Thursday, 11 November 2021

Dealing with governments

 I am pleased to say that a new, publicly-funded regional anti-discrimination centre has opened where I live. It will provide information and help to local authorities and to individuals who need assistance. Not just against transphobia, of course, but discrimination of all sorts such as racism, sexism and disability issues. Given that a law to provide further protections against discrimination has effectively been sunk in the Italian parliament, this is a positive piece of news.

But I am concerned about the item I mentioned in my last post about criminalising conversion therapy in the UK. Not because the matter doesn't merit looking at but because I think the government is likely hiding a very transphobic measure within it. I have asked a gay activist friend of mine what he thinks and he is recruiting more gay colleagues to advise. There is a whole army of gays to fight discrimination but the problem for trans people is that we are less visible, less experienced and less organised. What do you expect when the overwhelming majority of trans people live hidden through fear?

The worst mistake I ever made was taking a job in the ministries in London. The work was interesting but the people were vile, creating a toxic mix of malice, incompetence and corruption. So I can tell you a thing or two about the real motives behind legislation and consultations like this. The main thing to bear in mind is that nothing is what it seems. 

Proposals like this may not originate with government but with civil servants who may be acting simply in order to have something to do and so justify having jobs, or from personal motives. I can give you a classic example from my days in government when one person, worried that his job might disappear, cooked up regulations to 'tidy up' various other pieces of legislation that were diminishing in relevance. These regulations were unnecessary but created work so he could keep sitting at the same desk. There was a public consultation about the proposed measures and many people foresaw the knock-on effects of the changes, including, in a roundabout way, some disabled and vulnerable people losing rights to specialist services. Not many, but those affected would have their lives worsened in an appreciable way. But the change had been decided anyway and the consultation was just a sop to the public to imagine their say was being taken into account. This jerk civil servant got to keep his desk and to hell with the public who lost their services.

The situation worsened when Tony Blair became Prime Minister and consultations were still required but zero notice was taken of views. Blair's government even had legislation passed whilst consultations were still running. Now that the UK is run by hoods, you can imagine what a waste of time responding to consultations is. But it is necessary to fight government encroachment on power all the time. That goes for any country.

I wonder what the motive behind this latest consultation is? This is what particularly bothers me:

Q2. The Government considers that delivering talking conversion therapy with the intention of changing a person’s sexual orientation or changing them from being transgender or to being transgender either to someone who is under 18, or to someone who is 18 or over and who has not consented or lacks the capacity to do so should be considered a criminal offence.

You might not spot it at first, and when you do it sounds like a balanced, reasonable point: "Changing them from being transgender or to being transgender". Except that nobody sets out to change someone to being transgender. You can't anyway; you're either trans or you're not.

But the implications are that someone who assists people, especially the young, to transition, could be in trouble with the law. This is especially true of trans people who detransition and can be litigious or vociferous in saying they were pushed into transition. I can think of at least two who felt they had made a mistake and, rightly or wrongly, held that they had been pressured.

A government that has shown itself the most openly corrupt in UK history, has policies on issues like Covid that are irresponsible and destructive, even genocidal, which is listening to all sorts of unfiltered transphobia from several antagonistic sources, is hardly going to be trans positive. I suspect its motives here, or those of its officials, especially as the proposals are not very well backed up by the research study that was produced in evidence. My gripe with conversion therapy (described in my last post) was not so much with the therapy itself, such as it was, but with the overarching threatening nature of the religion that prompted it, and several respondents to the study said much the same. I do know of cases of bad treatment by therapists, pastors and families, but they are not, thankfully, so common. 

I will be chatting to my gay activist friends some more and deciding how to respond. But do not be fooled by what seems like a pro-trans measure. I doubt that that's the motive. It's not cynicism on my part but direct experience of what motivates ministers, lobbyists and civil servants. Their interests come first, citizens second, believe me.

Tunnels and twisting paths


Sue x

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