James Esses is set to take on two institutions in a fight to uphold the rights of those with gender critical beliefs. Yesterday the 29 year-old announced he has formally commenced his legal action against both the Metanoia Institute and also the United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP), one of the largest accreditation bodies for therapists in the UK. The case seems set to be the first brought on the basis of gender critical beliefs being protected in law.
Esses was three years into his masters course when he received an email from the course provider, the Metanoia Institute, informing him that he had been expelled.
Earlier this year he explained on his Crowdfunder:
“The reason for my expulsion was that I had been trying to safeguard therapy and counselling for vulnerable children with gender dysphoria. I had lodged a public petition, which subsequently got 10,000 signatures and a response from the government, who agreed to many of the safeguards I had been seeking.”
The Metanoia Institute published the news of Esses’ expulsion on social media, potentially ruining his career before it had even begun. His campaigning for protection of children with gender dysphoria also saw him booted from a counselling role at Childline, where he had volunteered for six years.
Esses received considerable support from the public, raising over £50,000 on a crowdfunding site in just five days. Now, he is extending both the target to £80,000 and the scope of the case to include UKCP.
Initially Esses was only intending to take-on the Metanoia Institute, reasoning that they had discriminated against himself and those with gender critical beliefs. He explained to The Critic in August:
“I know for a fact there are many others in my situation, especially trainee and practising therapists. However, most are unfortunately too scared to raise their concerns for fear that what has happened to me will happen to them.”
But when gathering together information for the case, Esses received documents which showed UKCP had put pressure on the Metanoia Institute regarding how they dealt with him. As both the Metanoia Institute and UKCP provide professional qualifications they effectively act as quasi-regulatory bodies. As such they have a duty under the Equality Act (2010) not to discriminate against people on the basis of belief.
Should he be successful those training to be therapists would be free to publicly question the prevailing orthodoxy on gender identity, thereby offering greater protection for their clients.
Esses’ lawyers, Akua Reindorf and Peter Daly, have both previously stood-up for the right to hold and express gender critical beliefs.
Earlier this year, Reindorf conducted an investigation into the non-platforming of feminist academics at the University of Essex. The findings were damning about the role of Stonewall on the university’s policies, reporting that staff had complained a “culture of fear” had gripped the campus.
Daly acted for Maya Forstater in the appeal that established gender critical beliefs as being worthy of protection from discrimination. Following the ruling Daly described the judgment as “a comprehensive assertion of the liberal principles of freedom of speech and thought that underpin our democracy” adding it “puts to rest the misconception that it is lawful to discriminate against those who recognise women as a class of people identified on the basis of their sex.”
The case sounds dry, but the ramifications could be wide-reaching; if he wins it will potentially reaffirm the duty that regulatory bodies have to not discriminate against those with gender critical beliefs. This is particularly important with regard to therapy which seeks to explore people’s feelings, to expect therapists to only do so from one perspective is limiting and potentially dangerous.
Esses’ case could force a rethink within institutions like Metanoia Institute and UKCP. Should he be successful those training to be therapists would be free to publicly question the prevailing orthodoxy on gender identity, thereby offering greater protection for their clients. Therapists need to be able to explore the feelings of lesbian, gay and bisexual youth with gender dysphoria without ideological constraints. The freedom to do this is important, particularly given the government announcement that so-called ‘gender identity conversion therapy’ is to be banned. The ideology of gender identity has swiftly become embedded in the policy and practice of organisations such as the Metanoia Institute and UKCP, Esses’ case could force a much-needed rethink.