Kathleen Stock and LGBT conversion therapy

Is there a problem with free speech in universities? No. Kathleen Stock, OBE, professor of philosophy at the University of Sussex, is the great hero of the trans-excluders, yet she has published little academically on trans rights. She prefers sites like thearticle. She argued there that Stonewall’s definition of conversion therapy was illogical. Here it is:

Conversion therapy (or ‘cure’ therapy or reparative therapy) refers to any form of treatment or psychotherapy which aims to change a person’s sexual orientation or to suppress a person’s gender identity. It is based on an assumption that being lesbian, gay, bi or trans is a mental illness that can be ‘cured’. These therapies are both unethical and harmful.

Prof. Stock imagines an AFAB person aged 14, who is aware they are attracted to “women (or at least, to females like her).” It seems Prof Stock thinks lesbians are incapable of unrequited love for straight women. If they were some heartache would be avoided. M, whom Prof Stock gives a female name, has dysphoria, which Prof Stock claims is “an unconscious response to the social imposition of sexist and heteronormative stereotypes upon females”.

Prof Stock’s argument that the therapist cannot avoid some kind of conversion therapy is this:

If [M’s] self-diagnosis (‘I’m a boy’) is questioned by the therapist, the therapist can be construed as failing to affirm, and so putatively ‘converting’, a trans child to a ‘cis’ one. If, on the other hand, [M’s] self-diagnosis is affirmed unquestioningly, the therapist is effectively failing to affirm [M] in a sexual orientation of lesbianism; something which also looks like conversion by omission.

Orientation conversion therapy would entail attempting to make M attracted to men. It is objectionable because it disapproves how M is attracted, and attempts to change that. It can’t be changed, but the attempt can hurt the victim.

Rather, Prof. Stock imagines it is about words and descriptions. M’s transition would not stop them being attracted to women, but, Prof. Stock says, it would stop her being a lesbian. They are the same person, with the same attractions, but because the words used to describe them change, Prof. Stock thinks this is conversion therapy. However, if M is trans, rather than confused, M has never been lesbian.

M’s nature is not changed. A therapist might legitimately explore M’s gender dysphoria, to assess whether transition is appropriate, but need not change M’s nature at all. It would become conversion therapy if M could never convince the therapist they were trans, and the therapist insisted on making M happy to present female. It would not be conversion therapy if M was not trans, and the therapist helped her discover that.

Prof. Stock can’t quite believe in trans men, even though she is obsessed by them. Her description of M assumes M is really lesbian. But no conversion therapy need be attempted here. The therapist wants M to be happy and well adjusted- so does not attempt to change their orientation or their gender identity. Therapists never affirm trans self-diagnosis “unquestioningly”. They challenge us.

If Prof. Stock really is the main anti-trans campaigning philosopher, one would expect something better than this. Prof Stock has not been unable to publish transphobic rubbish in academic journals not because it is transphobic, and there is some problem with her freedom of speech to utter transphobic ideas: the journals have not published her because her ideas are too silly.

The work of the Scottish artist Gertrude des Clayes has recently come out of copyright.

3 thoughts on “Kathleen Stock and LGBT conversion therapy

  1. My daughter’s jungian therapist tried to confirm her identity by describing her as trans which caused her to quit therapy as she wanted to be confirmed as female. She now regrets this. Another interesting article on the strange perceptions of trans excluders, which shows how some lesbians seem to feel that the existence of trans people kind of unaffirms their own identity.

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