Huge protest at Downing Street demands Tory government stop attacking LGBTQ+ rights

Singer Jade Thirlwall with Labour MP Kate Osborne holding a pink sign that reads: I support a trans-inclusive conversion therapy ban

LGBTQ+ rights protesters, including Labour MP Kate Osborne and Little Mix’s Jade Thirlwall, flocked to Downing Street for a protest in place of the government’s cancelled LGBTQ+ conference.

Activists flocked to London for a protest in place of the Tory government’s flagship Safe To Be Me: A Global Equalities Conference, which was billed as the “first-ever global LGBT conference”.

The event was left in tatters amid backlash against the government’s U-turn on a trans-inclusive conversion therapy ban, and it was ultimately cancelled in April.

LGBTQ+ advocates, allies and activist groups descended on the capital on Wednesday afternoon (29 June), the day the conference was set to start, for their own Not Safe To Be Me protest.

The demonstrators proudly waved trans Pride flags, wore a mash of kaleidoscopic colours and held up searing signs laying bare how the Tories failed the LGBTQ+ community. 

Among those present was Little Mix’s Jade Thirlwall, who has been a staunch ally to the LGBTQ+ community. She was pictured alongside Labour MP Kate Osborne; the pair held up a bright pink sign reading: “I support a trans-inclusive ban”. 

Owen J Hurcum, the world’s first openly non-binary mayor, shared a picture on Twitter that they were attending the protest. Hurcum said they were outside Downing Street for the protest to ensure the government understands that the LGBTQ+ community “won’t be silenced, beaten down or defeated”. 

UK government ‘fostering violent anti-trans, anti-LGBTQ+ environment’, organisers say

The Not Safe To Be Me protest was led by Trans Activism UK and included representatives from other minority and LGBTQ+ across the country including Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants, Vagina Museum and English Collective of Prostitutes.

Trans Activism UK noted in its mission statement about the protest that the Tory government’s conference was cancelled because of “backlash from the LGBTQ+ community and overwhelming majority of UK LGBTQ+ organisations”.

The government pulled the plug after every major LGBTQ+ and HIV advocacy group cut ties with the event over the conversion therapy U-turn.

Trans Activism UK also cite “a negative and violent anti-trans and overall anti-LGBTQ+ environment that is being fostered by senior government officials”. 

“The UK government has failed to deliver on key promises which include implementing the aforementioned ban, their promised substantial reform for the Gender Recognition Act, and the failure to make moves towards the depathologizing of LGBTQ+ and trans medical care,” organisers added.

“This however is not the only failing committed by the UK government. 

“Minorities from across the UK have been impacted by an unsafe environment cultivated by our elected officials, from Muslims being attacked by our own prime minister with immature bigotry such as calling Muslim women ‘letterboxes’, to Black people being disproportionately targeted by the police under a government that claims not to be systematically racist, to migrants who have escaped harrowing situations being deported to Rwanda where their lives are at risk and the stark rise in antisemitism in the UK with the highest numbers of hate incidents reported in the last year.”

People gather in a crowd to listen to a person speaking at the Not Safe To Be Me protest in London a progressive Pride flag can be seen in the background

Trans Activism UK has called on condemned the Tory government for failing to “deliver on key promises” when implementing a full ban on conversion therapy in the UK. (Shaira Bambi Choudhury/Trans Activism UK)

During the protest, a speech was read out on behalf of jane fae, chair of Trans Media Watch, who was unable to make the event.

fae wrote that “transphobia is alive and well in the UK” in “government, in institutions, on the streets and in the media”.

“We keep tabs on what is published and every week we see, literally, hundreds of stories that reference trans people,” fae wrote. “Or rather, mostly, hundreds of stories that reference trans women.”

The speech continued: “So many stories that if you count them relative to the number of out trans women in the UK, then there would be close to one story per trans women every two years. Is that reasonable? Is that obsession? You decide.

“We are, it would appear, a greater issue to the British media than organised crime, the mafia and Tory sex offenders. And while it may seem cool to appear more newsworthy than the mafia, it is a sort of fame we’d happily do without.”

fae added that the “skewed” coverage of trans issues in the UK media has amplified “every little negative story about trans people” while minimising the positive, which has consequences in “violence directed against trans people on the street” and in politics. 

Trans Activism UK said the goals of the Not Safe To Be Me protest were to get the country to “challenge discrimination of all forms including race discrimination, gender inequality, sex worker discrimination, religious minority discrimination, and discrimination against disabled people”. 

It also wanted the UK – including the government, media, education sector and more – to “publicly recognise the harm that has been caused to LGBTQ+ rights through their anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric”. The protest also hoped to more people will recognise and publicly acknowledge that it is “not safe in the UK for minorities with the rise of hate and intolerance”. 

Organisers also called for an end to attacks against “crucial LGBTQ+ organisations such as Stonewall”, removing “support” for anti-trans group the LGB Alliance, addressing “significant barriers that LGBTQ+ people continue to face” and for people to listen to the queer community instead of relying on “fringe organisations whose primary goal is the eradication of trans people”.


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