The Observer HQ, where they decided to take a pro conversion therapy stance. Credit Nigel Mykura Wikimedia Commons
The Observer HQ, where they decided to take a pro conversion therapy stance. Credit Nigel Mykura Wikimedia Commonstq30338340

In an Observer Editorial piece the publication outlines its pro conversion therapy position claiming that criminalising the practice “poses risk to children’s welfare”.

The article has been widely criticised on Twitter by the trans community for being misleading, leaving out facts or intentionally just pretending not to know things to make its argument sound at all coherent. No name has been put to the piece though earlier this year Trans Writes revealed information about an anti-trans workgroup within Guardian Media Group.

From the get go the piece is indeed fearless in pushing its gender critical narratives, first of all framing changes made within healthcare for trans youth as “welcome” – without saying by whom. It certainly isn’t by the trans community, as Abigail Thorn shows in her piece covering proposals by NHS England.

Before you’ve even had chance to get to your feet after this violent shunt into transphobia the article is already back at it again. This time via asserting the existence of an “ideologically driven affirmative model that views dysphoria in children purely as a sign of fixed trans identity”.

This is the first paragraph, four lines, and in it they have already deliberately lied about what trans people’s position is and fearmongered about that. The rest of the piece does not particularly improve.

The piece cites an article from Kathleen Stock, links directly to anti-trans organisations websites – one of which happens to include Elaine Miller, you know, the lady who sewed a pubic wig to her tights in Scottish Parliament? That one. These are apparently the most valuable voices on healthcare for trans youth, above even trans people – including youth themselves – who The Observer do not cite even once.

The short story of The Observer piece is the same hand-wringing nonsense we – the LGBTQIA+ community – have heard with regards to banning conversion therapy for decades already.  That it would be too hard and we’re not defining what we want very well – the piece outright states that “no one has been able to precisely define what trans conversion therapy is”.

This is a lie. Anti-trans conversion therapy, along with other anti-lgbtqia+ conversion efforts have been discussed at length – The Observer would be aware of this had they bothered to cite even a single trans person speaking on this subject. Such as my friends at Trans Safety Network who have multiple pieces exposing anti-trans conversion efforts in the UK.

To put it quite simply; an anti-trans conversion effort is any attempt to dissuade a person from a transgender identity or expression. This ranges from extremes, such as electroshock therapies, to the more mundane such as grounding a child for engaging in a behaviour you percieve to be as indicative of a transgender identity.

Often this is, ironically, due to ideologically motivated reasons. For one reason or another the person supporting conversion therapy believes that being transgender is bad or worse than being cisgender – many believe that being transgender isn’t even a thing. So they attempt to coerce them into a cisgender identity.

To disguise their support for conversion therapy many transphobes, including The Observer, attempt to bury it in terms like “exploratory therapy”. Claiming that what trans people want is to criminalise any one who offers any kind of alternative to transition and affirmation.

Trans people have already covered how these dogwhistle terms are being used to cover for conversion therapy practices elsewhere. The key difference between an actual explorative therapy that seeks to help someone understand who they are and a conversion therapy practice which attempts to persuade someone to be one way or the other should be clear to anyone who doesn’t also agree that being transgender is something to be avoided.

This piece by The Observer offers nothing new to the debate surrounding bans on conversion therapy. It is the same empty and ignorant nonsense we’ve all read a thousand times before. Vapid hand-wringing that deliberately refuses to engage with the topic in favour of acting upset about the implications it pulled entirely out of the ass of the anti-trans collective online.

I don’t know who specifically wrote or signed off on this – but oh boy do I hope we get to find out. These are names that should never work in the industry ever again – given how completely they’ve lost sight of anything objective, factual or even humane.

In my view you either oppose conversion therapy attempts against lgbtqia+ people or you are pro-conversion therapy practices. There is no middle ground on this. To me, The Observer, a major UK publication, has taken a pro conversion therapy stance in its editorial by choosing to try and muddy the waters with this piece.

All that’s left to decide is whether you are okay with that.