Top LGBT+ adviser quits Tory government over ‘damaging’ stance on trans conversion therapy

Iain Anderson wears a white shirt and black suit jacket as he looks at the camera

The UK government’s LGBT+ business champion Iain Anderson has resigned after less than a year in the role over Boris Johnson’s stance on conversion therapy.

Anderson, who is the co-founder and executive chairman at public relations firm Cicero, was appointed into the newly created role in September. He was tasked with driving forward LGBT+ equality in the workplace, reducing discrimination and ensuring businesses are doing “all they can” to show that the UK is an inclusive place to live and work. 

However, just months into the job, Anderson has announced on Tuesday (5 April) that he will be stepping down as a result of the UK government’s stance on banning conversion therapy. 

In a letter addressed to prime minister Boris Johnson, Anderson described being the UK’s “first-ever LGBT+ business champion” as the “honour of my life”, but he was walking away from the role “with a very heavy heart”. 

He described how the recent leaking of plans to “drop the government’s flagship legislation protecting LGBT+ people from conversion therapy” was “devastating” news. Just hours later, Johnson’s government changed its mind and decided to bring forward legislation to ban conversion therapy – but announced such protections would exclude the trans community.

Anderson said this decision was “deeply damaging to my work” as he had “always made it clear” that he is the “LGBT+ business champion and not the LGB champion”. 

“So many LGBT+ people continue to face violence and discrimination but politics which creates dividing lines between LGB people and trans people will never be my approach,” Anderson wrote. “Now – more than ever – we need tolerance and respect in our national conversations.”

Iain Anderson said it was “profoundly shocking” that the government would make these decisions on Transgender Day of Visibility and just shortly after the first trans MP Jamie Wallis bravely came out publicly

Anderson declared that “trust and belief” in the UK government’s “overall commitments to LGBT+ rights has been damaged”. He believed a “comprehensive plan” to enable queer people to “play their full part in our society is urgently needed”. 

“There remains an opportunity to show UK global leadership on LGBT+ rights,” he wrote. “I believe this opportunity is being missed.”

Anderson’s resignation comes as the UK government prepares to host its first international LGBT conference, Safe To Be Me, which is taking place in June. 

But as of Tuesday (5 April), more than 120 leading LGBT+ and HIV organisations have all cut ties with the flagship conference after the government confirmed it would be proceeding with a ban on conversion therapy that does not protect trans people.

The groups jointly withdrew support for the conference and would only be willing to participate if Johnson “reverts to his promise for a trans-inclusive ban on conversion therapy”. 

However, the government confirmed earlier that day that it would be going forward with a conversion therapy ban that does not include the trans community. 

A government spokesperson claimed it would be bringing forward “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,” the government said.