Erasing Lesbians, Transing the Gay Away.
In parts 1 and 2 we looked at demographic and hate crime data to debunk the idea that LGB people were being erased or transitioning to avoid homophobia.
Our final part in this series of articles is the hardest one, looking at the most complex and insidious claims of all - the idea that LGB people are being told they’re really transgender through ‘affirming’ therapy, and that transitioning is really conversion therapy for LGB people.
As usual when it comes to trans hostile claims, it involves wading through layers of sophistry to reveal the truth - so lets start right at the beginning, with the definitions and research they use. Im going to try and use ‘gay’ throughout to refer to both gay men and lesbian women, simply for brevity.
How do you define ‘gay’?
The obvious answer is ‘however the person uses it to describe their own attraction’.
For most people in the LGBT community, the general answer has evolved over time to be ‘someone who is attracted to their own sex/gender’.
For some people, that literally does mean ‘same sex’, and that genitals are the deciding factor. For others, it means ‘same gender’, where what matters more is the person’s overall identity and what genitals someone has is not a deciding factor. For others still, it’s a mix of the two.
Sexual attraction, like identity, is complex.
Each are entirely valid, however trans hostile activists like declaring who can, or cannot, use terms to an extreme level - and in doing so deny the experiences of anyone not in the ‘genitals are everything’ group. This has led to the increased use of the term ‘same sex attracted’ to dismiss LGBT experiences outside of that definition - a term that originates with LGBT hostile religious groups in the USA.
It’s a foundational issue behind most trans hostile claims in this area, because it plays into, and reinforces assumptions and prejudices around binary, biological essentialism (that there are only two sexes so there are only two genders) - as well as tying you up in semantic knots from the very beginning.
According to trans hostile groups and activists, this means gay men aren’t really gay if theyre attracted to trans men, and lesbian women arent really lesbian if theyre attracted to trans women - and in both instances the gay people involved are really ‘straight’ or if they’re feeling charitable, bisexual.
An important point to note is that this doesn’t apply the other way around - it means that trans women who are attracted to cisgender women, and trans men who are attracted to cisgender men are really straight in the trans hostile view. Perversely, they also make the claim that trans women are really gay men, and trans men are really lesbian women - regardless of who they are attracted to.
This is entirely deliberate, denying both trans identities and attractions as invalid because they do not meet the strict definitions they have defined, as well as creating more confusion.
‘Label’ arguments within the LGBT+ community are as old as the community itself, but understanding that trans hostile activists operate from an exclusionary perspective is a key factor in understanding this issue. When you deny trans people’s experiences and existence, it becomes easier to sell the lies that follow.
Instead of talking about sexuality with these claims, it is better to think in terms of attraction - who the person is attracted to, rather than what sexuality they have. It's a subtle but important difference, and I’m going to use the term attraction from now on.
Trans hostile activists sometimes point to scientific research to ‘prove’ that kids will actually grow up to be gay, so allowing them to transition ‘removes’ a gay person from the community. It's a second foundational pillar that, when examined, just doesn't stack up. Misrepresenting research is a cornerstone to trans hostile claims.
And herein lies a problem.
Studies such as these start from an assumption that cross gendered behaviour, especially interest in toys / activities or playmates is an indicator of future attraction, but they do not look at identity at all. Nor do they look at other factors which may be significant, such as how much social conformity impacts this.
Worse still is that they trot out the same type of research with the claim that most gender non conforming young people will actually grow up to be straight.
So we have the same type of research being used to support mutually conflicting claims - that cross gendered behaviour observed in young people simultaneously means they are actually both gay and straight. It’s completely nonsensical, but entirely on brand for trans hostile activists.
Even if we accept the idea that cross gendered behaviour, or gender nonconformity is an indicator of future attraction - it doesn’t mean that it's a universal outcome - as the studies themselves state.
The conclusion in the above study makes this abundantly clear : ‘Children who exhibit more gender nonconformity in regard to toys, playmates, and activities are more likely to later report more same-sex and/or less other-sex sexual attraction and behavior’
‘More Likely’, as in ‘increased chance’ not ‘absolutely certainty’.
There are also two other aspects that we need to factor in.
The ICD11 for gender incongruence in young people quite clearly states:
‘Gender Incongruence of Adolescence and Adulthood is characterised by a marked and persistent incongruence between an individual´s experienced gender and the assigned sex, which often leads to a desire to ‘transition’, in order to live and be accepted as a person of the experienced gender, through hormonal treatment, surgery or other health care services to make the individual´s body align, as much as desired and to the extent possible, with the experienced gender. The diagnosis cannot be assigned prior the onset of puberty. Gender variant behaviour and preferences alone are not a basis for assigning the diagnosis.’
That last line is really important.
It means that cross gendered behaviour or gender nonconformity may be an indicator of future attraction, but that on its own is not enough to be an indicator of identity.
However, trans hostile activists act as if it is.
The final piece of the foundational puzzle here is an assumption that attraction is fixed from birth - which is again untrue.
Several studies (linked in this article) have shown that for transgender people, attraction can actually change during transition, indicating a link between hormone therapy and attraction in around 30% of those who transition.
Again, this is borne out anecdotally if you spend any time actually listening to the trans community, with reflections such as ‘as a gender fluid trans person, half the week I present as a woman, and the other as my wife's husband. My internal identity is always as a woman, but when I am in boy mode I am physically attracted to women, and when I am in girl mode, I am attracted to men, especially if they have a six-pack!’
Phew, that was hard going. Let's try to summarise that a bit more simply before we move on.
In this area, trans hostile activists rely on a number of foundational assumptions coupled with ignorance to perpetuate misinformation, and like a house of cards it falls apart when touched with truth.
Those assumptions are:
Attraction is rigidly defined to mean ‘attraction to genitals’
Anyone not conforming to that definition isn’t ‘same sex attracted’
Cross gendered or gender nonconforming behaviour is a 100% reliable indicator of future same sex attraction for all people
Cross gendered or gender non conforming behaviour is a 100% reliable indicator of identity for all people.
Studies that look at gay people equally apply to trans people, even if they’re not part of the study.
Attraction cannot change.
And as we have demonstrated - all of these trans hostile assumptions are false.
So lets finally look at claims that LGB people are being told they’re really transgender through ‘affirming’ therapy, and that transitioning is really conversion therapy for LGB people - because they lead on from each other.
This is a term that trans hostile activists use literally as ‘The therapist agrees with the patient and reinforces that without challenge’, when in a therapeutic context it means something completely different.
Luckily for us, the British Psychological Society (Sexualities section) recently did a tweet thread explaining this, which I’ll summarise.
Affirmative therapy does not pathologise sexual and gender minorities nor view their sexual orientation or gender identity as the root cause of their problems.
Affirmative forms of therapy are evidence-based and grounded in ethical principles of respect for diversity, responsibility for avoiding harms caused by social stigma, and self-determination. It provides a safe, non-judgemental, bias free space for its clients to explore their identities and enhance self awareness and acceptance of their own identity and orientation, often including comprehensive psychological assessment, access to social support, and coping strategies for identity conflicts and social stigma.
So that's pretty clear - it’s not about blind agreement, it’s about providing space and strategies to explore.
It’s hard to see how someone being given a non-judgemental, bias free space to explore who they are as somehow being forced into being transgender or transitioning - because thats not what’s happening in the UK, and if it was it would be entirely unethical. It is happening in Iran though, a regressive, patriarchal regime built on a strict binary sex/gender/sexuality social foundation.
What is happening in the UK is that people seek therapy to better understand who they are or what they are having difficulty with, and come to these revelations on their own - which is a foundational aspect of good therapy. Shame the NHS don't do that.
Is transitioning conversion therapy?
This last aspect is an absolute doozy because it relies on everything we have looked from Part 1 onwards.
The claim here is similar to that in ‘escaping homophobia’, but this time co opting the language of conversion abuse and the experiences of LGB people who have undergone such to imply that transitioning is the same, along with an underlying false assumption that all trans people are really gay.
Conversion abuse, which is often called conversion therapy - is largely, and historically performed by religious groups as a way of trying to change a person’s innate characteristics of sexuality or gender identity. It is not something practiced by reputable therapists - although there are some trans hostile therapists who are advocating for gender identity to be ommitted from any conversion therapy ban in the UK, while trying to deny that is the case.
Trans hostile activists believe that conversion abuse is perfectly acceptable when it comes to gender identity and trans people, but try to ‘flip’ the narrative here, using the assumptions mentioned previously in conjunction with misrepresenting what affirming therapy is, to imply that transitioning is a method to convert a gay person to a straight one through gender transition.
As we’ve seen, there’s no evidence to support this claim so far, and I cannot find a single documented instance of a gay person reporting that they have undergone this pratice outside of regressive regimes like Iran - let alone any in the UK.
Trans hostile activists point to transition itself claiming that is all the evidence needed, leading to a deliberately circular argument.
There are a few things missing here that also tend to get overlooked.
The first is that gender transition is the only known, highly effective treatment for gender dysphoria - and medically that’s been going on for almost 100 years. This isn’t some new thing, it is well established. The second is that in the UK’s ‘trans healthcare’ system many users, especially young people, have described the process of having to prove who they are, with a therapist or psychiatrist who often actively opposes them as attempts at conversion therapy.
It is often claimed that the NHS use ‘affirming’ therapy in trans healthcare, but reports from service users indicate that is not the case. One adult service user states :
‘My experience is that they listen to each individual and design a pathway to help them deal with their dysphoria, whether with just psychological and social support, or physical interventions. But as a rule they don't apply a general affirmation approach’
Rather than provide space to explore for those that need it, the NHS adult trans healthcare system is built on a ‘do as I tell you’ approach designed to alleviate specific symptoms of dysphoria, leaving service users having to conform to outdated stereotypes and comply with clinicians or risk having treatment removed.
The service for young people is much, much worse, and has often been described as NHS mandated conversion therapy. Hardly a surprise with trans hostile ‘therapists’ reported to be prevalent at GIDS.
This indicates an archaic system both at adult and young person level that reflects an underlying desire by the healthcare system to prevent transition as much as possible - as can be seen in this report by the Trans Safety Network on a recent supposed ‘professional conference’ headed by trans hostile ‘therapists’ who have worked in GIDS.
Thankfully this archaic practice is starting to change (at least for adults), but is still incredibly commonplace for young people.
Let’s be blunt. These trans hostile therapists and activists are trying to undermine the current research base and scientific consensus, in an attempt to revert back to old, thoroughly disproven and harmful methods of ‘treatment’ that are deeply harmful and traumatising.
So, are we really ‘Transing the Gay Away’?
It’s taken us a while to get there, because unravelling trans hostile misinformation is a convoluted process - but all of the evidence, from population data and hate crime statistics to therapy and transition practices shows that..
Gay people are not being ‘transed’ in any capacity.
As a claim, it is complete garbage, totally unevidenced and built on sand. Like every other trans hostile claim.
Authored by our Co-Editor, Claire