Pin It
Photography by Santiago Franco Schicke

LGBTQ+ organisations protest the UK government’s transphobia

Over 100 organisations have joined forces to boycott an LGBTQ+ conference that was due to take place this summer, in protest of the Tories’ U-turn on trans conversion therapy

In protest of the government’s recent announcement that it will not be banning trans conversion therapy, a group of over 100 organisations has joined together to boycott an LGBTQ+ conference that was due to take place this summer. Shortly after the boycott was announced, it was reported that the government’s LGBTQ+ advisor, Ian Anderson, had resigned in protest. Taken together, this represents a significant backlash to the government’s U-turn on trans conversion therapy – although whether this will be sufficient for them to change course remains to be seen.

The LGBT Consortium, a collective body compromising a number of different organisations, released a statement yesterday (April 4) denouncing the government’s U-turn as “abhorrent”, while 82 of its members have signed an open letter written by Stonewall announcing their intention to boycott. They say that they will only attend if the government reverses its decision to exclude trans people from its conversion therapy policy. Similarly, a group of 22 HIV charities, including Terrence Higgins Trust and National AIDS Trust, announced that they would also be boycotting the event, bringing the total number of groups up to 105.

Titled Safe to Be Me, the event is set to be the UK’s first international LGBTQ+ conference, bringing together organisations from all over the world to promote “legislative reform, tackling violence and discrimination, and ensuring equal access to public services for LGBTQ people.” It’s due to be held this summer, coinciding with the 50th anniversary of London’s first Pride march. But according to the BBC, whether or not the conference can happen now has been called into question – in light of the boycott, it’s possible it will be cancelled altogether. Even if it does go ahead, it will be extremely embarrassing for the government to have essentially zero domestic representation at an event intended to promote the LGBTQ+ sector. 

Even prior to this boycott, the conference had run into trouble. Last week, Vice published a report revealing that a number of businesses and high-profile individuals have pulled out of attending due to the government’s poor record on LGBTQ+ rights. This has left the organisers with enormous funding gaps and a lack of sponsorship. With the mainstream LGBTQ+ sector now having voiced their disapproval, this situation is set to get even worse. The conference is shaping up to be a disaster.

“Leaving the door open for trans people to be subjected to the horrors of conversion therapy is simply unacceptable” – Deborah Gold

Stonewall’s open letter about their decision to boycott stated: “Last week’s leaked plans, which revealed Number 10 planned to scrap the conversion therapy ban, have left us with no choice but to withdraw our support. That the Prime Minister would so casually walk away from four years of promises to the LGBTQ+ community is appalling, and we cannot in good conscience back Safe To Be Me at a time when our community’s trust in the UK Government is shattered.” It also pointed to the fact that the UK’s approach is out of keeping with every other country which has banned conversation therapy, as well as ignoring all credible international research including the position of the UN independent network. “If the UK Government cannot stand behind and respect all LGBTQ+ people’s fundamental human rights,” the letter reads, “it should not be convening an LGBTQ+ rights conference on the global stage.”

Deborah Gold, chief executive of National AIDS Trust, told Dazed: “Leaving the door open for trans people to be subjected to the horrors of conversion therapy is simply unacceptable. Not only is this ban vital for LGBTQ+ justice, it’s also important for health justice. Hostile attitudes towards trans people make it harder for them to get the healthcare that they deserve, like access to the HIV prevention drug PrEP. This move normalises the marginalisation and exclusion of trans people, which stands in the way of HIV prevention. By offering trans people less legal protection than other LGBTQ+ people, the government risks failing to deliver their promise to end HIV transmissions by 2030.”

This show of support for the trans community from the LGBTQ+ sector is important because it acts as a rejoinder to the idea that anti-trans organisations like LGB Alliance speak for the community. The fact that the overwhelming majority of LGBTQ+ organisations disagree with them strongly suggests this is not the case. There is clearly a broad consensus of support for trans communities among the LGBTQ+ community, no matter how much the anti-trans movement might like to pretend otherwise. 

UPDATE (6/4/22): The Safe To Be Me conference has now officially been cancelled, according to reports. The news broke hours after Ian Anderson’s resignation.