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Kemi Badenoch describes gender-affirming care as ‘new form of conversion therapy’

"We are traumatised by what is happening to young children and we are not going to run away from this issue any longer"

By Alastair James

Kemi Badenoch
Equalities Minister Kemi Badenoch (Image: Chris McAndrew / UK Parliament)

The UK government’s Minister for Women and Equalities, Kemi Badenoch, has described gender affirming care as a “new form of ‘conversion therapy’.”

The Conservative MP for Saffron Walden made her comments in the House of Commons on Wednesday (6 December) as she confirmed plans to bring forward a bill that would ban ‘conversion therapy.’

During the debate, Badenoch said she was “determined” to meet the promise to publish a draft conversion practices bill for pre-legislative scrutiny. She called the widely debunked practices of seeing to change someone’s sexuality or gender identity “abhorrent.”

“We are traumatised by what is happening to young children” – Kemi Badenoch

Describing what she called “an epidemic of young gay children being told that they are trans,” Badenoch told MPs such children were being put on a “medical pathway for irreversible decisions” which they were supposedly regretting.

Badenoch also claimed to be speaking on the advice of academics and clinicians, explaining that she and the government wanted to stop children “being exploited by people who do not understand what these issues are.”

She continued: “We are traumatised by what is happening to young children and we are not going to run away from this issue any longer.”

Explaining the bill further, Badenoch stated that ‘conversion therapy’ was a “particular threat to gay people.”

Since a ban was first promised in 2018, Badenoch said things had developed. “Now the threat to many young gay people is not conversion relating to their sexuality, but conversion relating to gender identity.”

Again referencing Bell’s case she stated clearly: “I believe that this [gender-affirming care] is a new form of ‘conversion therapy’.” Adding to that, she said: “No child is born in the wrong body. And no child should be put on a pathway towards irreversible medical transition.”

Badenoch’s remarks follow two Private Members Bills – one in the House of Commons and one in the House of Lords – being introduced for debate after the government failed to include plans of their own in November’s King’s Speech.

“This is something that we are not budging on” – Kemi Badenoch

Baenoch also used her time in the Commons to announce changes to the number of countries that the UK will recognise Gender Recognition Certificates (GRCs) from. Badenoch confirmed that countries where self-identification has been adopted will not be recognised.

Self-identification or Self-ID allows trans people to change their gender without the need for medical diagnosis. Currently, to obtain a GRC in the UK someone needs to have been living as their affirmed gender for 2 years and have a diagnosis of gender dysphoria.

“This is a tool that is used to make sure that other countries systems are as rigorous as ours,” the MP said. She then said: “This is about whether or not the country’s system meets our guidelines.” Countries like Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and the US have been removed.

Referencing Kazakhstan, where trans people have to undergo gender reassignment surgery and be sterilised to obtain a GRC, Badenoch said that the UK government criticised it. She even identified that as “a form of conversion practice.”

She went on to say: “Recognising certification for someone who has undergone that is a compassionate acknowledgement of what some transgender people in other countries have had to go through to obtain their certification.”

Touching on Self-ID, Badenoch also confirmed her position would remain resolute: “This is something that we are not budging on.”

Studies have found that gender-affirming care, such as puberty blockers, hormones, and surgery leads to a decreased risk of depression, suicide, and suicidal ideation. 

A US study published in 2021 found a 40% drop among transgender and non-binary youth aged 13-17 if they were on hormones.

Cases like that of Alice Litman highlight the need for better trans healthcare. The 20-year-old died in May 2022 after waiting over three years for an initial assessment. She was referred to NHS Gender Identity Development Service in 2019, and was still waiting when she died 1,023 days later.

During an inquest, Dr Caroline Litman, Alice’s mother, said: “I believe Alice’s death was preventable with access to the right support, and that change must happen.”

The coroner concluded in October that services were “underfunded and insufficiently resourced.”

On Wednesday the LGBTQ charity Stonewall seemed to address Badenoch’s comments, posting on X that “While politicians continue to use LGBTQ+ lives as a political football, our community remains at risk from conversion practices that seek to change who we are, and rising hate crime and attacks.”