Doctor who lost job after transgender objection warns about ‘woolly therapy ban’

A doctor who made national headlines when he lost his job after objecting to transgender terminology has sounded a note of caution over a “woolly” plan to outlaw “conversion therapy”.

Tuesday, 20th April 2021, 7:00 am
Updated Saturday, 24th April 2021, 12:08 pm
Participants in the Belfast Gay Pride event in 2016

The idea of such a ban is to be debated in the Assembly today, and has been put forward by UUP MLAs Doug Beattie and John Stewart.

The motion calls on MLAs to reject “the harmful practice widely referred to as conversion therapy”, and says “it is fundamentally wrong to view our LGBTQ community as requiring a fix or cure”.

It also demands communities minister (Deirdre Hargey of Sinn Fein) bans it before the next Assembly election.

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However the motion contains no clear definition of what such “conversion therpay” involves.

It all comes after extensive campaigning by gay and transgender organisations, with the Rainbow Project declaring itself “outraged” over the practice.

Transgender NI’s Alexa Moore has described the practice as “abhorrent”, adding that attempted “conversions” are not just a problem where homosexuality is concerned, but it is “an issue that overwhelmingly affects trans communities”.

Humanists NI meanwhile say: “Prayer is not inherently ‘conversion therapy’, however some forms of it, such as exorcisms, with the sole intent of changing someone’s gender or sexual identity, certainly do fall under its definition.

“We must not allow for loopholes in any upcoming legislation.”

The full text of the UUP’s motion is as follows:

“That this Assembly rejects the harmful practice widely referred to as conversion therapy;

“Notes that the UK Government National LGBT Survey in 2018 reported that 2% of respondents had undergone conversion therapy with a further 5% having been offered it;

“Acknowledges the damage this practice causes to the mental health of those who are subjected to it;

“Further acknowledges that this practice has been widely rejected by medical professionals;

“Declares that it is fundamentally wrong to view our LGBTQ community as requiring a fix or cure;

“And calls on the Minister for Communities to commit to bringing forward legislation before the end of the current Assembly mandate to ban conversion therapy in all its forms.”


Much of the concern about the motion has come from those who fear it could lead to curbs on preaching the Gospel, and among those voicing such views is Dr David Mackereth.

In 2018 he was set to start work as a government disability assessor in England, but in a meeting with a manager he disagreed about using transgender terms; soon afterwards he found himself out of a job.

He fought his case in an employment tribunal, but lost.

He said he would refuse to refer to a six-foot tall man with a beard as “Mrs”, on both scientific and faith grounds.

Dr Mackereth said that old and discontinued practices like electro-shock therapy were indeed “barbaric” – but added this is “a very different matter” to somebody voluntarily visiting a therapist and talking.

“The concern is that the bill could even be exteded to ban conversion to Christianity.

“It’s so woolly and all-sweeping, what happens if somebody who’s homosexual becomes a Christian, and in the process, forsakes that lifestyle?”

He gave the example of someone who has “same sex attraction” but is “a married man with children [who] finds that’s destroying his family, so he wants to seek something for the sake of his wife and children – is that unreasonable?”

When it comes to how it will apply to people who present as “transgender” he said: “I think we’re going to see a lot of people in the future who think they’ve been sold out by the current transgender ideology and wish to return to something more akin to their biological sex.

“Under those circumstances I think doctors should be able to help them.”

He was referring to people who “transition” from male to female (or vice-cersa) but then regret it and transfer back – often after having had hormones or surgery.

“I believe transgender people who wish to de-transition should be considered worthy of the best help the medical profession can give them,” said the doctor.

“With a blanket ban on conversion therapy – which could mean anything; it could mean preaching the Gospel or it could mean electro-convulsive therapy – these people will be left on their own.”


Tom Elliott, ex-leader of the UUP, has told the News Letter the motion sounds extremely broad.

Whilst he was reluctant to comment in depth, because he has taken a step back from active party politics, he nonetheless added: “Suffice to say, it’s not one I’d have brought forward. But I’m not in charge any longer so it’s for others to decide.

“The wording of the motion seems all-encompassing, nearly... I wouldn’t have brought it forward. But there again maybe there are specific reasons. Maybe it’s more refined than it looks.”

Ultimately, we’ll only learn this during today’s debate, he said.


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