A trainee psychotherapist who says he was thrown off his degree course because he challenged gender identity ideology has settled part of his claim of discrimination.
James Esses, 31, who believes a person’s sex to be “binary and immutable”, filed a legal complaint against the Metanoia Institute, where he had been studying, and the United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP).
This week he said he was “extremely pleased” to have reached a settlement with the council over two years “after I was expelled from my masters’ degree in psychotherapy for daring to say that biological sex is real and that children should not be pushed down a pathway of irreversible medicalisation”.
In a statement this week, the council said it recognised that “gender-critical beliefs (that sex is both binary and immutable)” was protected under the Equality Act”.
The council also said it recognised “the validity of the professional belief that children suffering from gender dysphoria should be treated with explorative therapy, rather than being affirmed towards irreversible and potentially damaging medical intervention.”
Psychotherapists and counsellors accredited by it were “fully entitled to hold such beliefs and any discrimination against them on this basis, including by UKCP-accredited training organisations, is unlawful,” it said.
Esses described the council’s statement as “a significant shift in stance and I hope this will protect future students from going through what I have.”
The settlement “now paves the way for me to seek full justice against the institution which expelled me, the Metanoia Institute, when we go to trial next year”, he added.
Esses, who grew up in Dublin and was a member of the Jewish youth movement BBYO, was a former barrister turned civil servant before he embarked on a further career change. He enrolled in a part-time five year MSc at the Metanoia Institute in London but towards the end of his third year he was removed from the course in May 2021. Shortly afterwards the council cancelled his trainee membership of it.
As he commented on his crowdfunding page - he has raised nearly £129,000 towards his target of £200,000 to cover legal fees, “The reason for my expulsion was that I had been trying to safeguard therapy and counselling for vulnerable children with gender dysphoria”.
A public petition he had launched subsequently attracted 10,000 signatures and “a response from the government, who agreed to many of the safeguards I had been seeking”.
While gender assignment was the appropriate treatment for some people, he wrote, “For others, it will not. Careful and appropriate talking therapy allows each individual properly to explore underlying causes and options for their care. This is the approach that therapists pursue for every other mental health condition, and it should be no different for gender dysphoria.”
The Metanoia Institute was approached for comment.
Esses told the JC this week that in the two years he had pursuing the claim he had noticed “a significant increase in the volume of antisemitic slurs I am on the receiving end of, simply because I believe in biological reality and child safeguarding”.
It was “not uncommon for me to be called a Nazi” on social media, he said. “Others, playing on my surname, Esses, call me 'James SS’. This, unfortunately, has become par for the course and I wish I could say I was the only one”.