Tue 9 Aug 2022 — 4 min

The general board of the Polish Sexological Society (Polskie Towarzystwo Seksuologiczne or PTS) has issued a statement of condemnation regarding an upcoming visit by controversial therapists Marcus and Susan Evans to a conference of the Polish Association for Psychodynamic Psychotherapy. This has raised concerns about the Evans’ attempts to reduce gender dysphoria to a purely psychopathological framework with a psychotherapy proposed as a cure.

The Evanses have been facing considerable criticism within the field of academic psychotherapy for the contents of their book released in May 2021, which purports to offer a “therapeutic model” for the treatment of gender dysphoria. They also played a key role in the failed “Bell v Tavistock” case, which was overturned on appeal after the court heard that partisan expertise had been admitted in the original hearing.

In their statement the PTS said:

The General Board of the Polish Sexological Society is deeply concerned that guests whose publications and statements raise serious factual and ethical objections have been invited to a conference organized by a recognized scientific society. It is beyond the scope of our statement to discuss all of these objections. However, these include invalidating current scientific and clinical achievements related to the topic of gender dysphoria/incongruence, while at the same time proposing theses based only on speculations. These are not rooted in research, but rather, as can be guessed, in the individual clinical experiences of the authors, the use of illegitimate generalisations (conflating children and adolescents into one group in the context of possible gender-affirming interventions).

It then goes on to say:

The Polish Sexological Society firmly calls on its members participating in the conference to refrain from expressing views unreasonably devaluing the entirety of the existing scientific and clinical achievements; supporting so-called conversion therapies; reducing transgender identity, or even gender dysphoria itself, to purely psychopathological conditions; disregarding or minimising the suffering associated with it; or the use of excessive and unjustified generalisations, which may result in delaying the implementation of necessary gender-affirming interventions for those who absolutely need them.

This statement by the PTS followed an open letter signed by a large number of members of Poland’s medical, scientific an therapeutic community as well as Polish trans rights groups and members of the Polish parliament.

Mounting criticism

In April 2022, the academic journal Psychoanalytic Quarterly featured a damning review of Marcus and Susan Evans’ book entitled “On Trying to Pass off Transphobia as Psychoanalysis and Cruelty as “Clinical Logic”. In the review, Avgi Saketopoulou strongly criticises the loud but false claims of commitment to neutrality in therapy, warning:

Despite touting an “objective scientific appraisal” (p. xix), and stating that the authors are “neither ‘pro’ nor ‘anti’ transition” (p. 7) and will “keep an open mind” (p. 8), this highly political volume gives us, instead, a remarkably stale and dangerous recycling of anti-trans rhetoric.

She then points out that:

In this book, therapy is not an open-ended exploration, but a targeted course correction toward the predetermined end that its authors, Susan Evans and Marcus Evans, know to be true, no matter the specific child’s dynamics: namely, that “gender dysphoria is a psychic retreat” that interferes with “reality testing” (p. 203).

Trans Safety Network wrote an article criticising this book at its launch in 2021. We commented that Marcus and Susan Evans were very clearly suggesting that trans people were broken and in need of fixing. This included that they were treating the classic diagnostic criteria for gender dysphoria (“consistent, persistent, insistent”) as a sign of “the fixed state of mind that would create this insistence and persistence, you know, a sort of rigidity about ideas,” which Susan Evans described as “actually one of the very things that young people need to be helped with.”

Despite raising questions with the British Psychoanalytic Council at the time about how this sits with their participation as signatories in the Memorandum of Understanding on Conversion Therapy, they have so far not sanctioned the Evans for writing a book which drives a clear agenda, rather than prioritising the client's self-understanding, or neutral exploration in its approach to therapy for patients with gender dysphoria.

We hope that the BPC are willing to reconsider.