This hateful ignorance costs lives

Anti-trans bigots are the climate change deniers of gender: despite overwhelming scientific evidence that they’re full of shit, they continue to lobby against life-saving action and push long-discredited pseudoscience.

One of their favourite conspiracy theories is the idea that being trans is contagious, that it’s a conscious choice and that you can be persuaded to become trans through peer pressure. This social contagion conspiracy theory has been debunked endlessly, but it still persists – so this report by the Australian Psychological Society won’t change any bigot’s mind.

The APS isn’t mincing its words here.

“Empirical evidence consistently refutes claims that a child’s or adolescent’s gender can be ‘directed’ by peer group pressure or media influence, as a form of ‘social contagion’,” APS Fellow Professor Damien Riggs said.

“To say that there is a trans-identity crisis among young Australians because of social media pressure is not only alarmist, scientifically incorrect and confusing, but is potentially harmful to a young person’s mental health and wellbeing.

“There is no evidence to suggest that such approaches work in terms of changing a person’s gender.  What such debunked ‘therapies’ do produce, however, are high levels of shame, disrespect and distress.

Belief in “social contagion” goes hand in hand with belief in conversion therapy, the dangerous and discredited “pray the gay away” so-called cure that’s caused incredible damage to so many LGBT+ people: if you believe that being LGBT+ is a choice, then you’re likely to believe that people can be persuaded not to be LGBT+.

Of course, it doesn’t work like that. But bigots’ feelings don’t care about facts.

What conversion therapy does do is persuade LGBT+ people to kill themselves. The latest study into such “therapy” demonstrates yet again that there’s a strong link between it and mental health problems, including suicide attempts. Exposing transgender people to conversion therapy makes them twice as likely to attempt suicide.

The bigots don’t see that as a problem, though: to them, one less trans person in the world is a result. These are people who are currently crowing about the prospect of Brexit-related medicine shortages cutting off trans women’s HRT supplies. Who cares if diabetics don’t get their insulin or cancer patients don’t get essential medicines? If it hurts (or better still, kills) trans people, it can only be a good thing.

You don’t need to wear a swastika to be part of a hate group. Some of the most hateful people in modern society could be your neighbours.

Here’s an example. The crowdfunding site GoFundMe has finally pulled down the page raising money for campaigns against inclusive education in schools (but not before they raised thousands). Here’s one of the key groups who campaigned for the page’s removal, the British Humanist Society:

‘This homophobic crowdfunder was in support of protesters who have been holding disruptive and intimidating rallies that have absolutely no place near a school. There is strong evidence that the protesters involved in these demonstrations have been uttering outrageous homophobic slurs and even calling members of school staff paedophiles which surely was in breach of GoFundMe’s terms.’

The backlash against LGBT+ equality encompasses trans rights and relationship education at schools. It is co-ordinated and well funded and originates in the US. OpenDemocracy:

At the London meeting of Christian conservatives this summer, our reporter – posing as a prospective teacher, to learn what these campaigners were telling teachers about sex education – found an energised opposition movement.

In a room filled with LGBTIQ children’s books, tea and biscuits, the keynote speaker argued that equalities legislation “is not all-powerful”. Rather, he said it can be limited to protect “health and morals” of other students or teachers.

This was Roger Kiska, in-house lawyer at the Christian Concern group that organised the event. He previously worked for Alliance Defending Freedom, a Christian right ‘legal army’ and one of a dozen US groups that openDemocracy revealed have spent millions of dollars in Europe.

Christian Concern, you’ll be amazed to discover, is a great believer in the efficacy of conversion therapy. Their communications manager claimed in late 2018 that conversion therapy is “just about any practice that offends the taste of social liberals” and added:

If ‘conversion therapy’ means anything at all, it should surely refer to a process that treats people with cross-sex hormones, damages fertility and cuts up their bodies to portray them as something other than what they really are. In other words, gender reassignment.

If that sounds familiar, it’s because it’s exactly the same argument – using exactly the same words and phrasing – that the anti-trans activists use.

That’s not a coincidence.



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