Boris Johnson U-turns on conversion therapy after Tory backlash – but ban won’t cover trans people

Boris Johnson U-turns on conversion therapy - but excludes trans people

Boris Johnson will reportedly ban conversion therapy for lesbian, gay and bisexual people, but legislation won’t cover trans people.

The prime minister was forced into a second U-turn on conversion therapy, hours after news broke that he was dropping plans to ban the practice.

On Thursday (31 March), the government confirmed an ITV report that Johnson was abandoning a long-promised legislative ban. Downing Street said it would instead “explore the use of other non-legislative measures”.

After this decision prompted an outcry from MPs, LGBT+ charities including Stonewall and members of the queer community, the government changed tack.

ITV’s UK editor Paul Brand, who broke the story, tweeted: “The prime minister has changed his mind off the back of the reaction to our report and he WILL now ban conversion therapy after all.”

However, Brand reported that the ban will only cover “gay conversion therapy, not trans”.

This prompted renewed fury among the LGBT+ community.

Dominic Arnall, chief executive of the LGBT+ young people’s charity Just Like Us, said: “Promising to protect lesbian, gay and bisexual people while excluding trans people sends an abhorrent message that trans people are not worthy of the same rights, dignity and safety as their peers.

“Excluding trans people from these protections could lead directly to an escalation in this damaging practice aimed at trans young people and will certainly impact the mental health and wellbeing of whole generations.”

A government spokesperson told PinkNews: “The government has a proud record on LGBT rights, and the prime minister is committed to bringing forward legislation to ban conversion therapy.

“The content, scope and timing of the proposed bill will be confirmed in due course.”

Trans people twice as likely to experience conversion therapy

The government’s own National LGBT survey, published in 2018, found that trans people were almost twice as likely to have experienced conversion therapy than cis people. Thirteen per cent of respondents had undergone or been offered it, compared to seven per cent of cis people.

A UN expert has said that forced conversion therapy should be considered a form of torture.

Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson. (Pool/ AFP/ Jack Hill)

Just weeks ago, on 4 March, equalities minister Mike Freer promised that a conversion therapy ban would be forthcoming, and that it would cover religious practices and all LGBT+ people – including trans people.

A public consultation document on the subject was published in October 2021, but the proposal contained loopholes which would permit “consenting” adults to undergo conversion therapy (experts say consent is not possible in such a scenario) and had religious carve-outs.

In the time that the UK has continued to delay, Canada, France, New Zealand and India have all put comprehensive bans on the practice in place.

Boris Johnson U-turned on conversion therapy after Tory backlash

Boris Johnson was reportedly convinced to renege on his plan to ditch the ban by “the strength of reaction from Conservative MPs and ministers when they saw the story break”, Brand tweeted.


Before the latest U-turn, Dehenna Davison MP tweeted: “This decision is fundamentally wrong, and needs to be reversed immediately.

“As well as breaking an explicit promise, this is a matter of basic decency. Being gay is not something that needs curing.”


Conservative MP Alicia Kearns had told ITV that “people will lose lives” if a ban is not put in place.

“As a politician, I stood for election to ban conversion therapy because it is harming people up and down this country, it is people profiteering from telling people there is something wrong with them, that they are broken, they have some kind of pathogen. It is wrong,” she said.

“As MPs we have a duty to provide be a voice for those that others seek to silence and to save lives. This legislation does just that.

“If we do not bring in this legislation people will lose lives.”