Tory minister shuts down false claim trans charity Mermaids would be targeted by conversion ban

Mermaids marches at Pride in London 2019

Tory equalities minister Mike Freer has dispelled an article in The Times which claimed that the government’s proposed conversion therapy ban would “outlaw” trans charities like Mermaids.

On Friday (29 October), the government began a public consultation on a proposed conversion therapy ban.

The consultation document laid out the government’s plans for legislating for the ban, which would outlaw conversion therapy for under-18s in all circumstances. Over-18s would be free to “consent” to conversion therapy, a “loophole” which has caused alarm among LGBT+ advocates.

Confusion further arose after The Times ran a story, titled “Urging change of gender to be criminalised”, which claimed: “Government sources suggested that individuals working for organisations such as Mermaids, a charity that offers advice and counselling to children with gender dysphoria, could face criminal sanctions if they were found guilty of encouraging under 18s to change gender.”

However, equalities minister Freer has hit back at the claim, writing on Twitter: “This is incorrect. Our proposals set out that any person who tries to change the sexual orientation or gender identity of someone under 18 would be at risk of prosecution.

“This does not mean that organisations that seek to provide advice to under-18s would be ‘outlawed’.”

Mermaids also addressed the article, tweeting: “For anyone worrying about a *certain* article from today – we have had reassurance from government officials that government policy is not designed to specifically target our work, nor any organisation that supports trans people.

“This clearly doesn’t stop others from targeting us though … *yawn*.

“We are an organisation that supports trans, non-binary, gender diverse and gender exploring young people, and family members, without expectation, and we will continue to do so.

“Stay strong and stay loud. Trans people exist. We deserve love, support and room to explore who we are. Mermaids will always be here as one organisation, alongside many, to offer a space to do so.”

The government may not be ‘outlawing’ trans charities, but its proposed conversion therapy ban has caused other concerns

The government’s proposed conversion therapy ban, which is now open to public consultation, may not “outlaw” trans charities, but it certainly contains some worrying red flags.

From repeatedly referencing attempts to convert people “to being transgender”, to allowing loopholes for religious conversion therapy and “consenting adults”, the proposed legislation is not what the LGBT+ community was hoping for.

However, anyone is able to respond to the consultation, which runs for six weeks, closing on 10 December at 11.45pm, allowing the community to combat areas of concern.

The full consultation can be accessed here, and anyone wishing to give their opinion on the proposals can submit their responses online.

Responses can also be submitted by email or by post.