Boris Johnson warned trans conversion therapy U-turn ‘pushing Wales closer to independence’

The head of the Pride Cymru parade including First Minister for Wales Mark Drakeford, Christina Rees MP and Stephen Doughty MP.

It’s “downright undemocratic” for Boris Johnson to unilaterally strip trans people in Wales of conversion therapy protections, an advocacy group has said.

The prime minister has faced widespread backlash from LGBT+ groups and MPs since he decided to exclude trans people from the government’s conversion therapy ban, which covers England and Wales.

The sense of frustration in Wales was palpable. Shortly after the news broke, Mark Drakeford, the Welsh first minister, said he had requested “urgent legal advice” on how Wales could proceed with its own conversion therapy ban that protects the entire LGBT+ community.

Shash Appan, media officer with Trans Aid Cymru, told PinkNews that it’s “downright undemocratic” for Downing Street to be making decisions about LGBT+ rights in Wales.

“It is incredibly frustrating to have things like healthcare devolved but the equality aspects of that healthcare dominated by Westminster,” Appan said.

“In Wales, we voted for Labour, and we are governed by the Tories. It’s downright undemocratic for us to have the Tories make these decision for us. They should not have the ability to dictate which human rights Welsh trans people can and cannot have access to.”

Devolved nations ‘left high and dry’ by conversion therapy flip-flopping

That’s echoed by veteran LGBT+ rights activist Lisa Power, who lives in Cardiff. She told PinkNews that the government’s decision “exposes the complete moral vacuum at the heart of the current government”.

“I think there’s a fundamental difference in the governments of Wales and Westminster because the government in Wales has been incredibly supportive of the whole LGBT+ community,” Power said.

“We have an LGBT Action Plan, our minister for equalities is a lesbian, we know what we’re doing here. It’s very clear that not only the rest of the LGBT+ community, but also the government, stands with trans people.

“It’s clear that the government here is looking for ways to fulfil the promises the Westminster government is failing to keep. All of the devolved nations have been left high and dry by this Westminster decision because all of them had it as part of an agreement.

“I think the Welsh government will do anything it can. They are trying to safeguard their citizens in a way the Westminster government won’t.”

Power also points out that the Westminster government’s recent flip-flopping on conversion therapy is exactly the kind of political interventions that pushed the devolved nations closer to independence.

“The government in Westminster is blindly ignoring that each time something like this happens, we get one step closer to complete secession. A lot of people here are suddenly getting much more interested in independence.”

She continued: “I think the government has made a severe misjudgement of the mood within the country.”

Scotland and Northern Ireland will push ahead with own legislation

There was a furious reaction from activists in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland when Downing Street announced that it was excluding trans people from conversion therapy legislation.

The Scottish Tories announced on Wednesday (6 April) that they will back a trans-inclusive conversion therapy ban if one is brought forward in Holyrood. The SNP/Green coalition has already promised to ban conversion therapy by the end of 2023.

Northern Ireland has also been working on its conversion therapy ban. A spokesperson for the Department for Communities (DfC) confirmed to PinkNews that legislation is currently being drafted and that the eventual ban will protect “everyone affected in our LGBTQI+ communities”.

Up until now, Wales was set to be governed by the same legislation promised by Westminster – however, ministers are now eager to explore alternative options to ensure that trans people in the territory are protected from harm.

Hannah Blythyn, deputy minister for social partnership in Wales, said she had written to the UK government to express her strongest condemnation of its move after news broke last week that trans people would be left out of the legislation.

“We will do all we can within our devolved powers to protect our LGBTQ community,” Blythyn said.

“We can no longer have faith that the UK government will do the same. We will also seek the devolution of any necessary additional powers required to see this through.”