A family law and child protection expert says our proposed ‘Conversion Therapy’ ban will scare away therapists – “this is no time for the NZ Parliament to pass legislation that will be understood as seeking to scare therapists away from providing therapy to very troubled adolescents who identify as ‘trans’ or ‘gender diverse’. Patrick Parkinson AM is an expert on family law and child protection with 35 years’ experience in these fields, and has chaired Australia’s Family Law Council, led a major review of its child support system, and been President of the International Society of Family Law. He is now Professor of Law at the University of Queensland.
He has made a submission on the Conversion Practices Prohibition Legislation Bill. Here’s his key points:
This Bill is based upon two assumptions that need to be challenged. The first is that there is now a need to ban practices that seek to change or suppress sexual orientation, decades after, it seems, such practices ceased. The second is that therapies endeavouring to address issues of gender identity are as harmful as those that years ago sought to change sexual orientation.
There is little evidence to support the claim that gender identity is innate and immutable, making any efforts to ‘change’ or ‘suppress’ that gender identity both futile and damaging. Even progressive therapists argue that gender is fluid and that gender identity can change in an individual over time. There are now a lot of ‘detransitioners’ all over the western world, many of whom deeply regret their decision to take cross-sex hormones and to seek irreversible surgeries. The detransitioners alone are sufficient evidence that gender identity is not innate and immutable.
There is no evidence to support the claim that therapists who seek to assist children and young people to become more comfortable with their natal sex cause harm by so doing. Rather, the evidence is that with expert, cautious therapeutic support, some 75-85% of children with gender identity issues can be assisted to become comfortable with their natal sex. The majority of them grow up to be gay or lesbian as adults.
The Bill creates a draconian offence, punishable by three years’ imprisonment, for engaging in a conversion practice in relation to a child under 18. Even though the definition of a conversion practice allows for more diversity in therapeutic approach than in the Australian versions, the law is likely to have a chilling effect. This will mean that some mental health professionals refuse to see young patients with sexual orientation or gender identity issues who have other serious mental health concerns. This could lead to an increase in the mental health burden on already very troubled young people, and may lead to increased suicide attempts.
Parents who act upon expert medical advice in helping their children with gender identity issues risk prosecution and jail sentences under the law as currently drafted. This is likely to lead to huge distress for parents who are already experiencing very difficult circumstances. It could lead to very grave harms.
In summary, the Bill is very likely to cause harm to the NZ community. The tragedy which is now unfolding, not only in NZ but across the western world, will in time lead to investigative journalism exposés, Commissions of Inquiry and class action lawsuits. In NZ, this Bill, being enacted in late 2021 when the issues are already becoming widely known and top medical experts are warning of the consequences, is, in my view, reckless.
this is no time for the NZ Parliament to pass legislation that will be understood as seeking to scare therapists away from providing therapy to very troubled adolescents who identify as ‘trans’ or ‘gender diverse’.