Trans people facing up to 'medical presumptions' in conversion therapy row, teachers say

Teachers have called for the Government ban on conversion therapy to apply to all LGBT people, including those who are trans

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At the annual National Education Union conference in Bournemouth on Thursday, teachers raised concerns over the Government’s “repeated U-turns on banning conversion therapy” and called on the NEU to release a statement calling for a ban on the practice for all LGBT people.

Mazz Bell, a member from Manchester, said conversion therapy had been defined by Amnesty International and other human rights organisations as a form of torture.

She added that the motion was not seeking to ban supportive counselling delivered by trained professionals, but that trans conversion therapy was built into “our society, medical presumptions and current conversations”.

Trans people faced being “misgendered, having their identity, feelings even their existence questioned and challenged, every single day," she added.

Hiten Shah, the NEU’s race and gender equality officer, spoke about their own experience of conversion therapy as a child.

The trans debate has sparked division in the UK
The trans debate has sparked division in the UK
Trans rights campaigners
Trans rights campaigners

They said: “Since I was young, I’ve always known that I was attracted to masculine-presented people and that I didn’t always feel the same way that other boys my age felt."

When they came out to their parents, their parents did not speak about the matter until two months later, when they took them to a faith healer.

They added: “I still remember that moment. She was dressed in a red sari; her hands were on my temples, trying to hear the demons that were in my head.

"I remember the smell of incense was sharp in the air.”

They said they could recall their teary eyes and the music playing in the background as the healer said their feelings would eventually pass.

“I’m standing here 11 years later and I’m telling you that those feelings have never passed, and I stand here proud of who I am.”

They added that this had happened in their first year of university and it was a “mild” story of conversion therapy.

They had heard of people being forced to “ingest curative substances, being subjected to exorcisms and, in the most horrific examples, even being forced into corrective rape”.

“At least half of the stories I have heard are from people who are younger than me when I first experienced it.

“We’re talking about people the age of our students.

“There are people out there telling our young people that they are broken and they need to be fixed.”

The NEU said it was concerned by the Government’s exclusion of trans people from its recent ban on conversion therapy, and added that the psychological care and counselling provided for people with gender dysphoria could not be mistaken for conversion therapy.

Union member Richard Rieser, opposing the motion, said: “There is a right for women to have single-sex spaces… and people shouldn’t be called terfs or transphobic because they fight for those rights.”

Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the NEU, said: “The Government should ban so-called ‘conversion therapy’ for gay or bisexual people and for transgender people. The ban must extend to and protect trans people equally.

“NHS England and other major psychological bodies in the UK have warned explicitly that all forms of conversion therapy are unethical and potentially harmful.

“Conversion therapy is used by psychological bodies to cover models of therapy which demonstrate an assumption that any sexual orientation of gender identity is inherently preferable to any other or which seeks to suppress somebody’s expression of sexual orientation or gender identity on the basis of such a bias.

“This perpetuates prejudice and undermines the wellbeing and rights of LGBT people.”