The Victorian Government’s Change and Suppression (Conversion) Practices Prohibition Bill intends not to just prohibit change or suppression practices, but to “denounce” them and to “eliminate” them. This is ominous – like a star chamber or Inquisition.
We will always support efforts to protect vulnerable people from harm. However, despite the government’s rhetoric, this bill is flawed and there are serious concerns over its implications and overreach.
The bill makes it an offence to engage in a “change or suppression practice” whether with or without the person’s consent. So, a psychiatrist or psychologist, counsellor or any person can be guilty of “conversion practices” even if the person seeking help consents.
Gender identity and same sex attraction are fluid or changing over time. Why should anyone be permanently locked into a particular gender identity or orientation? The DLP says don’t take away their ability to explore all the options, including not transitioning, de-transitioning or exiting same-sex attraction, if they so wish.
Parents could be guilty if they do not support their child’s gender transition. The bill puts a legal barrier between parents and children speaking openly and honestly with each other.
Religious counselling, even prayer, is prohibited. This elicited a response from Most Rev. Peter A. Comensoli, the Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne, who issued a statement on 8 December 2020. The statement expresses genuine concern about the bill and lists a number of significant unresolved questions about the bill’s practical implications.
The ALP has apparently consulted with survivors of “conversion practices” – but did it consult with those who sought and benefitted from assistance to explore their changing feelings about their gender identity or same-sex attraction? They do exist. Click here to hear some of their stories. These stories could even be banned in future as an offence as “inducing” another person to change or suppress their sexual orientation or gender identity.
The desistance rates are very high for children with gender dysphoria who do not transition. Offering the option of assistance to “wait and see”, rather than supporting a child to transition gender, is fundamental. Even the American Endocrine Society, which actively promotes puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones for pubescent children, counsels against social transition in its practice guidelines because of the high rate of desistance.
Banning “conversion practices” effectively discriminates against those who would like to have counselling or some kind of support to explore their unwanted feelings or behaviours.
The bill is a lengthy and complex piece of legislation. At the very least, it should go to a committee for inquiry so all these sorts of issues can be given full consideration.
The bill passed the Legislative Assembly (lower house) on 10 December, but is still to be considered by the Legislative Council (upper house) from February 2021.