I FELT that Stephen Paton’s article in Monday’s paper demanding that Joanna Cherry be expelled from the SNP on the basis of her article in Saturday’s paper reflected Stephen’s own (understandable) obsession with the GRA legislation. It focused exclusively on one statement she made in this article: “We must not make it a criminal offence for therapists to try to help patients with gender dysphoria to feel comfortable in their birth sex”. If this had been the main thrust of her argument, I would have tended to agree with Stephen, but it was not.

I too read Joanna’s article. From this I took several points:

First, growing up with questions of her own sexual identity was not easy for her, but eventually she became comfortable with her lesbianism. However, as with all questions of sexual identity, it took time, support from others, and experience to reach this point.

READ MORE: Joanna Cherry: This is why I have real concerns around conversion therapy legislation

Second, she stated that she is against “conversion therapy” as it is broadly understood, by those who care to think about it, as a “coercive and manipulative process” (Stephen’s own words). She clearly stated that adolescent, or pre-pubescent, gender dysphoria could have one of several outcomes for young people: becoming comfortable with their birth sex, choosing same-sex relationships, and identifying as being transsexual being three of them. As far as I could see, she regards any or all of these outcomes as being equally valid.

Third, the caveat she uttered was that for many (though not all) very young people, the confusion they feel in that situation might require therapy before they make a decision to take powerful, life-changing drugs or undergo irreversible surgery before they are sure of their own sexual/gender identity. Equally implied in her argument were statements such as “We must not make it a criminal offence for therapists to try to help patients with gender dysphoria to feel comfortable in their homosexuality” or “We must not make it a criminal offence for therapists to try to help patients with gender dysphoria to feel comfortable in their transsexualism”, whichever the outcome of the process.

READ MORE: Mhairi Black: Why I stand against conversion therapy in all its guises

I taught in a secondary school for 40 years. During that time, I dealt with many young people who questioned their own sexual/gender identity; I also had to deal with the bullying that resulted from societal prejudices, which unfortunately, though perhaps less frequently and forcibly expressed and acted on, are still too apparent. Tolerance of the views and lifestyles of others is the key to this and it must come from all sides. Education, counselling and support are also vital, but coercion and manipulation cannot be allowed. That is why therapists and counsellors must be suitably qualified, licensed and monitored.

Jean Park
via email

I FOUND myself, on a cold and frosty winter’s morning, reading and contrasting two items in my Monday National. One was a calm, sensible, cool-headed but heartwarming long letter from Andy Anderson headed “Cherry’s approach make sense to me so why all the anger”. The other was a half-page angry rant by your columnist Stephen Paton headed “SNP’s last chance to regain credibility with LGBT community”.

The National had devoted many – some might easily say too many – column inches to this subject in the past few days. I have also read with interest the thoughts of Mhairi Black and the legally trained and experienced Joanna Cherry herself, as well as features on the so called “row” by The National’s own reporters.

Stephen Paton calls for Joanna Cherry to be, in effect, expelled from the SNP. Sadly Stephen Paton preaches tolerance but practises intolerance. If we were to wind these views back in history, they would be calling for Ms Cherry to be burnt at the stake for her “crimes.” The ill-informed rant ends with the almost biblical chant: “Act now or be damned.”

I hope the SNP and the First Minister do as I and many others have done in recent days: read and considered both positions and come to the conclusion that Ms Cherry is right and it is time to call a halt to the witch hunt.

John Baird