Ex-barrister wins right to sue after he was kicked off his degree course ‘for raising his fears about “potentially irreversible” medical treatment given to children questioning their gender’

  • James Esses will have his claims that he was treated unlawfully tested at tribunal
  • The former barrister will sue the UK Council for Psychotherapy for discrimination
  • He alleges he was kicked off degree course for expressing gender critical views

A former barrister has won the right to sue the UK Council for Psychotherapy for discrimination over allegations he was kicked off his degree course for expressing gender critical views.

James Esses has been given permission by a judge to have his claims that he was treated unlawfully due to his beliefs tested at a full employment tribunal.

The trainee therapist alleges that the UKCP instructed the Metanoia Institute in west London, where he was studying, to have him thrown off his Masters course in psychotherapy.

At a hearing the UKCP attempted to have his case against it thrown out arguing that there was no evidence it had given instructions for him to be thrown off the course. But Employment Judge Beyzade ruled that the case should be tested at a full tribunal.

It followed Mr Esses raising concerns about the professional body’s attitude towards trans issues, particularly in children.

At a preliminary hearing, Mr Esses set out the beliefs he claims should entitle him to legal protection.

According to a judgement, these include the views: ‘That sex is binary, immutable and biological and gender is a question of identity based upon a variety of factors, including culture and socialisation.

James Esses has been given permission by a judge to have his claims that he was treated unlawfully due to his beliefs tested at a full employment tribunal

‘It is a collection of attributes or traits typically associated with a particular sex. Although someone may exhibit more masculine or feminine attributes or traits, it does not change their biological sex.

‘Gender identity and sex are independent of one another and separate. A person’s gender identity may overlap or correspond with their sex; or alternatively the two characteristics may not overlap or correspond at all. Broadly, this may be described as ‘the gender critical belief’.’

Relating to the approach of psychotherapists to these issues, Mr Esses argued: ‘That gender reassignment is not de facto the appropriate treatment for all individuals experiencing gender dysphoria and that there may be such individuals who ought not to be treated in this manner immediately and/or merely by fact of their gender dysphoria.

‘Psychotherapists should explore by way of open-ended discussion the context and possible causes of a person’s gender dysphoria, which may in some cases lead to the person desisting from a course of potentially irreversible and potentially damaging medical intervention such as puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones and sex reassignment surgery.

‘This therapeutic approach amounts to necessary, beneficial and responsible treatment. It should not be conflated with harmful conversion therapy, which seeks to divert or deny an individual from their sexual orientation or gender identity, and it must not be criminalised.’

The central London hearing was told that after Mr Esses started studying at the Metanoia Institute – which provides psychology, psychotherapy and counselling training – he applied for trainee membership of the UKCP in September 2020.

The tribunal was told that on 31 January 2021, he sent an email to the communications team at the UKCP to express ‘his concern with a lack of balance in the discussion and debate around treatment of gender dysphoria, particularly for children’.

He attached a draft article that he had written, which was entitled ‘The Real ‘Conversion’ Therapy: Puberty Blockers, Hormone Treatment and Sex Reassignment Surgery’ and asked the UKCP to consider publishing it ‘to offer a different side of this nuanced discussion to UKCP members and colleagues.’

The next month he received an email from the UKCP’s registrar warning him that if he wished to apply for full membership he would have to abide by the body’s ‘ethical framework’.

He was also told his original correspondence would be forwarded to the Metanoia Institute and in April an email was sent by someone at the UKCP to its CEO.

The trainee therapist was thrown off his Masters course at the Metanoia Institute in west London (stock image)

The email stated: ‘We are greatly concerned by this situation and I would be grateful for your organisation’s views on this matter as soon as possible,’ the tribunal heard.

Mr Esses’s contract with Metanoia Institute was terminated on 6 May 2021 and three weeks later he was informed by email that as he was no longer a student, his trainee membership of the UKCP had been terminated.

At the hearing in June, he claimed that by doing so, the two bodies had discriminated, harassed and victimised him because of his beliefs.

‘It is (Mr Esses’s case) that UKCP communicated its concerns to (the Metanoia Institute) about (his) expressed views on conversion therapy…’ the tribunal heard.

‘(He) contends that the two organisations then communicated further about the matter, and within a week the claimant’s contract with (the Metanoia Institute) was summarily terminated which (he) says took place because of his expressed views on conversion therapy.’

Judge Beyzade said: ‘Having considered the submissions…I do not consider it appropriate to strike out the direct discrimination because of philosophical belief claim.

‘I am unable to conclude at this stage of the proceedings…that (his claims) have no or little reasonable prospects of success in the absence of hearing further evidence.

‘This is a fact sensitive exercise that the tribunal at a final hearing will be best placed to carry out.’

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