With just three days to go on the consultation on banning “conversion therapy” there is still no sign of the promised “easy reading” version of the consultation document which was promised to “follow shortly” six weeks ago.
This is a consultation which is particularly relevant to people with learning difficulties. There is concern that increasing numbers of children with autism and communication difficulties are being self-diagnosed as transsexual: encouraged to think that their problems stem from “being born in the wrong body” and that they must be “affirmed” as the opposite sex. It emerged last year that 35% of children referred to the Tavistock GIDS clinic had autistic traits.
Sex Matters has written to Minister Mike Freer about the failure to produce the promised easy reading version, as well as to Baroness Kishwer Falkner, at the Equality and Human Rights Commission.
Last week the government finally published “version 5” of the easy reading document and then quickly unpublished it. Fortunately Sex Matters saved a copy.
As reported in The Telegraph and The Mail, the easy reading version suggests the ban would target teachers for prosecution if they do not agree that a child with learning difficulties is “the gender they want to be”.
The easy reading version of the consultation also tells lesbians with learning difficulties that sexual orientation relates to gender not sex, and people must be accepted as the “gender they want to be”.
The decision to seemingly abandon the attempt to provide an “easy reading” version of this rushed and ill-judged consultation is telling. Once the proposals are spelled out in plain language, it becomes all too easy to see what a bad idea they are.
A teacher explaining how gender identity is different from sex, and that “wanting to change your gender” is not the same as being the opposite sex might be accused of “conversion therapy”.
If a school says that a child is not allowed to use opposite-sex toilets or changing rooms or that a male child cannot compete in girls’ sports, or refuses to change a child’s pronouns and keep their sex secret, they are likely to face accusations of undertaking “conversion therapy” by not affirming their gender.
The consultation suggests that schools and other authorities should not “pressure” people to follow rules that relate to their sex, as this would be viewed as “control”.
The easy reading guide shows how poorly thought out this legislation is. It aims to protect people with learning difficulties but it puts them at greater risk of exploitation.
The Government Equality Office has now wiped the easy read consultation document from the website, although it told us last week that it was still planning to produce one.
We are calling on the government to extend the consultation and produce the promised easy reading guide.