Labour and Tory MPs unite to demand trans conversion therapy ban in impassioned debate

Nadia Whittome and Alicia Kearns debate

Tory and Labour MPs urged the government to legislate a trans-inclusive conversion therapy ban in an impassioned parliamentary debate.

On Monday afternoon (13 June), MPs debated a petition signed by more than 145,000 people calling for trans people to be included in the proposed ban on conversion therapy.

MPs from across the political divide, including Conservative Party backbenchers, united in defence of trans rights – slamming the government for droppings its promise of an inclusive ban.

Labour MP Nadia Whittome told the floor: “I am extremely and deeply concerned that trans people’s exclusion is yet another cynical attempt by this government to create a culture war between these different groups.

“We’ve seen it all before. The government has done the same for migrants, the same for refugees, the same for people of colour and we saw [Margaret Thatcher’s] government whip up the same moral panic against gay people in the 1980s.

“I believe that just as society looks back at that time with disgust how gay people were treated in decades gone by, we will also hang our heads in shame at trans people’s treatment in decades to come.”

Alicia Kearns, the Conservative MP for Rutland and Melton, seemed to agree.

“An inclusive ban on conversion therapy is not some woke frontier for those who want to suppress freedom of speech. This isn’t some new frontier for politicians to weaponise in some culture war they think is vote-winning,” Kearns said.

Former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn also slammed Boris Johnson’s government for stoking up hatred in much the same way as Thatcher.

“Those of us who were here during the grim days of Section 28 remember just how horrible it was and how brutal the media treated then LGB communities,” he recalled.

“This proposal not to include trans people in the conversion therapy ban is unbelievably wrong, divisive and very short-sighted.

“I think we just need to be very clear that when this legislation comes along, that I hope there will be the majority in this House that will actually say we need a total ban on conversion therapy.”

Labour MP for Jarrow, Kate Osborne, described how she spent much of the last few decades fighting anti-LGBTQ+ governments – and this government is no different.

“Now once again, the government seem to want the House to be on the wrong side of history,” Osborne said.

“The fact that the Tories are undermining trans rights is not surprising,” she added. “If the party opposite had a party motto, it would probably be: ‘Never let basic humanity get in the way of a vote-winner.”

The majority of Brits – Tory voters included – don’t support the government abandoning trans people in its conversion therapy ban, YouGov polling has confirmed. Transphobic views, meanwhile, constitute a small but loud minority in Britain.

However, there were, of course, those who used the opportunity to parrot anti-trans talking points.

It took just three minutes for Tory MP Peter Bottomley to claim prominent anti-trans voices, academic Kathleen Stock and journalist Helen Joyce, have been “bullied” for “giving very fair descriptions of trans issues”.

And as MPs discussed the finer details of the ban, Conservative MP Jackie Doyle-Price claimed to groans and shaking heads that being trans is a “symptom of trauma”.

Doyle-Price, who has spent much of her time in office opposing LGBTQ+ rights, even claimed that hormonal therapies for trans youth are “routinely dispensed” despite the years-long waiting lists for even a first appointment with a specialist.

Throughout the debate, MPs had to repeatedly stress that conversion therapy is wholly separate from other “trans issues”, such as reforming the Gender Recognition Act and access to single-sex spaces.

But the majority of those who spoke were, it seemed, on the side of the trans community.

Jayne Ozanne, a former government LGBTQ+ adviser, expressed her relief that MPs came out swinging for an inclusive ban.

“I am so moved by the wide range of powerful speeches that have been given today highlighting the urgent need to include trans people in a ban on conversion therapy,” Ozanne told PinkNews.

“It is clear that MPs across the chamber are extremely concerned about the harm that trans people are currently facing and that the government’s priority should be to prioritise their protection.”

Equalities minister Mike Freer said in an earlier statement to the Petitions Committee the government will conduct “separate work” on legislating a trans conversion therapy ban.

“It is key that measures complement the existing clinical regulatory framework in this space, and that clinicians feel able to deliver legitimate therapies in supporting those experiencing gender dysphoria, especially those under 18,” he told the committee.