Where sex matters | Relationships


One of the most basic places where sex matters is in relationships and family life, whether that means dating, marriage and civil partnerships or pregnancy, childbirth and parenthood.

Two people sharing a bed, both looking unhappy

Sex matters when it comes to sex and sexual orientation.

What’s the problem? 

Laws and policies which say that people can change sex directly contradict the reality of sexual orientation, sexual consent and sexual reproduction. 

The law has long recognised deceit in sexual relationships as a crime, and that includes deception about what sex people say they are. The 1969 court case Corbett vs Corbett granted an annulment of a marriage on the grounds that April Ashley, despite having had sexual reassignment surgery, remained male. There have been several cases where women have been convicted of sexual assault for deceiving other women that they are a man in order to sleep with them.

The Crown Prosecution Service has promoted guidance which confuses sex and gender when it comes to sexual consent.

In October 2021, a BBC News article highlighted a problem that had already been much discussed on social media: that lesbians were being pressured and coerced into accepting trans-identifying men as partners. This situation developed out of the ideology that gender supersedes sex, recasting same-sex attraction as a matter of gender and casting gay men and women who are not attracted to the opposite sex as “transphobic”. This has been promoted by groups such as Stonewall and Amnesty International

Eroding the definition of man and woman in the Equality Act also erodes clarity about the definition of sexual orientation in the Equality Act 2010, which makes it harder to protect the rights of lesbians, gays and bisexuals. The LGB Alliance has faced a challenge to its charitable status because it supports lesbian, gay and bisexual people and defines sexual orientation in terms of sex. 


  • Stonewall chair speaks (and then recants)

    Iain Anderson, chair of trustees for Stonewall, has given an extended interview to Sky News’s Beth Rigby. It is well worth watching the whole thing. In the interview Anderson seemed to be trying to distance the organisation from the extreme position it has taken, saying that he recognises that...

    22nd July 2023

  • Sex Matters responds to CPS consultation

    Sex Matters has responded to the Crown Prosecution Service’s public consultation on its proposed revision to the section on “deception as to gender” in its guidance on prosecuting rape and serious sexual offences. In fact what the chapter should be called is “deception as to sex”. The case law...

    19th December 2022

  • "We think Squires’ legal analysis in this advice is fundamentally flawed."

    Converting minds or bodies? 

    A riposte to the Good Law Project’s published advice on conversion therapy

    16th August 2022

  • Conversion therapy? Differential diagnosis? Gender exploratory therapy?

    What is conversion therapy?

    Stella O’Malley of Genspect explains… “Gay conversion therapy” is the term given to attempts to change a person’s sexual orientation from gay to straight. This includes demeaning and painful practices such as electric shocks, forced watching of pornography and, in extreme cases, “corrective rape”. Such abhorrent practices are now...

    15th June 2022

  • Sex Matters briefing for conversion therapy debate

    On Monday 13th June there will be a Westminster Hall debate on introducing “gender identity” into the planned government bill to ban gay conversion therapy. This is a debate following a public petition. It is not a government motion, but a government Minister will respond. This is Sex Matters’...

    11th June 2022

  • “Conversion” therapy or just therapy?

    On 23rd May 2022 an article appeared in the i news stating that Dr Az Hakeem was under investigation for attempting to “practise transgender conversion therapy”. Dr Az Hakeem is a psychiatrist now in private practice after more than 15 years working in the NHS. He is Fellow of...

    8th June 2022

  • Has your MP fallen for a simple slogan?

    Was your MP one of the ones who posed with a sign about banning conversion therapy? It is worth writing to them urgently. Make sure they hear the other side. Use our form to send them Dr Hilary Cass’s interim report and Sex Matters’ report on the “Ban Conversion...

    16th May 2022

  • A misguided campaign

    No ban on talk therapy for gender-distressed children in Queen’s Speech

    It has been confirmed in the Queen’s Speech that the government intends to pursue a limited ban on “conversion therapy” aimed at practices intended to change sexual orientation but not to include in this therapy to resolve gender distress. But the “ban” campaign continues to promote simplistic slogans about...

    11th May 2022

  • How did a campaign to criminalise the most effective treatment for gender-distressed children make it from the margins to the mainstream with no evidence?

    What is behind the campaign to ban conversion therapy?

    The campaign to ban “conversion therapy” has come out of nowhere, to suddenly dominate the priorities of organisations such as Stonewall, Gendered Intelligence, Mermaids, GIRES and the LGBT Foundation. There have been protests and petitions, and these groups pulled out of a planned international conference on human rights when...

    4th May 2022

  • Sex Matters’ statement on conversion therapy law

    Sex Matter praises decision to abandon fatally flawed “Conversion Therapy Bill”.

    31st March 2022

  • Responses to the government consultation on banning conversion therapy

    The government's consultation on conversion therapy has now closed, and the responses are being analysed. More than a thousand people used the form on our website to send the government their own responses to the consultation.

    11th February 2022

  • It’s not too late to talk to your MP!

    Sex Matters supporters have been speaking to their MPs about the proposed legislation on conversion therapy. Their reports from face-to-face and telephone meetings highlight the need for a proper review of the proposals.  Supporters who have managed to speak to their MPs tell us that some have been surprised...

    2nd February 2022

  • Logos of organisations listed

    Organisations unite to praise the EHRC

    Twenty different campaigning groups from across the UK have come together in a statement of response on the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s recent communications – with the UK Government about conversion therapy and with the Scottish Government about reform of the Gender Recognition Act. The EHRC has come...

    31st January 2022

  • ‘The consultation document contains no clear definition of what will amount to “conversion therapy” caught by its proposals, nor of the meaning of “transgender”...’

    The EHRC steps up

    Sex Matters welcomes its statements on Gender Recognition Act reform and conversion therapy.

    26th January 2022

  • Myths and truths on conversion therapy

    Equalities Minister Mike Freer says that he wants to “bust myths” about the government‘s plan to ban conversion therapy. The good news is that he says that he wants to take care to get the legislation right: “This Government has no intention to stop parents, clinicians, teachers, or anyone...

    21st January 2022

  • The speakers in Middle Temple

    Opposing the return of gay conversion therapy: a lawyer’s view

    On 16 November 2021, writes Sex Matters Chair Naomi Cunningham, I gave a talk at the Middle Temple LGBTQ+ Forum’s inaugural annual dinner, to an audience of barristers and Bar students, and their guests. Middle Temple is one of the four ancient Inns of Court: aspiring barristers must join...

    16th January 2022

  • Conversion therapy: take action

    The government’s plan to “ban gender identity conversion therapy” is ill-considered. It will: threaten parents, teachers, therapists and youth workers with prosecution if they do not affirm that a child is “born in the wrong body” make it harder for children experiencing gender issues to access supportive, exploratory mental health...

    5th January 2022

  • Take action. Respond to the consultation.

    Conversion therapy consultation extended!

    We asked you to tell your MP to #presspause on the conversion therapy consultation. Thousands of you did, they listened, and we’ve got what was needed: an extension of eight weeks.  The next step is to get as many people as possible to respond to the consultation and we...

    9th December 2021

  • Where is the easy reading version of the conversion therapy consultation?

    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...

    7th December 2021

  • Conversion therapy: calling for legislation without evidence

    Last week at an event at Middle Temple, Sex Matters Chair Naomi Cunningham highlighted the lack of evidence for harm from “gender identity conversion therapy” (a broad and undefined term being used to promote rushed legislation). Jayne Ozanne, the chief promoter of this proposed legislation, called this “offensive and...

    22nd November 2021

  • Have you emailed your MP ?

    Nearly 2,000 people have emailed their MP to say #presspause on #conversion therapy ban Here are the ones with the biggest postbags so far. Numbers count, so keep sending Lucas, Caroline 39 Kyle, Peter 18 Zeichner, Daniel 18 Starmer, Keir 17 West, Catherine 15 Eshalomi, Florence 15 Heald, Oliver...

    19th November 2021

  • Conversion therapy update

    1500 people have already used our 2 minute form to write to their MPs asking them to #presspause on the government’s conversion therapy consultation. Many people have written that it’s the first time they’ve contacted their elected representative about anything and hundreds have shared deeply personal reasons for their...

    17th November 2021

  • GEO research finds no evidence for banning transgender “conversion therapy”

    The UK government is proposing making it an offence for therapists to question the gender self-identity of children or vulnerable people. They asked a research team from Coventry University to study the evidence on "conversion therapy". This is our rapid review of that evidence.

    3rd November 2021

  • What does the National LGBT Survey Show about Conversion Therapy

    Is there evidence of an urgent epidemic of conversion therapy?

    One piece of evidence that is often cited in support of a ban on “conversion therapy” is the the Government’s LGBT Survey undertaken in 2017. 108,000 people responded. 2% of all respondents reported having previous undergone conversion therapy and a further 5% said they had been offered it. A...

    6th October 2021

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