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Gary Powell is a former councillor in Buckinghamshire.

The Conservative Party, to this day, suffers reputational damage from the notorious Section 28, introduced by Margaret Thatcher’s government, as part of the Local Government Act 1988. The clause demanded that local councils, “shall not intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality” or “promote the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship”.

Although the scope of Section 28 was restricted to the actions of local councils, it had a chilling effect on teachers in state schools, which were at that time all under local authority control, apart from grant-maintained schools. Shortly after Section 28 was introduced, I embarked on my Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) course – an experience, incidentally, that made me realise for the first time the very serious damage that the left-wing educational establishment was inflicting on children’s education.

My PGCE course emphasised the importance of supporting children from various disadvantaged groups – with the striking exception of the needs of same-sex oriented children. This was an important issue to me, as I had developed a major depression as a teenager, caused by the stress and anxiety associated with realising I was gay.

It was clear to me that the exclusion of homosexuality from the PGCE course’s expansive palette of minority rights – the elephant in the Department – was evidence of the chilling effect of Section 28. Teachers, and teacher trainers, were not at all sure who could be prosecuted under the act, what they could be prosecuted for, and what could happen to them. So they kept shtum. Gay rights weren’t important enough to them to justify taking risks with prosecution and losing their jobs. Those who were normally “progressive” didn’t want to get into trouble for saying anything positive – or even neutral – about homosexuality.

The irony is that there were never any prosecutions under Section 28, and only local authorities were at risk of prosecution: not individuals. The legislation also only prohibited the promotion of homosexuality – the depiction of it as a positive phenomenon – rather than any neutral, dispassionate discussion of it. The Thatcher government even issued specific educational guidelines to schools asserting that nothing in Section 28 legislation should be interpreted as preventing clear guidance about HIV infection routes, as covered in school HIV/AIDS education programmes. The fact that gay men were a high-risk group for HIV infection, and that there were specific high-risk activities, was very important information to convey.

But the chilling effect of Section 28 hampered HIV education in schools, as well as blocking sex education that was relevant to same-sex oriented children. What did the word “promote” mean in Section 28? Did they promote homosexuality if they mentioned being gay without adding a negative evaluation, or if they challenged a child for using homophobic language, or said that lesbian and gay people deserve to be treated with respect, not abuse?

The effect of Section 28 was to worsen the stigmatisation of gay people and further obstruct the ability of same-sex oriented teenagers to access the fundamental information and support they needed and deserved in order to come to terms with being gay, as well as to access essential health safety information. It created a climate of fear, and that is what did the damage.

Now there are new attacks on gay rights coming down the road. The Government’s intended LGBT Conversion Therapy Ban will cause immeasurable harm to lesbian and gay children and young people. The problem hinges on the “forced teaming” of sexual orientation with transgender identity, as if the two categories were related to one another.

Gender lobby outfits such as Stonewall UK are demanding that transgender identity be included in the Bill, and we all know about the hold that this execrable organisation still has on the Government.

This Conversion Therapy Bill is completely unnecessary: adequate laws to protect lesbian and gay young people from homophobic abuse and discrimination already exist. And as far as gender identity is concerned, if a child presents with gender dysphoria, he or she is presenting with an illness. False beliefs are very common among clients in psychotherapy. No one is born in the “wrong” body. The concept of “sexed souls” makes no sense. (If they existed, there would be no way of knowing which one we had, anyway.) Sexual stereotypes are a bad thing, and a child should not be encouraged to believe he or she is “transgender” for having preferences and behavioural traits commonly associated with the opposite sex.

Some people genuinely suffer very intensely as a result of gender dysphoria, and they deserve to be treated with compassion and support in psychotherapy and in every other setting. But turning a pathology into a championed political identity that professionals are not allowed to question on pain of criminalisation, is a very dangerous development. Imagine what would happen if a new Government bill gave anorexia nervosa the same protections.

Stonewall UK have been very keen to promote the LGBT Conversion Therapy Ban since they failed in their attempt to pressure the Government into introducing transgender self-identification. And no wonder: they know full well that the new Bill will force self-identification via the back door. Whatever sits in the detail of the Bill, a climate of fear will be created where professionals and others will be too frightened to question a child’s claim – or an adult’s claim – to be transgender. A new chilling effect, of the kind once created by Section 28.

Evidence is emerging that around half of children who identify as transgender are lesbian or gay. The Bayswater Support Group discovered, at the time of their last survey, that half of the transgender-identified children in the families they support had come out as gay or lesbian before being exposed to transgender ideology.

The protection of “transgender identity” in an LGBT Conversion Therapy Bill is nothing less than homophobic conversion therapy by stealth. This is already happening in other countries where woke governments have introduced such bills.

There is so much social status, power, and peer group kudos, attached to identifying as transgender these days, that it is a very tempting route to bogus heterosexuality (“I’m not gay: I’m a girl in a boy’s body”) for lesbian and gay young people to take who have not come to terms with their sexual orientation. Then there are all the high-functioning autistic children being drawn into this identity, hoping it will be a quick-fix for their anxiety, depression, social isolation, and existential alienation. And so many gender non-conforming children also.

Transgender identification, protected by new LGBT Conversion Therapy Bill legislation, runs the risk of leading to puberty blockers, which almost always lead to cross-sex hormones, creating irreversible physical harm and turning people into lifelong medical patients. A dream come true for mercenary clinicians, hospitals, and drug companies. Follow the money.

One day, all those people who were harmed as children because adults failed to protect them from nihilistic political and corporate self-interest, and all the loved ones of these victims, will call out those responsible for what has happened to them. The Conservative Party must once again become the protector of child safeguarding. Not its adversary. Not a future pariah.