversation around gender recognition reform, we were accused of being transphobic and toxic. It was really a horrible time. I actually have nightmares about it, but I don’t want to retrace those steps.”

During the event, the LGB Alliance also said banning conversion therapy was not a priority for those who identify as gay or bisexual.

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Malcolm Clark, from the alliance, said: “The age of consent and gay marriage, those were the priorities for the gay community – no one mentioned conversion therapy as being a problem. The LGBTQ+ groups have approached this with hysterical exaggerations of the problem, when it’s not really a major problem.

“The problem is this is really about introducing gender identity by the back door. The ridiculous irony is there really is a problem with conversion therapy in this country, but it’s happening in gender identity clinics where young, troubled children are going and being told ‘yes, you’re in the wrong body, here’s some puberty blockers’.”

Mr Clark said people should still be given the choice to go through conversion therapy.

The Scottish Government’s consultation document on banning conversion therapy states the practice needs to be outlawed as it is “inherently harmful”.

The document said: “They deny people’s right to be themselves and send a message to the LGBT+ community as a whole that their identity is wrong and can and should be fixed or suppressed.

“The impact of conversion practices on people can be life-long – often, the harm is not immediately apparent. People who have experienced conversion practices have reported severe mental health consequences, including suicidal ideation, depression and anxiety.”

Councillor Blair Anderson, who describes himself as a survivor of conversion therapy, hit out at the comments made by the LGB Alliance after the event,

Mr Anderson, who is a Green councillor at Glasgow City Council, said the UK Government’s national LGBT survey in 2019 found thousands of people had experienced conversion therapy.

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He added research from UCLA found survivors of conversion therapy are twice as likely to consider or attempt suicide compared to those who hadn’t.

Councillor Anderson said: “For a group that claims to care about lesbian, gay and bisexual people, to call survivors of homophobic abuse ‘hysterical’ is a disgusting insult and shows that they are no friend or ally to the overwhelming majority of the LGBT+ community who want conversion therapy banned for all.

“Speaking as a gay man whose childhood, health, family and faith was taken from me because of homophobic conversion therapy - if the LGB Alliance don’t think that conversion therapy is an issue, that speaks volumes about where their priorities lie and it’s not in protecting lesbian, gay or bi people.”

The Scottish Government has been approached for comment.



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