Thu 3 Aug 2023 — 3 min

The logo of Great Ormond Street Hospital

Last month, the originator of the controversial “Gender Exploratory Therapy” approach which rejects the gender affirmative therapy model celebrated being hired as a new Education Lead by Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital. Anastasis Spiliadis was one of a team of three who led a training session for London NHS CAMHS staff earlier in the year, reported on by Trans Safety Network at the time. The training contained alarming statements, including that “parents and carers should have access to a range of information to weigh up what may or may not fit or be helpful for each family” before listing two conversion therapy organisations and a group which has been criticised for promoting anti-trans bullying, alongside two mainstream trans support charities.

In this training, Spiliadis and his colleagues Tilly Langton and Anna Hutchinson promoted their “Gender Exploratory” approach to gender dysphoria treatment. This encourages inserting delays into transition and trying to resist a patient’s preferences for changes of name or pronouns. At the end of the slide deck, trainees were encouraged to investigate a list of organisations that “offer different perspectives”, directing NHS CAMHS Psychiatry Trainees towards on the one hand, mainstream trans support charities Gendered Intelligence and Mermaids, but on the other hand, two conversion therapy advocacy groups (Genspect and Bayswater Support Group), and the anti-trans lobby group Transgender Trend, who also campaign against banning conversion therapy for trans people. Transgender Trend who have also been described as a hate group and accused of promoting school bullying of trans youth leading to warnings issued in the educational press. As context for the inclusion of these harmful organisations, the Gender Exploratory Therapy training advised that “parents and carers should have access to a range of information in order to weigh up what may or may not be fit or be helpful”. Although they deny endorsing any of the organisations that they list, it is difficult to see this as anything other than a suggestion to child psychiatry trainees that they should direct parents to consider conversion therapy and anti-trans resources as potential options.

“Gender exploratory therapy” has been subject to criticism from leading experts on ending conversion therapy who say that contrary to the apparently neutral name, it is instead biased towards holding trans people’s identities in suspicion. This bias is also reflected in practices like those of the Gender Exploratory Therapy Association — co-founded by Genspect’s director Stella O’Malley — who preach resistance to anything other than psychological interventions for gender dysphoria, and form part of a wider array of tightly intertwined dubiously scientific lobbying groups connected to efforts to ban transition in the United States.

Great Ormond Street Hospital previously had to cancel a training conference last year after trans healthcare experts raised safeguarding concerns about the participation of leading figures within Genspect. Recent investigations into leaks from Genspect have described the group leveraging fears about transgender youth as part of a wider agenda in a campaign to ban even adult transition.

Trans Safety Network have contacted Anastassis Spiliadis and Great Ormond Street Hospital for comment.