Teachers “risk prosecution” for discussing gender with students

Boris Johnson is facing a revolt from the Tories over a “rushed” legal change that senior Tories say will lead to lawsuits against parents and teachers for helping children who claim to be transgender.

MPs and ministers are concerned about proposals to ban conversations about children’s ‘gender identity’, under pressure from Stonewall, the equality charity.

The plans are seen as a little-known extension of the government’s plans to ban gay conversion therapy, which are not considered controversial and were first promised by conservatives in 2018.

“Freedom of expression and belief”

A growing number of conservative parliamentarians fear that by also attempting to encapsulate conversion therapy aimed at changing gender identity, routine conversations between children and parents, teachers or clinicians will be criminalized and that more children will suffer. “radical medical or surgical interventions, which they later deeply regret. ”.

Government sources have insisted that gender identity has been part of the proposals since 2018, on the grounds that Theresa May had promised measures to ban conversion therapy aimed at “curing” lesbians, gays, bisexuals and men. transgender people. In a foreword to the formal consultation paper on the changes, Liz Truss, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister for Equalities, said that “freedom of choice, freedom of expression and belief” were “at the heart” of the proposals.

But on Saturday night, a series of backbenchers publicly warned the government to drop the proposals, as they urged the prime minister to extend the consultation, which is currently due to end on Friday after just over a months for people to raise objections.

Baroness Jenkin, the conservative peer who founded Women2Win, the conservative women’s organization, with Theresa May, said: “Legislation should not scare parents, children, teachers and clinicians into talking to each other.”

She added, “When a child is in pain, it is crucial that they have the time, space and supportive exploratory therapy to find out why they are feeling what they are feeling. “

“Trample on children’s vulnerabilities”

Tim Loughton, a former minister for children, said: “This legislation risks trampling on the vulnerabilities of children, many of whom engage in drug treatments that change their lives and can also make them infertile.”

Damian Green, the former first secretary of state, added: “The government needs to extend the consultation period and commit to a pre-legislative review so that this can be properly reflected, rather than just following the line. Stonewall. “

The plan to explicitly ban ‘heinous’ gay conversion therapy was first announced by Ms May in 2018, and cited by Carrie Johnson, the Prime Minister’s wife, in October as an example of the government’s commitment. Prime Minister in favor of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights. . He is defended by Henry Newman, one of Mr Johnson’s senior advisers.

But a growing number of Tory MPs, peers and government figures fear that the consultation document leaves the door open for teachers, parents, therapists and social workers facing lawsuits if they do not “assert” the position of those who identify as transgender.

They fear the government will create a slew of ‘elephant traps’ if it rushes through legislation in time for a Britain-hosted LGBT conference next summer. Campaigners also fear the changes will bring the concept of “gender identity” into law, despite ministers dropping plans to allow people to change their sex without a medical diagnosis, amid concerns. regarding the potential impact on children. Nikki da Costa, Mr Johnson’s former director of legislative affairs, warned against the “rush” of the legislation.

Fears about the move escalated last week when a new “easy-to-read” summary of the consultation for people with learning disabilities explained that conversation therapy “tries to change your sexual orientation or kind you want to be ”.

“A strong dose of common sense”

A government official said he was concerned that “the kind of approach described here will force teachers to tell children that they are in the wrong body when discussing gender.” The document was then withdrawn hours after its publication, raising concerns that people with disabilities were excluded from the consultation process.

Lord Goldsmith, the Minister for the Environment, warned that it was “so important that we have this legislation correct”, as he tweeted approvingly an article by an activist who warned of the risk of patients, teachers and therapists are “threatened with prison and professional ruin”.

The proposals are also opposed by Pauline Latham, MP for Mid Derbyshire, as well as Sally-Ann Hart, Miriam Cates and Ben Spencer, all of whom were part of the 2019 intake of Tory MPs.

Dr Spencer, a former NHS mental health consultant, said: “The law should not dictate what clinicians can or cannot discuss and explore with their patients as part of their treatment… otherwise people could be subjected to irreversible damage by neglecting the underlying treatable causes of their distress and instead undergo radical medical or surgical interventions, which they subsequently deeply regret. “

Ms Cates accused the government of “cutting corners because of the demands of a politically motivated campaign.”

A source close to Ms Truss said: “There will be a heavy dose of common sense applied to these proposals and they will be carefully designed to strike the right balance between protection of the under-18s, freedom of expression and the right adults willing to obtain pastoral support.

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