Stonewall and 80 groups pull out of government LGBT+ conference over conversion therapy failure

Liz Truss and Boris Johnson

The government’s flagship LGBT+ rights conference, Safe To Be Me, is as good as dead after Stonewall and more than 80 LGBT+ groups cut any remaining ties.

Safe To Be Me has been billed by the government as the UK’s first ever global LGBT+ conference, and is set to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the first official London Pride.

However, after the government confirmed it would be proceeding with a ban on conversion therapy that does not protect trans people, 82 LGBT+ and HIV organisations are now refusing to be involved.

The LGBT+ Consortium, an umbrella group for LGBT+ organisations across the UK, shared a statement from Stonewall, which said: Due to the prime minister’s broken promise on protecting trans people from the harms of conversion therapy, we regret that we are withdrawing Stonewall’s support for the UK government’s Safe To Be Me conference.

“We will only be able to participate if the prime minister reverts to his promise for a trans-inclusive ban on conversion therapy.”

The statement is backed by 82 other LGBTQIA+ organisations including GIRES, Gendered Intelligence, Mermaids, The LGBT Foundation, The Peter Tatchell Foundation, The Intercom Trust, The Proud Trust, The Ozanne Foundation and many others. It’s understood that more groups are set to join.

It adds: “Trans people are no less worth of respect, care and protection than cis lesbian, gay and bi people. If the UK government cannot stand behind and respect all LGBTQ+ people’s fundamental human rights, it should not be convening an LGBTQ+ rights conference on the global stage.”

The 82 groups took collective action after many individual groups distanced themselves from the event.

The UK’s largest trans-led transgender charity Gendered intelligence said that Safe To Be Me “would be an exercise in pinknwashing”.

“For years the government have provided nothing but broken promises,” the charity told PinkNews. “They have ignored the public mandate for Gender Recognition Act reform, backslid on conversion practice legislation, abandoned the LGBT Action Plan — and scarcely a week goes by without a senior official denigrating trans people in parliament. We as a community are tired of being told to wait, of being reassured that change will come.”

Trans youth charity Mermaids said in a statement: “By condoning conversion abuse for our community, the government has completely lost our trust and is in no position to be convening an LGBTQIA+ rights conference on the global stage. Thanks to this government’s actions, the UK is a very long way from being safe for trans and non-binary people.”

A Vice report last week revealed the conference has so far failed to attract corporate sponsors.

Major companies such as BP and OVO Energy were asked to sign up, but they declined the opportunity, according to the outlet.

Other companies that have reportedly refused to take part in the conference include Vodafone, Virgin Media and NBC Universal. It is believed that Google is still in talks to become a sponsor for the event.

An employee at an unnamed investment bank reportedly threatened to quit if the bank agreed to become a sponsor of the conference. That organisation ultimately declined the invitation.

“We’re less than three months away, and we have no speakers, no sponsorship, no budget. It’s a mess,” one anonymous staff member told Vice World News.

There are now calls for other organisations to join the boycott.

Stuart McKenna, a senior HR professional for the NHS, tweeted: “I call on all NHS leaders to refuse to engage with #SafeToBeMe2022 campaign. None of us are safe until we are all safe.”

PinkNews contacted the Government Equalities Office for comment.