Speak to a trained member of the Mermaids team. 08088010400

Mermaids’ Head of Policy & Research Kai O’Doherty attended a debate on trans-inclusion in a ban on conversion practices this week. Missed it? Here’s what happened – and what might happen next. 

What happened?

Yesterday (13 June 2022), MPs filled Westminster Hall to debate a public-backed petition calling for the UK Government to reverse its decision to exclude trans and non-binary people from a ban on conversion practices. 

It’s been a long road to get to where we are now, with many twists and turns, which you can read about here.

After witnessing previous Parliament debates which have descended into scare-mongering transphobia (most recently the Non-Binary Legal Recognition debate on 23 May), many of us were understandably nervous about what we’d hear. 

Instead, what we saw was an overwhelming outpouring of support for trans and non-binary people – for our inclusion in this proposed legislation, but also for protecting our rights and needs more broadly.

What did they say?

With over 20 speeches and even more interventions, all but two MPs gave their support for a trans-inclusive ban. They raised compelling points, including that:

Trans people are more at risk: Trans people are twice as likely to be subjected to or offered conversion practices than their cis counterparts;

Medical experts agree: Over 25 health, counselling and psychotherapy professional organisations have signed a Memorandum of Understanding, agreeing with the need for a trans-inclusive ban;

Other countries are leading the way: with nearly every other country banning conversion practices covering all LGBTQIA+ people – including Canada, France and New Zealand.

This impacts real people, in seriously harmful ways, every day: with MPs referencing specific stories from Galop (the anti-LGBT+ violence charity) and MPs’ own constituents.

No LGB without the T: MPs raised the need for LGBT people to continue to stand together, and any ban failing to cover trans people will still leave LGB people open to the same abuse under the guise of ‘trans conversion therapy’.

What happens now?

The Equalities Minister, Mike Freer MP, closed the debate expressing his disappointment that his own government “have not brought forward a fully inclusive Bill” and strongly suggesting MPs move for an amendment when the Bill is tabled – which he suggests could be as early as September or October. 

Alicia Kearns MP, a Conservative backbencher who has long championed the ban, committed to tabling such an amendment, with almost all MPs present (and many more beyond that room) committing to support such an amendment.

While we await the Bill’s publication, we will continue to meet with MPs to urge them to support a future amendment to make any ban on conversion practices inclusive of trans and non-binary people, through sharing evidence-based briefings and face-to-face meetings – and we encourage you to continue to email your MP to do the same!

To mark the State Opening of Parliament 2022, we teamed up with Drag Race royalty River Medway for a Queen’s Speech with a difference! And our Queen has one message for Boris Johnson and his Government: #KeepTransInTheBan.

River, who appeared on season three of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK, says: “There are many misconceptions about support for trans youth, which is why now more than ever it is more important to continue to use our voices to educate and make a change.

“The dangers and long term effects of conversion practices are far worse and more damaging than any support young trans people will receive. I will always support my trans siblings and put pressure on those in power to do what is right and have equality for EVERYONE in the LGBTQ+ community.”

Filmmaker Ian Yarwood says: “Working with Mermaids and River Medway has been fantastic fun and I’m delighted to have been able to support the community through my passion for filming and editing.

“The decision to exclude trans and non-binary people from the ban is baffling. I hope this piece will encourage the public to write to their MP to support a trans-inclusive ban on conversion therapy.”

On Tuesday 10 May, the State Opening of Parliament takes place, and we’ll be watching to find out if the Government plans to keep its promise and ban conversion practices after years of delays.

But why is the Queen involved? Who on earth is Black Rod? And what happens if the Government don’t #KeepTransInTheBan? Read on to find out more. 

What is the State Opening of Parliament? 

The State Opening of Parliament, also known as the Queen’s Speech, is a ceremonial event marking the start of the parliamentary year. 

An extravagant affair, it usually begins with a procession from Buckingham Palace and includes some rather bizarre rituals and traditions which date back to the 1600s.  

The main event is a speech in front of the House of Lords and the House of Commons, which both make up Parliament, where the Queen sets out what the Government plans to do in the coming year. 

When does it happen? 

State Opening of Parliament happens following a general election, or at the start of a new parliamentary session, normally in May or June. This year, the State Opening of Parliament takes place on Tuesday 10 May. 

Why is it important? 

This is when we find out what the Government wants to do. We’re watching it closely this year to see whether they will include a ban on conversion practices in the next term, and if so, if it will include trans people.

There was a lot of anger when the Government went back on their promise last month – expect more protests if they don’t include a ban which protects everyone. 

Hang on – I thought the monarchy and politics were separate? 

You’re right – they are. The Queen reads the speech, but the Government writes it and she delivers in a neutral tone to show that she has no opinion on its contents. 

No British monarch has entered the House of Commons when it is sitting since King Charles I in 1642 and there are rituals throughout the event which symbolise the independence of Parliament from the monarchy.

For example, the doors to the House of Commons chamber are closed in the face of Black Rod, a House of Lords official who is sent to summon MPs to listen to the Queen speaking. 

What will happen after the Queen’s speech? 

When the Queen leaves, there will be a debate in both Houses on the contents, and there will be a vote in the Commons. This gives us an idea of how popular the Government’s programme is and what Bills are likely to be controversial.

We expect a ban on conversion practices to be one of those and are working with our friends in the Ban Conversion Therapy coalition to make sure MPs have the information they need to challenge the Government. 

Will I still be able to have a say?

Yes, you can! The Queen’s Speech is just the beginning – there are lots of stages a Bill must go through before it becomes law, so we encourage you to write to your MP and ask them to support a full ban on conversion practices that protects trans people. 

Already written to them? Thank you! Why not WhatsApp your friends and ask them to do the same, or arrange a meeting with your MP?

In a shameful act of trans exclusion, the Equality and Human Rights Commission yesterday (Wednesday 26 January) failed our community, calling for gender identity to be removed from the proposed ban on conversion therapy legislation in the first instance to allow for further “scrutiny”. The Commission also wrote to the Scottish Government to further delay its work to update the Gender Recognition Act.

The ban on conversion therapy and gender recognition has endured several years of “scrutiny” and will be subject to more throughout the respective legislative processes. These years of public discourse have resulted in trans people and communities being falsely positioned as dangerous and predatory. It has created damaging and misleading narratives which are now well embedded within mainstream discourse and the EHRC is demonstrating that it appears to have been captured by anti-trans rhetoric which seeks to derail UK and Scottish Government plans. 

Systemic oppression of the trans community

Both of these actions continue a systemic oppression of the trans community – seemingly ever-increasing, and exacerbated by a powerful anti-gender movement that has swept through Europe, including the UK, as recognised by international human rights authorities. 

This is a pivotal moment in our history when we should expect our “impartial” Equality Watchdog to see through the blatant distraction techniques of a very vocal minority and uphold the proposed outright ban on conversion therapy and improvement to gender recognition in Scotland. They have not.

Instead, they have continued to push the erroneous idea that sex based rights and trans rights are at odds with one another and have actively invited further delays and restrictions to our liberties, freedoms and protections. Trans people accessing recognition and protection is legally possible without the charade of a rights-battle or “polarised debate”. When it comes to our human rights, there should be no debate. 

Is the EHRC fit for purpose?

The EHRC recognises on their Twitter that we are in “changing times” and they’re right about that – but the change is one of regression. It is worrying to see yet again that it’s institutions like the EHRC – organisations that we should be able to depend on – are in fact actively suggesting acts of regression that only work to refuse social, economic, and political progression for our community, which is truly damaging. Make no mistake – if they succeed in delaying, restricting and/or removing the rights of trans people – this sets a dangerous precedent for all. 

Until we as a community see a significant investment, meaningful engagement and progressive action taken by the EHRC towards progressing trans rights, we see no merit in further dialogue. We must also question the authority the EHRC has and ask whether it is fit for purpose and we call on the Government and international bodies to urgently review the EHRC and ensure that trans people’s rights are effectively supported by this institution. 

The UK can no longer rest on its history as an “LGBT+ rights pioneer”. We fall woefully behind other countries at a time when, ironically, we’re fast approaching the international LGBT+ conference, Safe To Be Me, which the UK is hosting. If the UK Government really wants trans people to feel “safe to be”, then they must show leadership and not to be deterred. 

We will be shocked if the EHRC’s submission manages to change the UK’s position on a ban on conversion practice. Irrespective of this, we felt a duty to call them out. We are also pleased to confirm that the Scottish Government has today made their position clear, stating “our support for trans rights does not conflict with our continued strong commitment to advance equality and to protect and uphold women’s rights.” Go Scotland. 

What can YOU do?

Adding your voice will help ensure the EHRC continues to be part of a minority viewpoint. We are, however, one organisation and to truly make change, we now urge everyone who is outraged by the Commission’s conduct to act.

1. Fill in the consultation for the ban on conversion therapy.

2. Write to your MP to tell them how you feel. 

4. Donate and sign up to our newsletter to support Mermaids’ work in actively speaking up for trans, non-binary and gender diverse young people and their families. 

We will always keep speaking up for our community. Remember, we are here for you.

If you’ve been affected by the recent news around conversion therapy, Galop‘s National Conversion Therapy Helpline is open Monday – Friday 10am – 4pm. Call 0800 130 3335 or email [email protected].

CW: conversion practice, conversion therapy, homophobia, transphobia 

So-called, “conversion therapy” is an abhorrent practice which seeks to change, “cure” or suppress a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity, which is currently still legal. 

The Government has today launched a long-awaited public consultation on how that ban should work. 

Upon its launch, Minister for Women and Equalities, Liz Truss MP, said:“As we build back better from the pandemic, I want everyone to be able to love who they want and be themselves. Today’s announcement sets out how we will ban an archaic practice that has no place in modern life.”

The Ministerial Foreward includes some concerning framing around trans people specifically, but the consultation proposals itself makes it clear that trans people will be protected, including more robust measures for under 18s. 

Unsurprisingly, some media outlets are skewing the proposals, but we urge people to look at the substance of these, which is clear that trans healthcare is not conversion therapy, and that trans people are included in the proposed protections, with the Government stating that “conversion therapy is an issue that overwhelmingly affects LGBT people”. 

Lui Asquith, Director of Legal and Policy at Mermaids (they/them) says: “The Government has made it clear they intend to protect all LGB and T individuals from conversion therapies – this is welcome and right.”

On the framing and use of proposals to suggest it will act to restrict our healthcare and support mechanisms, Lui continues: “…this particular Government’s framing – or the media’s framing – isn’t what goes on statute. What goes on statute is protection for trans people.”

We are concerned that the proposals suggest that those over 18 years old are suggested as being able to “consent” in certain situations, which risks allowing conversion practices to continue in certain scenarios. We must protect every LGBTQIA+ person through this ban, including adults – you cannot consent to this type of abuse, whatever your age.

It’s important that we, the trans and non-binary community, have our voices heard, to help end this abhorrent practice that has brought many LGBTQIA+ people so much harm, for everyone, of all ages. This is a huge moment for the LGBTQIA+ community which has been permitted to suffer at the hands of this practice for too long. To this, we say: no more. No exemptions. No loopholes. No abuse. 

Susie Green, CEO of Mermaids (she/her) said: Conversion therapy affects the whole LGBTQIA+ community, with evidence suggesting that transgender people are more likely to be impacted by this deeply concerning practice. It’s vital that the Government brings in a comprehensive legal ban, which protects the whole of the LGBTQIA+ community, children and adults alike.”

The consultation will be open for six weeks with a deadline of 10 December 2021. We will be offering our support throughout this period and will be providing guidance to help people draft a response, as soon as possible. 

Do you need support?

If you are a survivor or are impacted by this conversation, you can reach out to the National Conversion therapy helpline on 0800 130 3335 (Open 10:00-16:00, Monday to Friday ) or email [email protected]

Mermaids’ helpline no 0808 801 0400. 

While we are not trained experts in supporting survivors of conversion therapies and practices, we know the importance of talking to someone who will meet where you are in your journey, with empathy and affirmation, with no second-guessing of your experiences. We will always endeavour to listen and will try to signpost individuals to other support organisations where possible.

You can find other sources of support via our website: www.mermaidsuk.org.uk/ban-conversiontherapy 

Notes to editors:

Mermaids’ Press Office on [email protected] 

  • Mermaids has been working to empower trans people for over 25 years. We provide emotional support to trans, non-binary and gender diverse children, young people and their families via our helpline, web chat, local groups and more. 
  • Conversion therapy is any practice which attempts to supress, cure or change someone’s sexual orientation and/or gender identity. It can take many forms, including psychiatric, psychological, religious, and cultural interventions, and is extremely harmful to those who experience it, often causing lifelong mental health challenges. 
  • 28 March 2021 marked one thousand days since the UK Government announced a commitment to end “the abhorrent practice of conversion therapy” as part of their LGBT Action Plan in 2018.
  • Figures from the National LGBT Survey found that 7 per cent of LGBT+ people have been offered or undergone conversion therapy, with trans respondents almost twice as likely to have been offered or undergone conversion therapy (13 per cent). Figures also found asexual people to be at a higher risk of being offered or undergoing conversion therapy (10 per cent).