A leaked Government paper confirms what had been expected for a while, that the Government is planning to scrap plans drawn up under Theresa May to allow people to 'self-identify' as the opposite sex. The idea was to allow transgender people to change their birth certificate without a medical diagnosis, but according to The Sunday Times this has been dropped by Boris Johnson's Government.
The Government is also said to be preparing new safeguards to protect female-only spaces such as changing rooms and refuges to stop them being used by biological males.
This is good news, particularly for women and girls, whose safety, privacy and sporting contests are jeopardised by being opened up to males on a 'self-declared' basis.
In truth, though, the present legislation already goes too far, as it allows a person's birth certificate to be edited to state something contrary to biological fact. The freedom of people to live as though they are the opposite sex if they wish can be respected without needing to falsify official documents. But an individual's biological sex is an important fact about him or her for a host of practical reasons, including medical care, safety and official statistics, and so the official record of it should never be altered so that reality is not lost under a fog of social and legal construction.
It is a relief, then, that the Government appears to have resolved on this occasion not to allow reality to slip away any further than it already has. In these days, when extreme ideology seems all too often to trump a calm consideration of facts, this was not inevitable and is most welcome.
Much less welcome, however, is the news, from the same leaked paper, that ministers are planning to announce a ban on 'gay cure' therapies, in what is described as an attempt to placate LGBT people.
This is very worrying, and you need not believe that same-sex attraction is something that can be readily altered to be concerned about it. The details have not yet been released, but international experience of these bans is that they typically go well beyond banning counselling for unwanted same-sex attraction to banning non-affirming transgender treatment as well, so that people cannot receive help to live as their biological sex, plus banning all efforts to diminish the strength of same-sex desire. Thus a proposed law in Canada prohibits:
'Any practice, treatment or service designed to change an individual's sexual orientation or gender identity or to eliminate or reduce sexual attraction or sexual behaviour between persons of the same sex. For greater certainty, this definition does not include a surgical sex change or any related service.'
So alongside sexual orientation, it includes gender identity and also any practice designed to reduce same-sex sexual attraction.
Dr Ann Gillies, author of Closing the Floodgates, observes that this definition is so broad that church leaders would not be allowed to counsel people against watching homosexual pornography, and programmes to help same-sex attracted Christians to live chastely would 'be on the chopping block'.
Dr Gillies involvement in this area arises from her experience with her first husband, as related by Lifesite News:
'In the 14 years they were together, she was unaware he had "many, many homosexual affairs." Then her son told her, shortly after she married her current husband, that his father had sexually abused him for more than a decade. Gillies described the "horrific" and "traumatising" ordeal of witnessing her ex-husband going to trial, her son testifying for three days, and her ex-husband being acquitted ... Her son lived the homosexual life in Toronto for 11 years, then decided to leave. He went through years of therapy, first anger management, then sex addiction therapy, and is now married and the father of four children. "I would say I have a vested interest in exposing the darkness," Gillies said. "I feel called to do this."'
People who have left behind lives in the gay community to identify as 'ex-gay', and in many cases go on to marry and have a family, are typically denied coverage by the mainstream media, who are committed to the narrative that they can't exist, as told in the Core Issues Trust film Voices of the Silenced.
Thus as one issue in the culture wars heads, unusually, in the right direction, a new challenge arises. Many Christians will be uncomfortable with opposing a 'gay cure' ban as they are acutely aware of ways this idea has harmed same-sex attracted people in the past, and may not be aware how far these bans typically go and all the things covered by them, or the ways in which therapy can be done that genuinely helps people.
A risk is that, as a consequence, the Christian response to the proposed ban may be messy and disunited. Yet as some oppose the ban while others sit this one out, or even, like the Church of England, support it, let us hope we can maintain mutual respect so that Gospel unity is not needlessly undermined by people following their conscience.
Dr Will Jones is a Warwickshire-based writer, a mathematics graduate with a PhD in political philosophy and a diploma in biblical and theological studies. He blogs at www.faith-and-politics.com and is author of Evangelical Social Theology: Past and Present (Grove, 2017). He can be found on Twitter @faithnpolitic