Tory government claims trans conversion therapy ban ‘too complex’ amid searing backlash

A protester holds a placard saying "No excuse for abuse" during a demonstration against conversion therapy outside UK Cabinet office

Boris Johnson’s government has confirmed it’s moving ahead with a ban on conversion therapy that does not protect the trans community.

LGBT+ activists, campaigners and MPs denounced the government for excluding the trans community from vital protections against conversion therapy. 

A government statement confirmed on Monday (4 April) that the prime minister is “committed to bringing forward legislation to ban conversion therapy”, but that there would be “separate work to consider the issue of transgender conversion therapy”.

“This is a legally complex area, and we have a responsibility to ensure unintended consequences are not written into legislation, particularly in the case of under 18s,” it added.

Responding to the news, campaigner and conversion therapy survivor Jayne Ozanne told PinkNews: “The UK government is choosing to wage a culture war rather than protecting some of the most vulnerable in our society, and is the only country to have caved in to such pressure from a gender critical lobby intent on stoking irrational fears.”

The government’s statement confirms an ITV report which said the prime minister would move forward with a ban on conversion therapy that seeks to change a person’s sexuality – but would not protect trans people.

It was a screeching U-turn which came hours after the government confirmed it was dropping plans for a legislative conversion therapy ban entirely.

In response to the government reneging on its promise, more than 80 leading LGBT+ and HIV organisations have pulled out of the UK government’s flagship LGBT+ conference, Safe To Be Me.

Stonewall said in an open letter that it was withdrawing from the conference with a “heavy heart”, but it would only participate in the government conference if Johnson “reverts to his promise for a trans-inclusive ban on conversion therapy”. 

The letter was released by the LGBT+ Consortium, an umbrella body for queer voluntary and community organisations in the UK, and was backed by dozens more groups including Gendered Intelligence, Just Like Us, LGBT Foundation, LGBT History Month, Mermaids, the Ozanne Foundation, the Peter Tatchell Foundation, the Terrence Higgins Trust 

Stonewall said it should have been a “moment for redoubling efforts globally to improve LGBTQ+ people’s rights and experiences”, but that Boris Johnson’s actions had left it “with no choice but to withdraw our support”. 

“That the prime minister would so casually walk away from four years of promises to the LGBTQ+ community is appalling, and we cannot in good conscience back Safe To Be Me at a time when our community’s trust in the UK Government is shattered,” Stonewall said. 

It added that Johnson’s “partial ban” leaves trans people at “continued risk of this abuse”.

Stonewall said the move is “out of step with every other nation that has recently introduced a ban on conversion therapy” and “ignores all credible international research that is available, including the position of the UN Independent Expert”. 

The statement continued: “It is apparent that trans people have once again been sacrificed for political gain. 

“Commissioning a separate body of work to unpick something that has already been resolved many times the world over, can only be read as an attempt to kick the issue of protecting trans people into the long grass. 

“This is callous and unacceptable.”