This must be Labour’s most disturbing policy yet

Trans rights activists take part in a protest against the ban on hormone blockers
Trans rights activists take part in a protest against the ban on hormone blockers

Throughout the last Parliament, a number of both Labour and Conservative MPs sought to pressure the Government into banning so-called ‘conversion therapy’.

On the face of it, this may seem a noble aim. Some of the ‘therapies’ employed in the past to attempt to change a person’s sexual orientation were utterly abhorrent and included the use of electric shock treatment and rape. But of course – mercifully – these practices are now very much illegal, and the Government Equalities Office found no evidence that they are taking place today in the UK. Non-violent but coercive ‘practices’ are also illegal, and we have a whole host of legislation that covers harassment, sexual abuse, domestic abuse and homophobic speech and discrimination.

Yet for many campaigners, this isn’t enough and they have repeatedly called not only for a ban on attempts to alter someone’s sexuality, but for this ban to include a prohibition on changing someone’s ‘gender identity’. And this is where the task of drafting effective legislation moves from the ‘difficult’ to the ‘impossible’ pile. Because, in law or in fact, there is no objectively verifiable definition or test of ‘gender identity’.

This is why two attempts to bring Private Members Bills this year – one in the Commons and one in the Lords – have both failed. In speech after speech, MPs and Peers pointed out the Bills’ flaws, exposing the weaknesses of any legislation that would prevent parents, teachers and therapists from asking sensible questions and providing wise guidance to children who are questioning their gender. Both of these discredited laws could have resulted in parents, teachers and clinicians being criminalised if they deliberately set out to dissuade a child from ‘changing sex’.

The sad truth is that, over the last 15 years, more and more children have been exposed to gender ideology, which is now rampant in school, institutions and social media across the Western world. The Tavistock scandal and the Cass Review exposed just how pernicious and dangerous this ideology is, especially to vulnerable children such as those with autism or who have experienced trauma. Countless thousands of children treated at NHS gender clinics were put on a path of irreversible physical and biological change – including the loss of healthy body parts, infertility, sexual dysfunction and lifelong health problems. This scandal happened because too many adults failed to question the idea that a child can or should ‘change sex’. Instead of giving these children wise and evidence-based counsel, clinicians – and some activist charities and even teachers – accepted that feelings of gender dysphoria in children as young as ten or eleven should be celebrated and treated as a real and irrefutable sign that they had been ‘born in the wrong body.’

Yet rather than considering how to avoid a repeat of this tragedy the Labour Party’s response is to commit to bringing in a ‘trans inclusive’ conversion therapy ban that would make it even harder for responsible adults to protect children from the harms of gender ideology. Seemingly dismissive – or perhaps unaware – of the very serious unintended consequences for child protection and free speech that such a ban would invoke, Keir Starmer believes he can succeed where the Government and Parliament have failed.

We understand that Labour’s ban would include ‘safeguards’ similar to those included in former Labour MP Lloyd Russell-Moyle’s unsuccessful Private Members Bill. But these ‘safeguards’ were worthless, containing a multitude of contradictions, circular definitions and a failure precisely to define key terms such as ‘transgender’. Incomprehensibly, under Russell-Moyle’s Bill, a parent would have been ‘protected’ from prosecution under the conversion practices legislation, except if they were guilty of a conversion practice. As we have seen from cases brought under the Equality Act, it would take just one successful prosecution to induce a chilling effect on anyone who seeks to protect children.

Conservatives who stand up to such extreme attempts to undermine society are frequently accused of stoking a culture war. But the truth is that it is those on the Left who are waging a full-on war on our culture, a culture which – until now at least – upholds the rights of parents to protect and guide their children as they see fit. The fact that Keir Starmer is willing to risk criminalising responsible parents tells us all we need to know about his ‘changed’ Labour Party.