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LGBTQ+

The shock of the old

The current “debate” over whether trans people should be excluded from a ban on conversion therapy isn’t just bigoted. It’s also ignorant. The medical establishment has known for at least fifty years that you can’t convert a trans person into a cisgender one.

As the American Journal of Psychiatry put it in 1969:

Traditional psychotherapies have been unsuccessful in altering gender identity once it is established

Via Mallory Moore on Twitter, the image on the right shows a piece from the American Journal of Orthopsychiatry in 1977.

The key line is at the top:

psychotherapy has not been successful in reconciling the gender identity of the transsexual with anatomy.

The history of trans healthcare and conversion therapy has long been based on the idea that to be trans is an undesirable outcome, that it’s something trans people should be trying to escape, and that trans people should be forced not to be trans. The same attitude is apparent when people today talk about removing affirming healthcare from all trans teenagers in case one cisgender teenager makes a mistake; it’s at the heart of the wider attempt to prevent trans people from existing in society.

That belief didn’t just restrict the healthcare trans people could receive. It encouraged some really horrific abuse of trans people in the name of “curing” them. Many trans people were subjected to electro-shock aversion therapy in an attempt to stop them being feminine. Moore highlights one of many examples, from 1973, in which a teenage trans girl was effectively tortured with electro-shock therapy to try and stop her from being trans.

The report notes that:

“to date, only [gender confirmation surgery] has offered any hope to the transsexual since this condition has been entirely refractory to psychologic intervention. When attempted, psychotherapy directed at changing transsexual attitudes and behaviour has not worked.”

Moore also posted the results of a 1970 study in the UK in which transsexuals and transvestites were, as Moore puts it, “strapped to fucking electrodes to fry their transness out”. It didn’t work.

We’ve known for 50 years that conversion therapy and aversion therapy, even when it’s really extreme, doesn’t stop people from being trans any more than it stopped people from being gay. There is no debate here, no other side to the story. Conversion therapy is abuse no matter which minority it’s being used against.