Transgender Trend are not a therapeutic organisation, they are a group set up by parents who refuse to accept their children's gender identity which campaigns against supporting gender diverse young people (1). As therapists we are acutely aware of the damage done to LGBTQ+ young people by family rejection (2) and all research bears this out. We work with the impact of it in adults too. Research on resilience show just what a difference a supportive family can make in the lives of LGBTQ+ youth. Specifically looking at trans youth, an affirmative position which respects their gender identity has been shown by a number of studies (3) to be protective against the frighteningly high rates of suicidal ideation, self harm and depression experienced by trans young people. These are basics which we would expect the editor of Therapy Today to be familiar with. It is also a vital component of the evidence based practice which the BACP promotes.
Acceptance and affirmation of a child or young person's sexuality or gender identity is not negotiable. Just as we would not expect the BACP to print arguments in support of the “ex gay” movement, we also expect them not to promote anti trans arguments. Indeed in signing the Memorandum of Understanding on Conversion Therapy 2 (4) the BACP agreed to not promote non affirmative stances.
"For the purposes of this document ’conversion therapy’ is an umbrella term for a therapeutic approach, or any model or individual viewpoint that demonstrates an assumption that any sexual orientation or gender identity is inherently preferable to any other, and which attempts to bring about a change of sexual orientation or gender identity, or seeks to suppress an individual’s expression of sexual orientation or gender identity on that basis". Quote from the MOU2
Transgender Trend, and those parents who seek to suppress their children's gender identity have developed the idea of “rapid onset gender dysphoria” to explain why their children have felt unable to share their feelings about their gender with them.
Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria does not exist.(5) It is not in the DSM or ICD. It fails basic research methodologies, and puts the beliefs of the parent above the needs of the child. LGBTQ+ people have long had to fight against the idea that they are a dangerous influence on children, and that children and young people are in some mystical way influenced simply by knowing of the existence of LGBTQ+ people. Section 28 in the UK used an identical argument, and was successfully challenged and overturned as a piece of prejudiced legislation.
It is worrying for the BACP to be printing a letter which suggests ROGD is an accepted clinical diagnosis. We fear that for therapists unfamiliar with how to support gender questioning children and their families this implicit endorsement will lead to efforts to suppress or change a child or young person's gender identity. This not only contravenes the Memorandum of Understanding (2) but the BACP’s own ethical framework (6) and the principles of benefice, non-maleficence and justice.
As signatories of the MOU(2) the BACP should be well aware that it is clearly stated that therapeutic support should not be denied those who are questioning their gender, as is claimed by the letter.
"This position is not intended to deny, discourage or exclude those with uncertain feelings around sexuality or gender identity from seeking qualified and appropriate help. This document supports therapists to provide appropriately informed and ethical practice when working with a client who wishes to explore, experiences conflict with or is in distress regarding, their sexual orientation or gender identity" Quote from the MOU2
Despite the claims of Stephanie Davies Arai, a spokesperson for Transgender Trend, who is not a member of the BACP, supporting a child or young person through any confusion, distress or uncertainty they have is a position which the BACP expects its members to adhere too. Again, in printing this letter the BACP may be leading its members who are unaware of the issues to work unethically with young people who are questioning their gender.
The complete lack of knowledge of gender, sexuality and relationship diverse communities is shown in the letter by the assumption that all trans men or transmasculine people are straight. To suggest that lesbians are transitioning because of internalised homophobia, or pressure from the outside which prefers transition to lesbianism demonstrates such ignorance that to see it in the pages of a professional journal is extremely shocking.
This is not a free speech issue, Therapy Today is not a tabloid newspaper or television talk show. It is the professional journal of the largest regulatory organization in the country for counselling and psychotherapy. In its pages practitioners look for guidance on how to work with their clients, in keeping with the ethics and values which the BACP expect its membership to adhere to. In signing the MOU(2) the BACP declared;
"Ethical practice in these cases requires the practitioner to have adequate knowledge and understanding of gender and sexual diversity and to be free from any agenda that favours one gender identity or sexual orientation as preferable over other gender and sexual diversities. For this reason, it is essential for clinicians to acknowledge the broad spectrum of sexual orientations and gender identities and gender expressions." Quote from the MOU2
This must also be the case in the letters, articles and papers published by Therapy Today.. Many therapists will look to the pages of their professional journal to provide information on how to work with families with a child who is questioning their gender. There is a real danger that in reading this letter the unethical and dangerous practices of conversion therapy will be unwittingly practiced by counsellors who believe that denying a child's gender identity is not contrary to being a member of the BACP
We close with a quote from the MOU(2) which was signed by the BACP in 2017
"Organisations with practice members will ensure through training and/or published guidelines that the relevant overarching ethical principles in their statements of ethical practice are understood and applied when working with sexually and gender diverse clients, as pertaining to the basic standards of honest, competent and non discriminatory practice to which clients of all identities and orientations are entitled"
The BACP has failed to maintain the basic standards of honest, competent and non discriminatory practice, and we expect not only an apology but concrete steps to ensure that all of its members are aware that non affirmative stances towards gender identity, are incompatible with membership of the BACP
1.Creating a trans-inclusive school environment - response to Transgender Trend Stonewall
2.Katz-Wise, S., Rosario, M. and Tsappis, M. (2016). Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Youth and Family Acceptance. Pediatric Clinics of North America, 63(6), pp.1011-1025.Ryan C, Huebner D, Diaz RM, Sanchez J. Family rejection as a predictor of negative health outcomes in white and Latino lesbian, gay, and bisexual young adults. Pediatrics. 2009;123:346–52Ryan C, Russell ST, Huebner D, Diaz R. Family acceptance in adolescence and the health of LGBT young adults. J. Child Adolesc. Psychiatr. Nurs. 2010;23:205–13Russell, S. and Fish, J. (2016). Mental Health in Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Youth. Annual Review of Clinical Psychology, 12(1), pp.465-487.
3..Durwood, L., McLaughlin, K. and Olson, K. (2017). Mental Health and Self-Worth in Socially Transitioned Transgender Youth. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 56(2), pp.116-123.e2.Olson, K., Durwood, L., DeMeules, M. and McLaughlin, K. (2016). Mental Health of Transgender Children Who Are Supported in Their Identities. PEDIATRICS, 137(3), pp.e20153223-e20153223.Katz-Wise, S., Ehrensaft, D., Vetters, R., Forcier, M. and Austin, S. (2018). Family Functioning and Mental Health of Transgender and Gender-Nonconforming Youth in the Trans Teen and Family Narratives Project. The Journal of Sex Research, pp.1-9.
4.UK organizations Unite Against Conversion Therapy - PInk Therapy Statement.
5.Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria is Junk Science The Advocate
6. The BACP Ethical Framework