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London Trans+ Pride 2021
Photography Santiago Franco Schicke

5 ways to ensure trans people are included in a UK conversion therapy ban

Here are the protests to attend, charities to support, and voices to amplify following Boris Johnson’s U-turn on trans conversion therapy legislation

Last week, the UK government announced that it would go ahead with its long-awaited ban on conversion therapy, covering gay and bisexual people in England and Wales. In a major U-turn, however, it also revealed that it would not ban therapies intended to suppress someone’s gender identity, doubling back on its earlier commitments to protect trans people under the legislation.

According to Boris Johnson, plans for the trans conversion therapy ban were scrapped because of “complexities and sensitivities” related to the practice. The prime minister failed to expand on the vague distinction between gay and trans conversion therapies, however, going on to tell reporters: “There are things that I think still need to be worked out.”

Of course, many other politicians and activists are outraged by the exclusion of trans people from the legislation. “It’s still not good enough,” Labour MP Nadia Whittome wrote in a March 31 tweet about the U-turn. “LGB comes with the T, and the Tories are not on our side.”

Last week, Cleo Madeleine, communications officer at trans youth charity Gendered Intelligence, also dismissed the idea that gay conversion therapy is fundamentally different to trans conversion therapy in an interview with Dazed, saying: “The key thing about conversion practices is that they’re an attempt to try to suppress or change someone’s essential identity. This applies to both gender and sexuality.”

More than 100 organisations have also pulled out of the landmark Safe To Be Me conference that was set to be held in the UK this summer, leading to the reported cancellation of the event. Announcing its withdrawal from the event alongside many others, LGBTQ+ rights charity Stonewall said that the decision was made “with a heavy heart”, but that the prime minister’s broken promise left it no choice.

In lieu of the conference, many charities have been pitching in to organise public protests against dropping trans conversion therapy from the bill, which are set to take place up and down the UK this weekend. Take a look at how you can get involved – or other ways to show your support for the trans community – below.

PROTEST

This Sunday (April 10), demonstrators are set to gather outside 10 Downing Street at 1pm, to make their voices heard about the exemption of trans people from the conversion therapy legislation. “Join us to demand a ban that leaves no one behind,” says Stonewall. “Conversion practices must be banned in every setting and for everyone.” The protest is organised by Ban Conversion Therapy, with the organisation sharing related information – from accessible transport to the site, to local sign-making workshops – via Twitter. 

For those in Northern Ireland, a “Keep Trans in the Ban” protest will also be taking place at Belfast City Hall on the same day. “Anything short of a complete and total ban isn’t acceptable,” says Ban Conversion Therapy NI. “No more delays. No exemptions. No more harm.” Again, more details can be found via the Ban Conversion Therapy NI social media accounts.

DONATE TO CHARITIES

Transgender people are under attack from a young age in the UK, as are the organisations that support them. Currently, there are several charities fighting for a ban on trans conversion therapy that could use financial support, many of which were scheduled to attend this year’s Safe To Be Me event. As previously mentioned, Stonewall has helped to coordinate some of this weekend’s demonstrations, while continuing to provide vital support and actionable supporters for all LGBTQ+ people. Mermaids, another of the UK’s leading LGBTQ+ charities, focuses on supporting transgender, nonbinary, and gender-diverse children and young people. The LGBT Consortium is a collective body comprising various organisations, including many of those that will be rallying this weekend. The Consortium has also been outspoken about the reality of the government’s new legislation, writing in an April 4 statement: “Without a complete ban lives will continue to be lost.”

EMAIL YOUR MP

As Munroe Bergdorf notes, emailing your local member of parliament to advocate for a complete conversion therapy ban “takes literally two minutes but can make all the difference”. On its website, Ban Conversion Therapy provides a convenient system to look up your local MP, including a customisable template that urges the government to stick to its commitments made in 2018 and presents research on the disproportionate targeting of trans people by conversion therapy advocates. As of writing, more than 25,000 people (of a 40,000 person target) have contacted their elected representative. 

Find the template here.

SIGN A PETITION

As well as sending personalised emails, names on a petition can help indicate the importance of legislation and force the government to take notice. An official petition to ensure trans people are fully protected under any conversion therapy ban – launched yesterday (April 6) – currently has over 21,000 signatures and is climbing fast toward a goal of 100,000, which will lead the issue to be considered for debate in parliament.

If you haven’t already, you can sign the petition yourself here.

LISTEN TO (AND AMPLIFY) TRANS VOICES

While Boris Johnson hesitates to ban trans conversion therapy due to the “complexities and sensitivities” involved, he continues to ignore the stark truth in front of his eyes. “What we’re talking about is exposing young marginalised people, often people of colour, often people of faith, to violence,” Madeleine tells Dazed. “That’s not an exaggeration or a political gotcha, it’s what is statistically happening.”

At this time, it’s vital to listen to those who have been exposed to conversion therapy, or for whom it has long been a lingering threat. Charlie Craggs, Travis Alabanza and Munroe Bergdorf are a few of many trans and non-binary activists who have spoken out against Johnson’s decision. “This government condones the abuse and torture of the transgender community,” Bergdorf writes in an Instagram statement. “‘Conversion therapy’ functions on the belief that being LGBT is a mental illness. Practices often consist of drugging or electrocuting a person, to make them associate their feelings of queerness with pain, fear, or sickness.”

“You cannot shame, shock, poison or traumatise someone into becoming straight or cisgender. Everybody deserves to live a life where they feel proud of who they are, free to love who they love, and safe to express how they feel… As a community we need to fight now and we need our cisgender allies to fight with us, loudly.”