On October 13, 2021, Genspect founder Stella O’Malley testified at a subcommittee hearing about New Zealand’s proposed Conversion Practices Prohibition Legislation Bill. She began by describing her childhood, when she was convinced she wanted to be a boy until about age 10, noting that she was one of the 80% estimated to outgrow this experience of childhood gender dysphoria. She grew up to marry, have children, and become a psychotherapist, all the while noticing the rise in adolescent girls in particular experiencing gender dysphoria. After making a film about these young people in 2018, she was contacted by increasing numbers of parents from around the world concerned that their gender-questioning kids, especially those with comorbidities like autism, ADHD, eating disorders, and more, were being too quickly diagnosed and medicalized without any therapy to explore their distress holistically. Many may also be experiencing internalized homophobia.
She highlighted the WPATH whistleblowers who aired their serious concerns just last week, including overblown suicide statements and lack of proper and thorough assessment, as well as how Sweden and Finland in just the last year have banned medicalization under age 18 due to concerns about their efficacy and negative side effects.
Stella and the lawmakers went on to discuss exactly how conversion therapy is defined and what will fall under the purview of the bill, including possibly exploratory therapy. She emphasized the fluidity of both gender identity and expression, how sexual orientation is being conflated with gender identity, and how critical it is to get the bill’s wording right and with specificity to allow for exploratory therapy that may help people.
Stella’s testimony is an important contribution to the conversion therapy debate and the importance of getting the legal language just right, and relevant to other countries considering similar bills, including Canada.
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