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Government Backtrack on Banning Trans Conversion Therapy

On Thursday the 31st of April, ITV reporter Paul Brand dropped an exclusive story detailing the contents of a leaked government document, that showcased the government’s plans to no longer go ahead with its promise of banning conversion therapy in England and Wales.

After witnessing the backlash this received, the government quickly made a partial U-turn stating that conversion therapy, on the basis of sexuality, will be outlawed but conversion therapy on the basis of someone’s gender will remain legal.

The potential ban on conversion therapy was initially discussed in 2018, by then Prime Minister Theresa May, with the sentiment echoed by current Prime Minister Boris Johnson soon after he took on the position.

With over a year of little to no action, the ban was officially announced in the Queen’s speech in May 2021.

In October 2021, a six-week consultation on the banning of conversion therapy was opened, which allowed members of the LGBTQ+ community to share their own experiences with conversion therapy and offer feedback on the proposed bill.

The consultation was then extended until February 4th; this was met by some backlash by LGBTQ+ groups, who viewed this as another delay in putting a ban in place.

On Wednesday, March 30th, a day before these documents were leaked, Equalities Minister Mark Freer stated in parliament that the government remained committed to banning conversion therapy, with legislation to be brought forward in spring. However, this did not appear to be Boris Johnson’s plan at the time.

The leaked document stated, “The PM has agreed we should not move forward with legislation to ban LGBT conversion therapy.”

As a result of ITV’s exclusive report, and the backlash the government faced, including from some of their own MPs, they made an announcement to many media outlets that a ban on conversion therapy would go ahead but only on the grounds of sexuality. A ban on conversion therapy for Transgender people would not be put in place, and this is set to be officially announced in the Queen’s speech later this year.

This occurred on Trans Visibility day, in which the Conservative government made efforts to try to display that they stand with trans people after many past allegations of transphobia. Nevertheless, the announcement that there will be no ban on Conversion therapy for Transgender individuals, highlight how these efforts appear to hold no substance.

The hashtag #LGBWithTheT began to trend on Twitter, with several public figures, such as the Drag Queen Divina De Campo and musician as well as actor Olly Alexander speaking out against it.

Following the announcement Ian Anderson, a key LGBTQ+ advisor to the Conservative government has since stepped down. He stated that “politics which creates a dividing line between LGB people and Trans people will never be [his] approach.”

Jamie Wallis, the first openly transgender MP, has also spoken in opposition to the lack of Trans protection. He stated on Twitter that he was “bitterly disappointed” and described the decision to not provide protection to Transgender people as a “broken promise.”

In reaction to the announcement on Thursday over 100 LGBTQ+ support groups, such as Stonewall, Mermaids and the LGBT Foundation have pulled out of the governments ‘Safe To Be Me’ conference.

The ‘Safe To Be Me’ conference was supposed to be the first global LGBTQ+ conference but has had to be cancelled due to the amount of LGBTQ+ organisations that will no longer support it after the government’s refusal to ban Transgender conversion therapy.

Despite this, the government remains firm on its decision to not include Transgender people in their ban on conversion therapy, maintaining that there are greater complexities when it comes to gender than sexuality.

The Welsh government do not appear to agree with this and has issued a statement outlining how they are taking legal advice over what actions they can take to fully ban conversion therapy in Wales.

NHS England and nineteen other health and psychology organisations have signed the Memorandum of Understanding on conversion therapy in the UK, agreeing that conversion therapy on the basis of both sexuality and gender is “unethical and potentially harmful”.

In response to this exclusion of trans people from the ban on conversion therapy, hundreds protested in downing street on Sunday the 10th of April using chants such as “LGB with the T.”

Since the announcement, a YouGov/The Time piece of research showed that the majority of the British population is in support of a ban on conversion therapy for transgender people.

Words by: Carla Booth

Edited by: Mckenzie Burnett

Second year Journalism student at the University of Leeds. Lover of all things pop culture, especially Taylor Swift and YA fiction.
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