The United Kingdom government is currently undergoing a contentious and volatile struggle over conversion therapy. Though the practice is rare – and often viewed as barbaric – it is not formally banned by the United Kingdom. However, it seemed the government might be moving in that direction after a 2021 speech by Queen Elizabeth where she stated that the government plans on banning conversion therapy.
This supposed dedication to banning conversion was shown to be mere political posturing when ITV News was “shared” leaked documents saying the United Kingdom Government does not plan on “moving forward with legislation to ban LGBT conversion therapy.”
The leaked documents in question were official briefings called “Conversion Therapy Handling Plan.” Not only does the plan outline how the government won’t implement a conversion therapy ban, it also anticipated the backlash that would result from the decision, even going as far to list possible backlash mitigation strategies.
And just as the briefing anticipated, there was plenty of backlash to the information within the leaked documents, but those “mitigation strategies” have failed to be as effective. In response to the intense public opposition, Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the United Kingdom Government partially reversed its decision.
“The Prime Minister has changed his mind off the back of the reaction to our report and he WILL now ban conversion therapy after all,” Editor at ITV News Paul Brand said in a tweet. “But only gay conversion therapy, not trans.”
Transgender conversation therapy is being treated as a “separate issue” due to its “complexity.” Speaking to BBC News, Nikki da Costa, the former director of legislative affairs for Conservative Prime Ministers Theresa May and Boris Johnson, noted that the bill could have the effect of “deterring” doctors, therapists, and teachers from speaking to a child about their gender identity “for fear of being told they’re trying to change a child’s identity.”
News of the government’s plans sparked a backlash against the government. Many LGBTQ organizations from around the world planning to travel to London for the “Safe to Be Me” conference – an event meant to promote LGBTQ rights – have decided to boycott it to protest the government’s decision to keep transgender conversion therapy in place. Withdrawals from the event were so widespread that the government was forced to cancel it.
“That Prime Minister Boris Johnson 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,” LGBTQ advocacy organization Stonewall UK wrote about their decision to pull out of the government event in a tweet. “Trans people are no less worthy of respect, care and protection than cis lesbian, gay and bi people.”
“If the UK Government cannot stand behind and respect all LGBTQ+ people’s fundamental human rights, it should not be convening an LGBTQ+ rights conference on the global stage,” the group added.
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