Backbenchers warn the government’s stance has already done “profound harm” to transgender people – while Equality Secretary Mike Freer is suggesting change may be possible
Alicia Kearns, MP for Rutland and Melton, said she will seek to change watered-down legislation announced by the Government in the Queen’s speech, which aims to ban attempts to change a person’s sexual orientation but not their gender identity .
“Furious” Conservative MPs have vowed to introduce an amendment to the government’s planned bill to ban conversion therapy to ensure it includes trans people.
The MP said she spoke “with a heavy heart” and said in a debate at Westminster Hall that the Government’s stance had already done “profound harm” to transgender people who “were harmed by people who said they didn’t deserve the equal rights and protections” as lesbian, gay and bisexual people.
She said: “For my part, I will not advocate a ban that devalues my transgender friends and I will amend laws that go into effect without including transgender people.”
The debate was called after 145,000 people signed a petition urging the government to “ensure that any ban fully covers trans people and all forms of conversion therapy,” with the public gallery packed with young LGBT+ activists promoting an inclusive supported ban.
Ms Kearns said: “There should be no sides to this. This ban is about preventing those who use so-called therapies as a pretext for their homophobic and transphobic exorcisms, which claim that LGBT people don’t deserve to live their lives as they really are.
“Conversion therapy often takes the form of one-way talk therapies administered by quacks in unregulated settings…it is single-endpoint therapy. It’s not about keeping choices, it’s about eliminating them entirely.”
Carshalton and Wallington MP Elliot Colburn, who is a patron of the LGBT+ Conservatives, warned that a ban on excluding transgender people “creates a major legal problem” and potentially the continuation of conversion therapy for all LGBT+ people ” through the back door” would claim that this should be done because of their gender identity.
“We have already experienced that. Survivors have come forward, particularly gay men and butch lesbians from the camp who have undergone conversion therapy because of their gender identity, not their sexual orientation.”
He added: “This is happening in the UK right now. This is not something that happened decades ago. These types of practices still take place in the UK and indeed people are sent abroad to undergo such practices.”
Peter Gibson, Tory MP for Darlington, said it was “essential” that trans people are included in any ban, adding: “I am personally committed to ensuring that all forms of abuse of LGBT people are banned.”
“Not including trans people in a conversion therapy ban would be a grave injustice as it would allow loopholes in legislation that would allow these abusive practices to ruin people’s lives. Trying to separate LG and B from T will only marginalize trans people.”
Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran said that excluding trans people from the law would “further demonize an already demonized group”, while Labour’s Luke Pollard said: “If we ban it because we think these practices are abhorrent, we have to ban all.”
Former Labor leader Jeremy Corbyn also spoke out in favor of a trans-inclusive ban, adding: “This proposal not to include trans people in the conversion therapy ban is incredibly wrong, divisive and very short-sighted.
“If this legislation comes, I hope there will be a majority in this House that says we need a total ban on conversion therapy.”
However, some MPs intervened to oppose the inclusion of trans people in the law, with Nick Fletcher, Tory MP for Don Valley, claiming there are “enough laws already” and banning conversion therapy would “create a free speech problem “.
Jackie Doyle-Price, the Conservative MP for Thurrock who voted against same-sex marriage, told MPs that “the term trans can mean a variety of things” and that gender dysphoria “can be a symptom of trauma”.
Labour’s shadow secretary for women and equality, Anneliese Dodds, criticized the government’s “chaotic” stance on the issue and called for a trans-inclusive ban with safeguards for families and religious groups.
In an unusual response to the debate, the Government’s Equality Secretary, Mike Freer, offered no specific defense of excluding trans people from the law – a decision reportedly passed over the heads of the equality ministers at Downing Street.
Mr Freer instead said he recognized “the strength of feeling” on the issue, admitting he was “obviously disappointed that we didn’t come up with a fully inclusive law”.
He hinted that the bill that precedes it “would be changeable, that’s how I see it, and of course that’s a debate for another time.”
The minister also expressed “sadness” that there was no consensus on the issue, as he said he had a “similar mindset” to many of those who spoke, adding: “We want to make sure that any action we put forward regarding transgender people will be advanced. Conversion therapy practices have no wider implications.”
He bemoaned the lack of “consensus” on the matter, adding: “I don’t think it’s unreasonable to invest a little more time to try and build that consensus so that when the bill comes out, we can get it done including how.” possible. I can’t guarantee we’ll get there, but that’s my goal and goal.”