I fully support the banning of conversion therapy for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. Cruel and coercive conversion therapies, particularly those aimed at children by adults in positions of trust and authority, must be banned, and I am glad that the Government is taking action on this. It is important though that we do not ban anyone from seeking support or counselling on their gender and sexuality, and we do need to ensure that people can still access support.
Any adult who feels uncomfortable about their current biological sex and wishes to change their gender should be able to do so. This is a huge decision for anyone, and society should be accepting and tolerant of those choices. However, we must ensure that children do not make life-altering decisions that they later regret. It is essential that any child who is considering gender-reassignment surgery is fully aware of the major changes this will cause. It is also essential that a child’s parents are kept informed and are consulted throughout the process.
I want to be clear that I am absolutely committed to protecting women’s rights and freedoms. Acceptance and tolerance of people who have transitioned must be balanced with the need to protect women. The overwhelming majority of people, regardless of their political persuasion, understand that there are instances where we need to apply common sense.
We must protect single-sex spaces, including ensuring that only women can access dedicated female changing-rooms, lavatories and clinics. We must also ensure that female prisoners are kept safe. Whilst incidents of abuse by men claiming to be women in female-only spaces are vanishingly rare, we must make sure that the right for biological women to feel safe is protected.
We must also ensure that biological women are not discriminated against in sport. Sports are incredibly diverse, and their can be no ‘one-size-fits-all’ policy on this. Whilst there are some sports where men and women have traditionally competed with each other, such as equestrian events, we must resist a blanket allowance of transgender women to compete in women’s sports.
Fairness and safety must be ensured in sports, and there are times when the retained differences in strength, stamina and physique of a transgender-woman compared to a biological woman has caused real disadvantages, and even dangers, to women competitors. Ultimately, sporting bodies are best placed to identify the best solutions for their sport, and the government should allow them the freedom to get on with this.
Fundamentally, where there is a conflict between the rights of transgender people and the rights of women and children to live safely, we must come down on the side of common sense.