Elton John, Stephen Fry, Munroe Bergdorf and Dua Lipa sign open letter urging government to ban conversion therapy

Conversion therapy

Elton John, Stephen Fry, Munroe Bergdorf and Dua Lipa are among 85 influential public figures calling for the UK government to take urgent action to stamp out conversion therapy.

An open letter signed by a broad range of MPs, musicians, actors, activists, writers and campaigners urges the equalities minister Liz Truss to introduce a “truly effective ban” against the harmful and debunked practice of attempting to change a person’s sexuality or gender identity.

The many high-profile signatories also include Peter Tatchell, Angela Eagle, Charlie XCX, Jade Thirlwall, Katherine Ryan, Alex Lawther and Russell T Davies.

“Theresa May, as prime minister, vowed to eradicate this “abhorrent” practice in 2018 and since then the British public has been waiting expectantly, not least the LGBTQ+ community,” they write.

“The government has said recently that conversion therapy is complex, which it undoubtedly is, and although we acknowledge this issue is nuanced we strongly believe that effective legislation, supported by a programme of work to help tackle these practices in all their forms, is possible.

“Any form of counselling or persuading someone to change their sexual orientation or behaviour so as to conform with a heteronormative lifestyle, or their gender identity should be illegal, no matter the reason, religious or otherwise — whatever the person’s age.”

So-called ‘conversion therapy’ is frequently described a form of psychological torture (Pexels)

Highlighting increased levels of suicide in the LGBT+ community, the letter points to a government survey indicating that one in seven trans people have been have been offered services to change their gender identity.

It condemns the “demonising” of trans people in the UK, noting the attacks on trans healthcare being made under the umbrella of tackling conversion therapy.

“There has been a growing, dangerous suggestion that trans healthcare should be prevented on the basis that it is itself a form of conversion therapy. This will further contribute to the demonising of trans people within the UK,” the letter reads.

“The issue of conversion therapy will not be remedied by questioning trans people and trans youth, who are already a particularly vulnerable group.”

The letter concludes with a rallying call to “end it now”, otherwise “torture will continue to take place on British soil.”

Government drags its feet on conversion therapy ban.

So-called conversion therapy has been linked to higher risks of depression, suicide, and drug addiction. All major UK medical and psychotherapy organisations have rejected the practice for decades, and the UN has long called for a global ban.

But the Conservative government has made no measurable progress towards eradicating it, despite committing to do so in its July 2018 LGBT+ Action Plan. This document promised to end conversion therapy as a priority, with ministers at the time describing “gay cures” as “abuse of the worst kind”.

A July 2019 report promised that a formal consultation was on the way, but when equalities minister Kemi Badenoch was questioned in May 2020 she made no mention of the consultation. She called conversion therapy “a very complex issue” and said that the government had not decided how to proceed, The Independent reported.

Asked to clarify Badenoch’s comments, a spokesperson for the equalities office confirmed that the government “remains committed to ending conversion therapy”.

They insisted that they were not backtracking on the issue since the government never specifically promised a ban in legislation, but rather to end the practice in an unspecified way.

When the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Global LGBT+ Rights pressured Truss on May 29, she said she welcomed their support but remained vague about a timeline. She would “shortly be bringing forward plans”, she claimed, and had asked her office to “make arrangements” for this to happen.

According to a source and a leaked document familiar to The Sunday Times, ministers hope this will “placate” the LGBT+ community as the government reportedly prepares to drop vital plans to reform gender recognition laws.