Furious campaigners force parliament debate on trans conversion therapy ban: ‘You did this’

Demonstrators hold placards during the No Ban Without Trans protest

MPs will debate the Tory government’s pathetic excuse for a conversion therapy ban in a stunning victory for campaigners.

The government confirmed during the State Opening of Parliament that not only will the Conversion Therapy (Prohibition) Bill not cover trans people, but “consenting adults” also won’t be protected.

Hundreds of thousands of people signed a UK government and parliament petition calling for the government to make do on its 2018 promise to ban all forms of the practice.

The Petition Committee, which considers electronic petitions that reach more than 100,000 signatures, said Tuesday (17 May) that MPs will consider reinstating trans conversion therapy to the bill on 20 June.

Committee members agreed to have MPs debate the petition after it received nearly 150,000 signatures. According to ITV News, it will include “interventions” from Conservative MPs “concerned” about trans conversion therapy being dropped.

MPs demand government provide ‘evidence’ why trans conversion therapy should not be swiftly banned

Ahead of the debate, MPs demanded the government provide what “evidence”, if any, “informed the government’s decision not to include transgender conversion therapy in the proposed ban”.

The government must also supply details for the “separate work” it has pledged to do to consider the so-called “complexities” of legislating a trans conversion therapy ban. Members also asked when a months-long consultation held on banning conversion therapy will be published.

In a letter to equalities minister Mike Freer, Petition Committee chair Catherine McKinnell and member Elliot Colburn picked holes at the government’s handling of the ban.

“Concerns have been expressed that – contrary to the government’s commitments when it launched its consultation on banning conversion therapy last year – transgender conversion therapy will now not be included in the scope of the Conversion Therapy Bill but will instead be the subject of ‘separate work’,” the MPs wrote.

McKinnell and Colburn added that the “complexities” cited by the government included whether the ban would impact trans youth seeking talking therapy and that “different considerations” must be considered.

“However,” they wrote, “the response did not give any details of what this work would involve.”

Colburn will open the floor to the debate at 4.30pm.

The Cabinet Office responded to the petition on 12 May, saying: “We will introduce a ban protecting everyone from attempts to change their sexual orientation. Recognising the complexity of issues we will consider the issue of transgender conversion therapy further.”

Labour MPs Nadia Whittome and Kate Osborne both sought to table an amendment to the Queen’s Speech to make clear that the legislation will apply to both sexual orientation and gender identity. The amendment was not picked up by House speaker Lindsey Hoyle, however.

Conversion therapy is a debunked practice that can see everything from prayer to electroshock used in a useless attempt to change a person’s sexuality or gender.

The government’s own research found that trans and non-binary people are almost twice as likely to have been offered or have undergone the torturous practice.

Yet the government scrapped plans to legislate the ban altogether in April before U-turning and cutting trans people out instead, outraging advocacy groups and British medical bodies.

So news that an inclusive ban may be in sight was a relief to activists. But they remain cautious.

“The government has neglected its promise to the LGBTQ+ community to produce a ban that protects all of us against these abhorrent practices,” a spokesperson for trans youth charity Mermaids told PinkNews.

“This has very real and tragic consequences for trans lives across the UK, and the government’s refusal to take the necessary steps to protect us has sent a dangerous message to the wider public that our systematic persecution is acceptable.”

Jayne Ozanne, a former LGBTQ+ adviser to the government, welcomed the committee’s decision to debate the bill.

“Hopefully, the government will now finally listen to the experts and heed of voices of the wide range of healthcare professionals who support the ban,” she said to PinkNews.

After all, she quit the advisory board for, among other reasons, the government’s handling of the ban.

“You did this,” Mermaids added in a tweet. “You made this happen.”