Gender Identity letter to Birkbeck College, Jan 2020

A member contacted PCU to raise concerns about a recent CPD event on 'Working with Gender Identity' at Birkbeck College Although the event was marketed as training for counsellors in further education, the presenter, Stella O'Malley, is noted for promoting strong personal views about trans children which many people regard as transphobic. The event was lobbied by students and staff from UCU, Unison and Unite circulated the attached statement. The open letter from PCU pasted below has been sent to unions and relevant addresses at Birkbeck College. Richard The Psychotherapy and Counselling Union wish to express our grave concern regarding Birkbeck College's training event of 29th January, 'Working with Gender Identity'. We note that the speaker, Stella O'Malley, promotes strong personal opinions about transgender issues which are at odds with the consensus in the mental health field, and are not supported by evidence (see footnote 1). She has made a number of public statements appearing to endorse transphobic views. While we acknowledge that this is a contentious area where a range of strong views may be expressed, this event was presented as a counselling training event rather than a debate. In our view, this falls short of ethical and academic standards, fails to give a balanced perspective as a training session, and potentially risks harm to clients.Birkbeck College is a world-renowned academic institution and has a huge responsibility in educating and advocating for LGBTIQ+ inclusion. In our view Birkbeck College has let down the student and former students, staff and the LGBTIQ+ community in general with this event.We support the points made by our colleagues in Birkbeck Students Union, UCU and Unison. Like them, we are in favour of freedom of informed debate and do not consider that this speaker was an appropriate choice for an event marketed as CPD training.We urge Birkbeck College to publicly acknowledge their mistakes around this event and reconsider their approach to future training events on gender identity.Yours etc1. Accordingly with Turban, J. et al,’ treatment with pubertal suppression among those who wanted it was associated with lower odds of lifetime suicidal ideation when compared with those who wanted pubertal suppression but did not receive it. Suicidality is of particular concern for this population because of the estimated lifetime prevalence of suicide attempts among transgender people is as high as 40%.6 Approximately 9 of 10 transgender adults who wanted pubertal suppression but did not receive it endorsed lifetime suicidal ideation in the current study’ p.5

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