Our community spends a lot of time in mourning, but today I am angry. A lot of us are angry. Some of that anger is being focussed at Leelah’s parents for putting her into profoundly damaging conversion therapy.
However, before sending Leelah to one of these nasty pieces of work, Leelah’s parents presumably talked to them, and the conversion therapist assured them that their therapy could “fix” their child and turn Leelah into the dutiful straight cisgender son they wanted. That the trans feelings could be “cured”.
We know these are lies. We have known for a long time that conversion therapy, whether it be aimed at changing gender identity or sexuality does not work.
We also now know that if a trans person has stated the need to transition, and things are done to block them, there is a better than evens chance that they will try to kill themselves.
These are not opinions, these are established facts. They’re facts that any medical practitioner working with trans people has a professional duty to know. They need to know their patients are vulnerable. They need to know conversion therapy doesn’t work. They need to know their patients are suicide risks if not handled carefully.
And yet someone presumably told Leelah’s parents none of this.
Why would someone do that? I can think of only three reasons.
- The first is that they know that what they are saying is a lie, but they don’t care. They are selling lies. They are a fraud.
- The second is that they haven’t bothered to find out what the best practice for counselling trans people is, because they don’t care. They are negligent.
- The third, and perhaps kindest interpretation, is that they are in over their heads, that it simply never occurs to them that they should learn about how to counsel trans people before doing it. They are incompetent.
Conversion therapists are either fraudulent, negligent or incompetent. There doesn’t seem to be any other explanation.
Now in other areas of medicine, say if I need surgery for a broken leg, there are laws and regulations to ensure that if my surgeon is fraudulent, if they have faked credentials, they can go to prison. If they are negligent, if they turn up to work drunk, they can go to prison. If they are incompetent, they can be struck off.
Fraudulent, negligent, incompetent; in most areas of medicine you would not be allowed to practice, and yet it seems any charlatan can walk in off the street and set themselves up as a conversion therapist. They’re not subject to legal consequences if they are fraudulent or negligent. There is no overseeing body to sanction them if they are incompetent. They operate in a regulatory vacuum.
This isn’t good enough. These people are killing our young people through their fraudulence, their negligence, their incompetence. The lawmakers and regulators who should be stopping them are not.
Leelah’s dying wish was that we work to make these things better. A good start would be to stop frauds and charlatans from pushing trans people into suicide through fraudulent, negligent and incompetent therapy that is worse than useless, and if they do, to ensure that they face justice for it. I, for one, intend to make our lawmakers try.