Home Clinical Psychology & Psychotherapy The Genspect Conference 2023 – A Glimmer of Hope for Gender-Questioning People

The Genspect Conference 2023 – A Glimmer of Hope for Gender-Questioning People

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The first Genspect conference was held at Killarney, Ireland in April of 2023. For me and others who attended, it would be seared into our minds as one of the most intense weeks of our lives. The conference comes at a time when the ethical approach to gender-questioning individuals are going public with gross violations of the healthcare providers primary imperative to “do no harm”. Beginning in 2022 Genspect has now hosted two detrans awareness days where detransitioners have been invited to speak freely about their experiences. 

A detransitioner is “someone who previously identified as transgender and received medical and/or surgical interventions as a result, but stopped taking these interventions and no longer identifies as transgender in the same way.” 

The positive response to the awareness events, and the alarming increase in gender dysphoria in the youth, suggested that a conference was necessary to highlight the emerging crisis. The director of Genspect, Stella O’Malley said they wanted to “challenge the narrow, medicalised model of gender care currently in vogue”. The challenge was not simply through ideas, instead, Genspect pulled out all the stops to make sure the conference was held at the same time as EPATH/WPATH’s 2023 conference, the advocates for “medical affirming Treatment including puberty blockers”. 

It has now been one month since I attended this conference. I flew from my new hometown of Sundsvall, Sweden. It is ‘new’ to me as I immigrated from South Africa in 2022. I left my home country because ideology, in one form or another, has corroded its soul to the point where nothing functions as it should any longer. This new topic might seem like a detour from the Genspect conference, but bear with me here, as I have a point to make about lies, betrayal and deception that you cannot ignore. 

I have written previously about the ideological dogma currently gripping South Africa. The essential problem with South Africa is the lies being told by everyone from the government to the people themselves, who are gripped by denial. Ideology proliferates if people recycle the lies, they create a kind of mass deflection from the truth. Many years ago I began to research ways to affect mechanisms of social change, human behaviour, and ideology. After reading Stephen Pinker’s The Blank Slate. I realised that some of us must improve individuals’ mental health before we can expect social change. This should not be confused with the current ideology of ‘social justice’ being imposed on therapy clients without their consent.  

My journey to psychology probably began on my knees, in a Catholic church in Johannesburg, 1984. At the tender age of eleven-years-old the blinkers fell off when I concluded that the church used fear to motivate orthodox behaviour. For many years this kept me angry at the church, although studying psychology has softened my attitude to benevolent religion. I have a sense that many who attended the Genspect conference may have similar personal stories around ideology, at least for the Irish attendees; they shared my sensitivity to oppressive ideology. 

And here we arrive at the unifying value that connects many who attended this conference: an unrelenting, unapologetic, noble desire to independently seek the truth regarding the treatment of gender questioning individuals. Consider that the attendees came from all-over the world, this was a very diverse group. There were trans and detransitioners, some of whom are victims of puberty blockers, hormone replacement, ‘affirming’ therapy, botched surgeries, and social pressure. Some spoke about realising that rather than needing drastic interventions, they were merely homosexual or lesbian but had been funnelled into transition to conform to, ironically; traditional sexual orientation by misguided therapists. There were a few parents of trans and detrans people. Their experiences captured in the upcoming book Parents with Inconvenient Truths about Trans. The attendees were in person and online, made up of scientists, researchers, sociologists, psychologists, psychotherapists, lawyers, educators, feminists, podcasters and independent journalists.

Unlike most conferences, this one brought together a wide range of people all concerned with ideology. Speakers discussed the medicalisation of victims, profiteering, opportunism by radical politicians, and those who are erasing biological women’s rights. However, despite being from wildly different backgrounds, professions, and cultures, we all shared a disdain for the idea that the “science is settled” around gender related mental health. The people at this conference were able to speak openly, without fear of silencing or shaming. This was reiterated by Genspect Director Stella O’Malley during the daily events; we were there to hear diverse opinions and let people speak. After each presentation there was a Q&A open to anyone in the audience. These simple ethics of honesty, transparency, and diversity of opinion, positions this conference in conflict with the orthodoxy coming from EPATH/WPATH. The doctrine permeating the narrative can be seen in the recent GLAAD.org Twitter post where they insist that “healthcare for transgender people is settled science”. Twitter Readers Community noted research findings that “Several International governing bodies have come to different conclusions regarding the safety and efficacy of medically treating minors suffering from gender dysphoria”. Despite this, GLAAD insist that “gender-affirming treatment is safe and lifesaving for trans children”. When dissent is forbidden, and heretics are attacked, it is an ideology, or as mentioned at the Genspect conference; a “political religion”

Remarkably, EPATH/WPATH is not interested in the experiences of detransitioners; not one had a voice at their conference. Meanwhile, at the Genspect conference detransitioners had their own panels, mingled with everyone between and after events, and gave their opinions without restriction. For those of us who attended in person it was an emotional week. One minute we would be engaged with a presentation by a researcher who uncovered the years of data hidden in Gender Identity Development Services (GIDS) at the Tavistock clinic, the next we’d hear from a parent who’s trans child has not spoken to her for two years because she asked too many questions; this made half the room wipe away tears. A detransitioner asked why the surgeries are allowed to go ahead; “what happened to ethics?” she asked. Intellectual curiosity would make way for rage at the betrayal by modern medicine of these vulnerable people, rage would make way for the awareness that we were attending an event that would forever change the narrative. No longer can anyone honestly say the “science is settled”. 

I believe for many of us, it was reassuring to see that we could attend a large event without internal or external conflict. Judging by the behaviour of online personas one would think the entire world supports irresponsibly transitioning gender questioning people in their most vulnerable phases. This conference allowed us to meet face to face, discuss our ideas, and crystalise our efforts to reach this community. Some members of a group called Critical Therapy Antidote got to meet in real life. This coincides with the book authored by a select group called Cynical Therapies which aims to “push back against an ideology which threatens to turn the clinical space into a site for the moral re-education of vulnerable clients”. From the conference there have been articles, reports, podcasts and videos. Other outcomes led to updates at beyondtrans.org. This organisation is a branch of Genspect and aims to provide support for gender questioning people, whether they are in transition or not. 

There is no doubt that a conference like this was essential at this point in the gender crisis. For many of us we will remember the emotions; tears for the needless suffering of victims and their parents, anger over their betrayal by our professions, frustration at the media for ignoring this crisis, and moments of despair. However, this was between feelings of joy at meeting online friends and colleagues, excitement for the energy we felt between us all, and revived courage for the battles ahead. 

But I can tell you that weeks after the conference, changes have already happened; we are more united against the ideology, more connected, and the gender critical information is more accessible to all. Most importantly, there is hope that our professions are not lost to ideology, that parents will get support, that gender questioning people will have freedom to explore their identity, that scientists won’t be silenced, and that fear will not coerce us into the darkness of denial. 

Vincent Deboni is a registered professional counsellor who is based in Sweden. 


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