The Canary in the Coal Mine –
Tasmanian Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Conversion Practices
Part One: Pseudo-Science and Pseudo–Needs
The Tasmanian Law Reform Institute (TLRI) have produced a report for the Tasmanian government recommending new laws to deal with sexual orientation and gender identity conversion practices (SOGI). This doesn’t sound as though it would be riveting reading – and for many people within and without Tasmania, it hardly seems relevant to their lives.
I read the report, mainly to prepare a short response. However I found it so disturbing and revealing that I have taken some time to respond in more detail. Why? Because it is a great example of how progressive ideology takes over the basic civic institutions of Western societies. To be forewarned is to be forearmed.
The report itself is 332 pages long. Which itself is a statement. Who is going to be bothered to read a report of that size on a subject which seems so inconsequential to most of us? If people bother with it at all it is likely to be within the comfort zones of their own interest groups – or they will just skim read it – note the various buzz words and either agree with the conclusions of the report, or just shrug their shoulders and walk away. Who cares? I do.
And so I thought I would share with you the main lessons to be learned from this report – lessons that can apply in many situations (e.g. The GRA reforms in Scotland, the compulsory trans ideology in the US, or the ‘diversity’ managers being imposed on the NHS in the UK, and corporations throughout the world). The message and the methodology is the same.
One of the main problems is the use of language. I am totally opposed to any form of conversion therapy which is coercive and harmful. Arguing against this report is not the same as arguing for conversion therapy. It is ironic that an ideology which is supposed to be against binary choices – only offers a binary choice. You are either on the ‘good’ side, the ‘right side of history’, the progressive; or you are an evil, hateful regressive. Although the report doesn’t put it in that language, the implication is the same. But life is much more complex than such simplistic binary views.
First, we will look at the sections of the report that deal with pseudo-science, the need for new legislation and the question of harm. Part two will look at the confused language, the question of consent and the definition of conversion. Part three looks at who the report is really aimed at and what its effect will be.
1) Pseudo-Science. We agree with the authors of the report that pseudo-science can be harmful. Especially in a world where those who are unaware of how real science operates, speak so religiously of ‘The science’. Therefore, it is surprising and concerning that the report seems to accept the pseudo-science of the Trans ideology movement. For example, it cites The Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Change Efforts Survivors: “Humans are born with the potential of developing into heterosexual people whose gender identity reflects their sex assigned at birth” (2.5.7). Sex is not ‘assigned at birth’. It is observed. The TLRI are too accepting of this pseudo-science which itself has profound harmful effects.
The irony is that a report which is supposed to be against conversion therapies will actually end up encouraging conversion therapies. But only the ones that fit the current ideological zeitgeist. The ideology of the report appears to regard gender identity as an immutable absolute, which is divorced from biological sex; but suggests that the body is mutable. The mind cannot be ‘converted’. But the body can.
But there is no scientific basis for declaring that an incongruence between body and mind is best dealt with by changing the body, rather than dealing with the mind. Apply this in another situation. Would it be right for me, as a pastor, to suggest that those who suffer from anorexia should be ‘affirmed’ in their self-identity that they were too fat? If a girl came to me and said that she really was a boy, why should her feeling be given precedence over the biological reality? The report accepts pseudo-science.
2) Need for the Legislation. “As acknowledged in the Issues Paper, no data about the nature and prevalence of SOGI conversion practices in Tasmanian exists. No scientific study has been published on the prevalence of SOGI conversion practices in Tasmania or Australia” (3.2.1). This is an astonishing statement. This serious and potentially difficult and harmful legislation is to be introduced, not because of any empirical evidence that it is necessary but because of ideological concerns backed up by purely anecdotal evidence.
The report admits that its estimates are based on extrapolated data from the UK and the US. Yet the report rejects other evidence and books that do not meet its ideological requirement by stating that “The standard for an academic search of scientific literature is to narrow the examination to peer-reviewed publications only” (4.4.5). There are no peer reviewed publications on the extent and prevalence of conversion therapy in Tasmania.
Even when it comes to anecdotal evidence, that presented in the TLRI report is extremely limited. For example, “While some of the members of the Uniting Network executive have experienced conversion practices and are aware of practices happening in Tasmania, we do not have specific stories to share” (3.4.11). I note in passing that the Uniting Church seems to have been the only Church appointed or cited in a positive way. I wonder why? Could it possibly be because it has swallowed the ideological Kool Aid of our contemporary society?
Furthermore, the report admits that there have been no civil cases brought: “To the TLRI’s knowledge, no civil claim has been adjudicated in Tasmania alleging harm from SOGI conversion practices” (8.1.1).
In summary the report provides no peer reviewed evidence of the extent or practice of conversion therapy in Tasmania. The anecdotal submissions were relatively few in number and none of them was verified. We do not doubt that some may well be true – and that their concerns are valid – but the problem is that it is unwise to make a major law change on the basis of some scattered anecdotal evidence. It really is taking a sledgehammer to crack a nut – particularly when existing legislation is adequate to deal with the small number of cases where any real harm is caused.
It is ironic that a report which warns of pseudo-science is itself based upon pseudo-science and unverified anecdotal evidence.
Sometimes for ideological reasons people accept stories because they suit the narrative (they may well reject others for the same reason). The LGBTQ Nation website recently showed the dangers of this by deconstructing the story of Sam Brinton, who for the past few years has been cited as prime evidence for the danger of conversion therapy.
3) Harm – The report is selective and ambiguous in its definition of ‘harm”.
The report seeks to exclude “direct practices, amounting to medical malpractice by health professions” (see 6:3). Yet, as we have seen above, the report itself offers little evidence that this is actually happening, and even more concerningly, does not seek to deal with medical malpractices such as mastectomies for teenage girls who have gender identity disorder. A recent study from the University of California (https://journals.lww.com/annalsplasticsurgery/pages/articleviewer.aspx?year=2022&issue=05004&article=00004&type=Abstract
identified 209 patients aged between 12 and 17 who had the operation. This is a 13-fold increase. Are the TLRI only concerned about the alleged harm that conversion therapies might cause? What about the harm that will be caused by the promotion of trans ideology?
There is significant evidence that the massive increase in teenage girls identifying as transgender is due to the influence of social media, particularly YouTube and TikTok (see Abigale Shirer’s Irreversible Damage). Before it was closed down the Tavistock NHS Foundation Trust saw its referrals increase from 77 in 2009 to 2,590 in 2018-9. Ten years ago, the vast majority of transitioners were male to female. In November 2017, the Guardian reported that 70 per cent of referrals to the Tavistock were female.
Furthermore, the report does not mention the harm caused by puberty blockers or other medical interventions. And it does not take account of the impact of autism, abuse or eating disorders. There is a warning here for Tasmania – the Tavistock clinic is scheduled to close in March 2023 precisely for ignoring these issues. Yet if someone in Tasmania was to express concerns about these issues and refuse to ‘affirm’ someone because of such concerns, he would be in danger of being prosecuted under this new legislation!
There is also a warning from Tasmania’s history. Part of the rationale for the disgraceful treatment of Tasmania’s aboriginal people was the pseudo-science of phrenology. Today’s politicians are in grave danger of allowing another pseudo-science – that of transgender ideology and Queer theory – to justify a policy which will cause untold harm.
“Several studies examined suicidality and concluded that exposure to conversion practices correlated with a significantly increased risk of suicidal ideation, planning and attempts” (4.4.38). Again this is an example of the extreme one-sidedness of the TLRI report. There is no mention of the fact that the suicide rate amongst transgender people is often twenty times that of other groups. Nor that the kind of treatment offered does more good than harm.
I was once told by a doctor who had specialised in trans surgery that he was stopping it because it had an 80% negative outcome. In medical terms that means that 80% of the people were worse off afterwards. Most medical procedures would not be undertaken if the risk was above 10%. Of course, that is anecdotal and cannot be proven. The doctor concerned wished to remain anonymous because of the danger to his or her job and career. The intimidation factor in these situations is significant, because primarily this is about ideology and politics, not science, medicine or humanity.
But if you don’t accept anecdotal evidence (unlike the report!) a study in Sweden found that, despite the significant societal support for transgender people in Sweden, ten to fifteen years after having undergone gender reassignment surgery the suicide rate amongst those affected was twenty times the norm.
For further evidence read this important article from Ryan T. Anderson – https://www.heritage.org/gender/commentary/sex-reassignment-doesnt-work-here-the-evidence
The question then becomes why is the TLRI proposing to ban a practice which rarely happens and has limited impact, whilst at the same time ignoring one which is increasingly being promoted and is proven to cause significant harm?
We will attempt to answer that question in part two.
– David Robertson