In November, the NSW State Parliament is set to consider two bills prohibiting ‘change or suppression’ practices relating to sexual orientation and gender identity.
The precise wording of the bill to be proposed by the NSW Government has not been made public. However, a Consultation Paper was recently released by a working group from the Department of Communities and Justice and the Department of Health. Contrary to the pre-election commitments made by the NSW Labor Party, this proposal is largely based on the ‘change or suppression’ legislation that is already in force in the state of Victoria.
As a Christian mother, I find the proposed legislation deeply concerning. It undermines my right to talk about the Christian view of sex and gender with my own children. It sees the Christian sexual ethics I want to pass on to them as inherently ‘harmful’, rather than something that is good and life-giving.
That’s why I am going to write to my local MP this week.
What’s the problem in Victoria?
The Victorian laws, which have been helpfully summarised by Freedom for Faith, go far beyond banning coercive and genuinely harmful ‘gay conversion’ practices. They consider anything that is not full, unqualified, immediate support for a person’s sexual desires to be ‘suppression’ of their sexual orientation or gender identity. The context doesn’t matter. The proposed legislation would apply to conversations between family members, children and parents and married couples. Praying a prayer where we ask God to help someone manage their sexual desires would be a criminal offence.
Alarmingly, the Victorian legislation applies even if a person consents to this kind of conversation or prayer. The Victorian legislation also treats sexual orientation and gender identity the same way, even though they are two very different issues.
Basically, in Victoria, it is now illegal to encourage anyone to exercise self-control over their sexual urges. Such encouragement, in any form, is considered to cause ‘serious and ongoing harm’.
How does this affect parents and children?
If a Victorian child expresses a feeling of gender incongruence—discomfort with the male or female body they were born with—then the only legal response from parents and clinicians is one of unquestioning affirmation of their chosen gender identity.
Victorian parents are therefore understandably frightened that if they question their child’s sudden claim to be ‘trans’, that child might be removed from their care. Some Victorian clinicians are refusing to treat children with gender dysphoria because they are frightened about falling foul of the law if they take a wholistic approach, such as ‘watchful waiting’ (see below).
And just to close up any loopholes, it also illegal to take a Victorian child out of the state to receive any treatment that is not fully ‘affirming’ of the child’s chosen gender identity.
Why is ‘affirmation only’ problematic?
To gain a more detailed understanding of gender dysphoria, I recommend the book The Gender Revolution: a Biblical, Biological and Compassionate Response by Patricia Weerakoon with Robert Smith and Kamal Weerakoon.
Victoria’s ‘affirmation only’ approach to gender dysphoria is not supported by science. Firstly, study after study has shown that when parents and clinicians practise an approach of ‘watchful waiting’—that is, supporting a child without encouraging transition—around 85% of children grow out of their gender dysphoria by the time they are adults. Many of them end up identifying as homosexual.
However, if children are ‘affirmed’ in their gender dysphoria—if they are encouraged to change their name, pronouns and appearance—then almost 100% of them will proceed down a medicalised pathway towards puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones and potentially even surgery.1 This sets children up for a lifetime of dependence on experimental medical interventions and the consequent health risks (many of which are still unknown).
The ‘affirmation’ pathway is not harmless. Puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones have permanent, irreversible side effects, including sterility and sexual dysfunction and can impact bone density and brain development.2 After weighing up the health risks, countries such as Finland, Sweden and Britain have now restricted the use of puberty blockers to children involved in clinical trials. And the fact that so many desist (that is, no longer identify as trans) without medication indicates that the trans identity of many of those who follow the ‘affirmation only’ approach may not be truly authentic. There’s a significant risk that social transitioning actually cements a trans identity that would otherwise disappear.
Another complicating factor is that most children who experience gender dysphoria have co-occurring conditions or mental illnesses, such as autism, trauma and depression.3 To simply ‘affirm’ their gender identity without stopping to ask how it might be associated with other underlying issues will ultimately leave children no better off.
Here in NSW I know some parents whose 13-year-old daughter began to identify as a boy at school without their knowledge. They could see that her gender incongruence was a recent development, had emerged under the influence of her peer group and was part of a larger set of mental health issues. After doing extensive research, these parents decided that ‘watchful waiting’ was the best approach and the one that aligned best with their Christian world view. They are seeking to address their daughter's mental health challenges in a wholistic way, leaving aside the question of transition for now.
If this Victorian-style bill passes in NSW, these parents will be considered to be engaged in illegal ‘suppression practices’, despite their genuine, evidence-based conviction that ‘affirmation only’ is not the best way to help their beloved daughter.
If this concerns you, I encourage you to write to your local MP using the resources available at Freedom for Faith.
I have included my letter below (it’s best if you write in your own words—don’t copy mine!).
To [my local] MP,
As a Christian and as a mother, I am writing to you to express my concerns about the proposed legislation regarding ‘conversion therapy’ that is set to be introduced into the NSW Parliament in November.
I would like to express my appreciation for the commitments that Labor made on this issue prior to the state election. These included: not adopting the Victorian model, allowing individuals to seek prayer and support consensually and protecting religious teaching and prayer.
My main concern is that the proposed approach (in the Consultation Paper put forward by the working group) seems to be based on the model of Victorian ‘change or suppression’ legislation without reference to most of these commitments.
Like the Victorian legislation, the proposal combines the ideas of ‘conversion practices’ with the broader and more vague concept of ‘suppression’. No clear definition is given of what ‘suppression’ is, however examples in the Paper include not acting on desire and celibacy. This definition is far broader than the ‘dangerous and damaging’ practices of the ALP commitments. Contrary to Labor’s promise, the NSW proposal recommends that any ‘conversion’ or ‘suppression’ practice is made illegal whether or not it has been consented to.
The proposed bill would make unquestioning ‘affirmation’ the only legal response to gender dysphoria for parents and clinicians. I know some local parents whose 13-year-old daughter began to identify as a boy at school without their knowledge. They could see that her gender incongruence was a recent development, had emerged under the influence of her peer group and was part of a larger set of mental health issues. After doing extensive research, these parents decided that ‘watchful waiting’ would be the most effective approach and the one that aligned best with their Christian world view. This approach involves giving a child wholistic professional mental health support but leaving aside the question of transition until they reach adulthood. It is well documented that this approach is effective in relieving childhood gender dysphoria in 85% of cases.
If this Victorian-style bill passes in NSW, these parents would be engaged in illegal ‘suppression practices’, despite their genuine, evidence-based conviction that ‘affirmation only’ is not the best way to help their beloved daughter.
The current proposal will restrict the ability of religious communities such as mine to preach, teach and pray according to our religious convictions about sexuality and gender. This legislation could make it illegal for me to pass on my Christian beliefs about these issues to my own children.
I kindly ask that the NSW Government commits again to: safeguard religious freedom and parental rights, allow for consensual conversations and prayer and focus on banning genuinely coercive and harmful practices only.
1. Smith, R, Weerakoon, K & Weerakoon, P 2023, The Gender Revolution: a biblical, biological and compassionate response (Kindle edition), Matthias Media, Sydney, Chapter 6, Location 1674–83
2. Smith, Weerakoon & Weerakoon, The Gender Revolution, Chapter 6, Location 1872.
3. Smith, Weerakoon & Weerakoon, The Gender Revolutio n, Chapter 6, Location 1899.
The Gender Revolution: a Biblical, Biological and Compassionate Response by Patricia Weerakoon with Robert Smith and Kamal Weerakoon
‘Bills could restrict preaching, teaching and prayer on sexuality’, Southern Cross November–December 2023, 10.
'Write to your local MP', Freedom for Faith:
NSW conversion practices legislation, Freedom for Faith.
'Conversion therapy: The danger of the Victorian model', Freedom for Faith
'NSW conversion practices legislation', Australian Christian Lobby
Oppose the Conversion Practices Prohibition Bill, Australian Christian Lobby
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