MP praised for defending trans rights as conversion therapy ban debate turns into ‘garbled mess’

A bill aimed at ban conversion therapy failed to move through Parliament on Friday (1 March), after a debate on it ran out of time: with anti-conversion therapy ban MPs accused of ‘filibustering’ the bill.

The Conservative government first promised a conversion therapy ban in 2018 under Theresa May’s leadership, but despite her insistence on a trans-inclusive ban, Boris Johnson later opted to push forward with legislation that only protected gay, lesbian and bisexual people from the barbaric practice.

Because Friday’s Conversion Practices (Prohibition) Bill was a Private Member’s Bill put forward by Labour MP for Brighton Kemptown Lloyd Russell-Moyle, MPs were only given a set amount of time to debate it, and with that time now having run out it’s unlikely to be considered further.

Two people stand side by side during an LGBTQ+ rights protest to ban conversion therapy. One person holds up a sign reading 'queerness doesn't need a cure'
In 2018, prime minister Theresa May promised to ban conversion therapy in the UK. It’s 2024, and such legislation has yet to be passed. (Getty)

Russell-Moyle’s bill had been intended to create new offences for a course of conduct whose “predetermined” purpose was to change a person’s sexual orientation, or to change a person to or from being transgender.

Fellow Labour MP Kate Osborne tweeted, “Disgusting & so upsetting to be sat in chamber listening to MPs filibuster & ensured that bill to #banconversiontherapy will not progress,” adding, “It’s a betrayal of #LGBTQ community & young people who will still face this abhorrent cruel practice. I will keep fighting for a full ban.”

Canterbury With The T, a Canterbury and Whitstable anti-transphobia network, also took to X/Twitter to criticise Labour MP Rosie Duffield, saying, “If you needed any proof that the Gender Critical arguments against a full conversion ban are a garbled mess of fallacy and cry bullying, then do watch Rosie Duffield’s speech.”

Duffield opened her speech by announcing, “Feminists believe that lesbians should be free to date only women, as they choose, however in today’s toxic climate they are pressurised into dating so-called ‘lesbians with a penis’, in other words, men,” a statement that was met with a hubbub of boos and catcalls.

She continued to repeat other familiar anti-trans dogwhistles, including, “(this bill) merely suggests that anyone trying to stop their daughter from cutting off her healthy breasts as a teenager… is breaking the law.”

Labour MP Rosie Duffield has been at the centre of controversy in recent years due to her comments about the trans community, with her views leading to some of her party peers calling for the whip to be removed.

The 51-year-old MP for Canterbury has repeatedly been criticised for calling trans women “male bodied” and stating that she doesn’t believe trans women should have access to domestic violence shelters, women’s prisons, and single-sex toilets. 

Protester holds a sign reading "trans women are women" at the Queer Liberation March in Manhattan, New York on 25 June 2023
Several residents in Labour MP Rosie Duffield’s constituency have written to the politician to urge her to stop attacking the trans community. (Erik McGregor/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Duffield’s opposition to the Conversion Practices (Prohibition) Bill was at odds with fellow Labour MP Stella Creasy, who represents Walthamstow.

After the debate, she tweeted, “In Westminster today in vain to try to get (Lloyd Russell-Moyle’s) bill to finally ban conversion therapy. Gutted we couldn’t get it through to the next stage of parliamentary debate – to all those at risk of harm from these practices please know the problem today is politics and not you!”

Labour and Co-op MP for Oxford East Anneliese Dodds also lashed out on Twitter, criticising the Tory government for repeatedly failing to ban the controversial practice. She wrote, “The Conservatives promised a ban on conversion therapy six years ago. Today they refused to back one. This is a failure of leadership and a betrayal of the LGBT people at risk of these abusive practices.

“Labour supports a full ban on conversion practices.”

Meanwhile, Tory MP Alicia Kearns received widespread praise for holding an Alba MP to account after he dropped the “T” from a reference to the LGBTQ+ community.

The Alba Party is a Scottish nationalist and pro-independence political party, founded in February 2021 and led by former first minister of Scotland Alex Salmond. It is, essentially, a group of people who have defected from the Scottish National Party. No Alba Party candidate has been elected at any election.

“It was trans people who stood with gay people at Stonewall”

In a passionate speech, Kearns addressed Alba MP Neale Hanvey, who looked visibly discomfited, saying, “You’re suggesting that transgender people do not exist… you are suggesting they are lesser than other LGB people. I will not stand for it because it was trans people who stood with gay people at Stonewall, it was trans people who fought alongside for LGB rights…

“When you remove the T you suggest they are lesser. I will happily discuss with you the intricacies of legislation but when you choose to eradicate, that is wrong.”

Glasgow-based journalist Tristan Stewart-Robertson was one of many people who shared the clip in praise of Kearns, tweeting, “Tory @AliciaKearns doing a better job standing up for LGBTQ+ than the entire Labour Party currently or indeed most of the media (who make money off transphobia and bigotry).”

Former Gender GP policy officer Adi Aliza DG also shared the clip, writing, “Worth noting that @UKLabour‘s @RosieDuffield1 also removed the T+ from LGB in her speech. As far as I’m aware Duffield is not a member of the LGBT+ community, however (she) seems to think she can define who we are and who we support.”

The Equality and Human Rights Commission called on the government to ban “harmful” conversion therapy practices as recently as October 2023. After Friday’s chaotic scenes, a full ban seems further away than ever.