Joanna Cherry comments on conversion therapy 'deeply concerning' and seek to 'undermine' calls for ban

A campaign group that gave evidence to MSPs around a potential ban of conversion therapy in Scotland has criticised a high-profile SNP MP for allegedly attempting to “justify conversion therapy”.

End Conversion Therapy Scotland, which has run a campaign to ban the practice, said it was “deeply concerning” to read comments by Joanna Cherry on the topic in which she said it should not be a criminal offence for therapists to help those with gender dysphoria “to feel comfortable in their birth sex”.

Conversion therapy is defined as practices which seek to change or ‘cure’ someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity, with all parties in Holyrood standing on a manifesto to ban the practice.

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The Scottish Parliament is considering a petition calling for a ban, with the SNP also committing to bringing forward legislation if equivalent legislation is not brought forward in Westminster.

Joanna Cherry has defended comments made on Twitter about conversion therapyJoanna Cherry has defended comments made on Twitter about conversion therapy
Joanna Cherry has defended comments made on Twitter about conversion therapy

Ms Cherry has been criticised by campaigners, including the Equality Network charity, for comments in which she said therapy aiming to help someone with gender identity issues become comfortable with their birth sex should be excluded from a ban.

Blair Anderson, a member of End Conversion Therapy Scotland and survivor of the practice, said: “There is no effective, or safe, or acceptable form of conversion therapy. Conversion therapy is wrong in all of its forms and we have been clear from the start of our campaign – any ban must be comprehensive and must protect all LGBTQ+ people.

"It is deeply concerning to see attempts being made to justify conversion therapy when it is used on trans people. We have been clear that we do not seek to prohibit affirmative therapy or healthcare for anyone.

"We completely support people accessing these services, where they are done so in a supportive and affirming way, without a pre-supposed or intended outcome.

"A so-called therapeutic experience which has the intention of ‘curing’ or ‘converting’ trans people to live as cis is, by definition, conversion therapy.”

He added: “It is deeply concerning that there are elected representatives out there in Scotland who see fit to undermine and oppose a conversion therapy ban.”

Responding, Ms Cherry said her tweet referenced concerns around the inclusion of gender identity in a ban on conversion therapy.

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She said: “My tweet made it quite clear that I oppose conversion therapy as conventionally understood. As a lesbian myself, this is hardly surprising.

"However, I share the concerns of many that the inclusion of the concept of ‘gender identity’ in the UK Government Bill risks threatening professionals working with children and vulnerable people who are having issues with their gender if they seek to explore the reasons for their distress.

“Over the past few years, there has been a very worrying rise in the number of children, particularly girls, becoming convinced they were ‘born in the wrong body’ and seeking to take puberty-blocking drugs and cross-sex hormones.

"This is a controversial, experimental medical treatment for a complex problem. We have also seen an increase in the number of young people who have later regretted the irreversible changes made to their bodies and who have sought to ‘detransition’.

“I am concerned that young women, particularly those who may be lesbians, should be offered alternatives to such drastic medical pathways.”

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