UK

Thousands of LGBT+ people protest for inclusive conversion therapy ban: ‘We must stand together’

Josh Milton April 10, 2022
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Poresters standing outside of Whitehall

In London, thousands of LGBT+ folk and allies protested against the British government's lacklustre conversion therapy ban. (Kestral Gaian)

Thousands of LGBT+ people took to the streets of central London in a striking show of pent-up anger against the government’s threadbare conversion therapy ban.

Organisers said that at least 3,000 people gathered outside Downing Street Sunday afternoon (10 April).

As much as many told PinkNews that they felt almost broken by the government’s approach, protesters said they were determined to show ministers just how betrayed the community feels about the decision to ban gay conversion therapy but exclude trans people.

Buttressing placards reading “ban conversion therapy” and bellowing “what do we need in it? trans people”, the demonstrators drove London’s rackety traffic to a halt as they blocked major thoroughfares.

The rally was a blue book of LGBT+ people and groups, including RuPaul’s Drag Race UK stars Ella Vaday and River Medway as well as Stonewall, Mermaids, TransActual and Pride in London.

Iain Anderson, one of the government’s top LGBT+ advisers who dramatically quit from his post over the “damaging” exclusionary ban, also attended.

At one point, an attendee told PinkNews, three members of the anti-trans campaign group LGB Alliance crept into the crowd only to be told to leave by protesters.

The streets outside Whitehall were packed after the government backpedalled last month on a conversion therapy ban only to U-turn once more and cut trans people out altogether.

Major LGBT+ campaign groups, medical bodies and even some government officials and lawmakers slammed the government in response, questioning how a deeply marginalised group could be ignored from protection.

Now the criticism thundered through the streets of London. Among them was Peter Tatchell, a decades-long standard-bearer of LGBT+ campaigning who helped organise the protest.

To Tatchell, the Conservative government has “conned and tricked” the LGBT+ community in a high-handed effort to “appease transphobes”.

Poresters standing outside of Whitehall
Thousands of protesters jammed the roads of central London. (Kestral Gaian)

He told PinkNews: “A ban on conversion therapy that is not trans-inclusive is not a genuine ban at all.

“Excluding trans people from protection against abusive, harmful conversion practices is a callous betrayal that will leave vulnerable trans people at the mercy of exorcisms, abuse, emotional blackmail and psychological brow-beating.”

Trans man protesting: ‘If it’s torture for them, it’s torture for us.’

The thousands who protested represented only a slice of the nearly 85,000 furious and frustrated people who have signed a parliament petition urging the government to legislate a trans conversion therapy ban.

Johnson has remained defiant despite such opposition. Instead, the premier has doubled down on the broken ban, saying that prohibiting trans conversion therapy is “complex“.

But some protesters, their reason for taking part was simple.

“I’m attending today because there is no reason besides transphobia that conversion ‘therapy’ is acceptable for transgender people, but not for cisgender LGB people,” explained Arthur Webber, a trans freelance journalist.

“If it’s torture for them, it’s torture for us.”

In France, meanwhile, lawmakers passed a law that criminalised conversion therapy for all members of the LGBT+ community earlier this year. The National Assembly passed the bill unanimously – such unity is lacking in Britain, said French activist Benoit Siward.

Siward said the French offshoot of the Ban Conversion Therapy he helps run, Rien À Guérir, was “shocked” by the government’s about-turn.

“Whether or not you fully understand the complexity of the reality of the LGBT+ community we can all agree that this should stop,” he said.

“French MPs understood this even if we also had difficulties over trans rights in France and big debates.

A demonstrator raises a sign reading: ‘Trans healthcare is suicide prevention’. (Kestral Gaian)

“They all voted unanimously to fully ban conversion therapy though, and that’s what we should also expect from the UK. Nothing less, nothing more.”

Protest leaders, against the soundtrack of cheers and chants, told demonstrators from the stage about their experiences with barbaric trans conversion therapy.

Elsewhere in the pastel blue and pink throng was Kestral Gaian, a writer and radio presenter for Trans Radio UK. She called on lawmakers sitting in the plush corridors of Westminster to “look out their windows and take notes”.

“We’re stood outside the offices of some of the most powerful people in the world and trans people are sharing their experiences of how the state has sanctioned their torture,” she said. “We absolutely must stand together against this.”

“If the government thought that there was going to be no resistance to this, they were sorely mistaken,” Gaian added, “because we are here, we are queer, and we are incredibly visible right now.”

 

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