LGBTQ+ groups are furious over reports that the UK government is planning to only ban conversion therapy for cisgender gay, lesbian and bi people and exclude those who are transgender.
The government has been promising since 2018 to pass legislation to outlaw the discredited and dangerous practice of trying to change an LGBTQ+ person’s sexuality or gender identity. This was reaffirmed by Prime Minister Boris Johnson in 2020.
Leaked plans now suggests that the government is set to follow advice from the UK’s Equality and Human Rights Commission to delay banning transgender conversion therapy because it claims that there is not enough research and consensus on matters affecting transgender people.
LGBTQ+ and allied groups have responded with an almost unanimous voice in condemning the move. More than 80 organisations have announced a boycott of the upcoming high profile Safe To Be Me global LGBTQ+ conference hosted by the UK Government.
Stonewall, the leading LGBTQ+ rights group in the UK, accused the government of sacrificing trans people “for political gain”. It confirmed its withdrawal of support for the Safe To Be Me conference and will only participate “if the Prime Minister reverts to his promise for a trans-inclusive ban on conversion therapy.”
“That the Prime Minister would so casually walk away from four years of promises to the LGBTQ+ community is appalling, and we cannot in good conscience back Safe To Be Me at a time when our community’s trust in the UK Government is shattered,” said the organisation.
Stonewall noted that a partial ban, that protects LGB cis people but leaves trans people, including trans children, at continued risk of abuse “is out of step with every other nation that has recently introduced a ban on conversion therapy, and ignores all credible international research that is available, including the position of the UN Independent Expert.”
The LGBT Foundation has backed Stonewall’s position and stated that “our rights cannot be conditional on political convenience or expediency,” adding that “there can be no LGB without the T.”
In a joint statement, 28 HIV charities and community groups said that the government’s decision “is completely unacceptable”.
They asserted that “Trans rights are human rights – progress without or at the expense of trans people is not progress. We stand together and will not be divided.” They further confirmed that they will also “not be supporting or attending the upcoming global LGBT+ ‘Safe To Be Me’ conference unless the government reverts to their promise of a trans-inclusive ban.”
Iain Anderson, who was appointed as the UK’s LGBT Business Champion in September last year resigned on Tuesday in protest, while Britain’s first openly trans MP, Jamie Wallis, said that he is “bitterly disappointed at the Government’s decision not to include gender identity in the ban on conversion therapy.”
The Safe To Be Me conference is set to take place in London from 29 June to 1 July, to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the first official London Pride marches. It is unlikely to go ahead or have any credibility without the support of LGBTQ+ groups.
Conversion therapy has been discredited by mental health and human rights groups, including the World Psychiatric Association, as ineffective and harmful. It is linked to depression, anxiety, substance abuse, homelessness and suicide.
The practice is banned in a handful of countries and regions, including Brazil, Canada, France, Germany and Malta, but is not expressly outlawed in South Africa.