Theresa May urges Boris Johnson to keep his promise and ban trans conversion therapy

Former prime minister Theresa May has urged Boris Johnson to ban trans conversion therapy, four years after she promised to do so.

Plans for a ban on conversion therapy were first announced by May in her 2018 LGBT Action Plan. The proposals were based on a huge national survey which found that five per cent of LGBTQ+ people in the UK had been offered conversion therapy, while two per cent had directly experienced it.

May was ousted a year later, with the LGBT Action Plan all but dropped by her successor, Boris Johnson.

When Johnson did decide to revisit a ban, he ultimately decided to exclude trans people from it.

Now, May has called on the government to “keep its commitment” and outlaw trans conversion therapy.

“It is nearly five years since [the National LGBT Survey] was launched and in that time the debate about trans people has grown more, not less, divisive,” May wrote in the i.

“We need to strive for greater understanding on both sides of the debate. Just because an issue is controversial, that doesn’t mean we can avoid addressing it.

“To that end, the government must keep to its commitment to consider the issue of transgender conversion therapy. If it is not to be in the upcoming bill, then the matter must not be allowed to slide”.

She added that trans people “still face indignities and prejudice, when they deserve understanding and respect”.

Theresa May has not always been an advocate for LGBTQ+ rights, and said as much in the i

In 1998 she voted against reducing the age of consent for homosexual acts from 18 to 16. In 2002, she voted against allowing unmarried same-sex couples to adopt children, and opposed the repeal Section 28, which banned schools and local authorities from “promoting” homosexuality.

“Looking back now, there are issues I would have voted on differently, were I to vote on them today,” May wrote

Boris Johnson has been under fire for past LGBT+ comments. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)

In 2018, the government’s LGBT Action Plan promised to “deliver real and lasting change across society, from health and education to tackling discrimination and addressing the burning injustices that LGBT people face”.

However, many of these plans never materialised and conversion therapy remains legal in the UK.

In March 2022, Johnson scrapped plans to legislate a ban on conversion therapy. He performed a swift U-turn following backlash, but said the ban would only cover conversion therapy seeking the change a person’s sexuality, not their gender identity.

The government has said that there is a “complexity of issues and need for further careful thought” in banning trans conversion therapy. Meanwhile, Johnson has increasingly adopted anti-trans rhetoric, including calling trans women “men” and saying that they should not be welcomed in women’s sports.

May’s intervention follow that of the Scottish Conservative MSP Jamie Greene, who said he can’t “defend the indefensible” when it comes to the UK government’s approach to LGBTQ+ rights.

Speaking at PinkNews’ summer reception in Edinburgh on Wednesday (29 June), Greene, who is the most senior LGBTQ+ Scottish Conservative, said: “We made a commitment to the LGBTQ+ community that we would ban conversion therapy. We should fulfil that promise and the Scottish Government should do exactly the same.”