Thousands of LGBT+ people protest for inclusive conversion therapy ban: ‘We must stand together’

Poresters standing outside of Whitehall

Thousands of LGBT+ people took to the streets of London against the government banning gay but not trans conversion therapy in a striking show of pent-up anger.

Organisers said that at least 3,000 people gathered outside Downing Street Sunday afternoon (10 April).

Holding placards reading “ban conversion therapy” and shouting “what do we need in it? trans people”, the demonstrators drove London’s traffic to a halt as they blocked major thoroughfares.

The rally was a who’s who of LGBT+ people and groups, including RuPaul’s Drag Race UK stars Ella Vaday and River Medway as well as Stonewall, Mermaids, and Pride in London.

Iain Anderson, one of the government’s top LGBT+ advisers who dramatically quit from his post over the “damaging” exclusionary ban, also attended.

At one point, three members of the anti-trans campaign group LGB Alliance crept into the crowd only to be told to leave by protesters, attendees told PinkNews.

As much as protesters told PinkNews they felt almost disheartened, many said they were determined to show ministers just how betrayed the community feels about the decision to ban gay conversion therapy but exclude trans people.

Among them was Peter Tatchell, a decades-long standard-bearer of LGBT+ campaigning who helped organise the protest.

To Tatchell, the Conservative government has “conned and tricked” the LGBT+ community in a high-handed effort to “appease transphobes”.

Poresters standing outside of Whitehall

Thousands of protesters jammed the roads of central London. (Kestral Gaian)

He told PinkNews: “A ban on conversion therapy that is not trans-inclusive is not a genuine ban at all.

“Excluding trans people from protection against abusive, harmful conversion practices is a callous betrayal that will leave vulnerable trans people at the mercy of exorcisms, abuse, emotional blackmail and psychological brow-beating.”

Jayne Ozanne, one of the march’s organisers and herself a former LGBT+ adviser to the government, praised the trans and non-binary people who took to the stage and made their presence known.

“I was truly overwhelmed by the number of people who turned out to join us yesterday,” the evangelical Anglican said.

“To have over 3,000 plus in just three days shows the strength of feeling there is that the PM’s decision is wrong.

“I was also glad to be able to create a platform for so many brave trans and non-binary people to speak, who courageously shared their horrific stories of abuse, discrimination and rejection. It’s time for change, and that must start at the top!”

Trans man protesting: ‘If it’s torture for them, it’s torture for us.’

The thousands who protested represented only a slice of the nearly 85,000 furious and frustrated people who have signed a parliament petition urging the government to legislate a trans conversion therapy ban.

And major LGBT+ campaign groups, medical bodies and even some government officials and lawmakers agree, questioning how a marginalised group could be left out from the ban.

Johnson has remained defiant in the face of criticism, stressing that at trans conversion therapy ban is “complex“.

But for some protesters, this isn’t a good enough reason.

“I’m attending today because there is no reason besides transphobia that conversion ‘therapy’ is acceptable for transgender people, but not for cisgender LGB people,” explained Arthur Webber, a trans freelance journalist.

“If it’s torture for them, it’s torture for us.”

Earlier this year, French lawmakers passed a law that criminalised conversion therapy for all members of the LGBT+ community earlier. The National Assembly voted for the bill unanimously – such unity is lacking in Britain, said French activist Benoit Siward.

Siward said the French offshoot of the Ban Conversion Therapy he helps run, Rien À Guérir, was “shocked” by the government leaving trans folk behind.

“Whether or not you fully understand the complexity of the reality of the LGBT+ community we can all agree that this should stop,” he said.

“French MPs understood this even if we also had difficulties over trans rights in France and big debates.

A demonstrator raises a sign reading: ‘Trans healthcare is suicide prevention’. (Kestral Gaian)

“They all voted unanimously to fully ban conversion therapy though, and that’s what we should also expect from the UK. Nothing less, nothing more.”

Protest leaders, against the soundtrack of cheers and chants, told demonstrators from the stage about their experiences of barbaric trans conversion therapy.

Elsewhere in the pastel blue and pink flags was Kestral Gaian, a writer and radio presenter for Trans Radio UK. She called on MPs sitting in the plush corridors of Westminster nearby to “look out their windows and take notes”.

“We’re stood outside the offices of some of the most powerful people in the world and trans people are sharing their experiences of how the state has sanctioned their torture,” she said. “We absolutely must stand together against this.”

“If the government thought that there was going to be no resistance to this, they were sorely mistaken,” Gaian added, “because we are here, we are queer, and we are incredibly visible right now.”