LGBT+ Groups Quit UK ‘Safe to be Me’ Conference

Includability Official Partners Mermaids Say Government Has ‘Completely Lost Our Trust’ After U-Turn to Ban Trans Conversion Practices

Boycott Efforts Forces Conference Cancellation

Image Credit – Mercedes Mehling

11 April 2022 | Author: Chris Taylor

More than 100 LGBT+ groups and HIV charities including Stonewall and Includability Official Partners, Mermaids have pulled out of the UK Government’s ‘Safe to be Me’ conference after trans and non-binary people were excluded from plans to ban conversion therapy practices.

The controversy steams from a document obtained by ITV of a Downing Street briefing paper titled, Conversion Therapy Handling Plan, which said Prime Minister Boris Johnson signed off on scraping legislation banning all conversion practices, despite the fact the government promised to outlaw them four years ago.  

After initial backlash from LGBT+ groups, campaigners and fellow Conservative MPs the government quickly released a statement saying they would go ahead with plans to banning conversion therapies for LGB individuals, excluding trans conversion therapies from the Queen’s speech in May.

This has resulted in prominent LGBT+ groups and campaigners to condemn the government and withdraw from the ‘Safe to be Me’ conference promoting LGTB+ rights in the UK and globally, was scheduled to take place in London this June. The event has now been cancelled due to the boycott.

In a statement, Mermaids outlined why they could not support the government’s actions around the change to the planned legislations. It said, “Government inaction which has seen them fail to reform the Gender Recognition Act, address the year-on-year rise in transphobic hate crime or develop a comprehensive healthcare strategy for trans and non-binary people.

The government’s own data illustrates that trans people are at much higher risk of being victim to this abhorrent practice than the rest of the LGBTQIA+ community. And yet the government has decided that the forthcoming ban should leave out trans and non-binary people. 

“By condoning conversion abuse for our community, the government has completely lost our trust and is in no position to be convening an LGBTQIA+ rights conference on the global stage. Thanks to this government’s actions, the UK is a very long way from being safe for trans and non-binary people.”

A number of Includability ambassadors including Joanne Monck OBE, Ellie Lowther and Saski have taken to social media to express their frustration over the government’s decision. Views are personal to the individual.


Ellie Lowther Twitter statement on trans issues

Joanne Monck Twitter statement on trans rights

LinkedIn statement from Saski - Includability Ambassador

According to NHS England, that therapy tries to change someone's sexual orientation or gender identity.

Some groups have expressed concern it could impede those helping people with gender dysphoria by blocking explorative therapies or those that do not automatically affirm someone's gender identity.

A spokesperson said the government would carry out “separate work” on the issue of transgender conversion therapy, but it was keen for any legislation not to have “unintended consequences”.

The decision has even split the Conservative Party on the issue with Alicia Kearns MP stating, “To say this is wrong is an understatement. It bows to those concocting division between LGBT communities, to those promulgating the very worst narratives about our trans friends. What makes trans people deserve to be abused? That’s the [question] to every person supporting this decision.”  

Speaking to the BBC about trans issues and recent government decisions, the Prime Minister added to the controversial debate by adding that trans women should also not be competing in female sports.

Johnson's comments came as a letter signed by a group of elite female cyclists - including retired Olympians, scientists and researchers - called on cycling's world governing body, the UCI, to rescind its rules around transgender participation and testosterone levels and implement eligibility criteria for women based on female biological characteristics.

He said: "I don't think biological males should be competing in female sporting events. Maybe that's a controversial thing to say, but it just seems to me to be sensible.

"I also happen to think that women should have spaces - whether it's in hospitals, prison or changing rooms - which are dedicated to women. That's as far as my thinking has developed on this issue.

"If that puts me in conflict with some others, then we have got to work it all out. It doesn't mean I'm not immensely sympathetic to people who want to change gender, to transition and it's vital we give people the maximum love and support in making those decisions.

"These are complex issues and they can't be solved with one swift, easy piece of legislation. It takes a lot of thought to get this right."