Stonewall and over 100 organisations boycott government LGBT+ conference

05 Apr 2022 News

Stonewall and more than 120 organisations have boycotted the government’s first LGBT+ conference, after it emerged that plans for a ban on conversion therapy would now exclude trans people. 

The government had planned to ban the practice for all LGBT+ people last week, but u-turned a few hours later to exclude trans and non-binary people being protected from the ban. 

The conference, Safe To Be Me, is a global equality conference due to take place this June to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the London Pride marches. 

Stonewall and The Kaleidoscope Trust were on the advisory committee of the conference, but have since withdrawn all support for it. 

Around 100 more organisations have joined them, including charities like LGBT Foundation, Gendered Intelligence and Mermaids. 

The government has said it is now going to look into banning trans conversion therapy. 

Stonewall's statement

In its statement, Stonewall said: “We will only be able to participate if the prime minister reverts to his promise for a trans-inclusive ban on conversion therapy.”

The Consortium for Stronger LGBT+ communities agreed with Stonewall and described the government's u-turn as “abhorrent”.

Some charities are using the hashtag #NotSafeToBeMe to display their disagreement with the government’s stance on conversion therapy. 

Trans people are the most likely to receive conversion therapy

Conversion therapy is a pseudoscientific practice that attempts to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. 

Stonewall quoted research from Galop “that shows 11% of trans people have been subjected to conversion practices by their own families”.

Jamie Wallis, who came out as the UK’s first openly transgender MP last week, said the government’s decision to exclude trans and non-binary people from the ban “cannot be described as anything other than a broken promise”.

HIV charities join the boycott

The Terrence Higgins Trust released a joint statement with 23 other HIV charities boycotting the government-led conference. 

The statement reads: “As HIV charities and community groups we stand in solidarity with Stonewall and the whole LGBT+ sector and will not be supporting or attending the upcoming global LGBT+ 'Safe To Be Me' conference unless the government reverts to their promise of a trans-inclusive ban.”

Some of the charities that have signed include the National AIDS Trust, Spectra and Positive East. 

LGB Alliance response

While the vast majority of the sector opposed the u-turn position, LGB Alliance backed the government's new position. 

Bev Jackson, director and co-founder at LGB Alliance, told Civil Society News: “The organisations boycotting the conference are displaying disdain for young people grappling with gender dysphoria.”

She called for further evidence before including a ban on trans conversion therapy in this legislation. 

“The issue of gender dysphoria does not belong in a bill to ban the abhorrent practice of gay conversion therapy,” she said. 

Government response

A government spokesperson said: “It is disappointing to see partners withdraw from an international conference focused on the fundamental human rights issues facing LGBT people around the world and which provides a global platform to create positive change.

“The government is now considering how to proceed and will continue to work alongside global forums, including the ERC [Equal Rights Coalition] and EFPN [The European Governmental LGBTQI Focal Points Network], to convene international partners and drive forward action.

“The UK has a proud history of LGBT rights and the prime minister has been very clear he is committed to bringing forward legislation to ban conversion therapy.

“He has made the point emphatically that people who want to make a transition in their lives should be treated with the maximum possible generosity and respect, but the complexity of issues requires separate work to further consider transgender conversion therapy.”

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