Gender dysphoria and conversion therapy

Sir, – Orla Ní­ Chomhrá (Letters, June 29th), draws attention to the issue of homophobia and sexism that is driving gender dysphoria in children.

Therapists working with children who experience gender dysphoria play a vital role in helping the child understand their experiences. The therapist’s ability to neutrally enquire is essential to this process.

On June 22nd, Canada passed a Bill, which if accepted by the Canadian senate will impose criminal penalties on therapists and parents who don’t “affirm” a child’s gender identity. Objective and neutral counselling services are being threatened in favour of the doctrine of “affirmation” without evidence that this will yield better long-term health outcomes than the previous “watchful waiting” approach, which is much more cautious.

Could a similar situation arise in Ireland? Possibly. The Prohibition of Conversion Therapies Bill was introduced into the Dáil in 2018. The Bill, now in its third stage, describes conversion therapy as: “Any practice or treatment by any person that seeks to change, suppress and, or eliminate a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity and, or gender expression.”

If passed without amendment this wording presents a hard problem to therapists and professionals working with children and young people who are experiencing gender dysphoria. Should they talk the young person/child through their gender dysphoria/hatred of their body? Or is this considered gender conversion therapy? Where is the line?

If therapists face legal sanction for not “affirming” a child’s gender identity or gender expression the option to neutrally enquire, to “watchfully wait” will be lost along with the possibility that the child or young person’s gender dysphoria desists and they become reconciled with the fact that they are not trans but gay or lesbian.

– Yours, etc,



Dublin 13.