The UK’s LGBT+ business champion has quit over the government’s policy on conversion therapy.
Iain Anderson has confirmed he left office with a ‘heavy heart’ over what he said was the Government’s ‘deeply shocking’ stance on LGBT+ rights.
Mr Anderson said trust and belief in the government’s commitment to the LGBT+ community had been damaged after a series of U-turns on plans to introduce legislation banning conversion therapy.
Also called healing therapy or restorative therapy, conversion therapy refers to any form of treatment or psychotherapy aimed at changing a person’s sexual orientation or removing their gender identity.
“Conversion therapy is abhorrent”
In a letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson shared on Twitter, Mr Anderson said it had been the honor of his life to be the UK’s first LGBT+ business champion, but felt he had ‘no other choice’ than resign.
“As a young gay man, I experienced fear and oppression in the context of Article 28,” he wrote.
“I could never have dreamed that a government – any government – would appoint an LGBT+ champion later in my life.
“However, the recent leak of a plan to scrap the government’s landmark legislation protecting LGBT+ people from conversion therapy has been devastating. Conversion therapy is abhorrent.”
He continued: “A few hours later, to see this plan withdrawn but a briefing held that trans people would be excluded from the legislation and therefore would not have the same immediate protections against this practice was deeply detrimental to my work. “
Row over plans to ban government conversion therapy
Last week, the government backtracked just hours after backtracking on plans to introduce a new law to ban the practice.
Hours after it was reported ministers would not ban the practice as previously announced, a Downing Street spokesman told Sky News the government would ban conversion therapy after all.
But separate work is needed to “examine the issue of transgender conversion therapy further.”
When announcing the initial consultation on the ban, the government said the protections would cover people in terms of sexual orientation and gender identity.
Read more: What is conversion therapy and what has been the government’s position?
The government’s LGBT conference in doubt
At least 100 organizations have pulled out of the government’s upcoming landmark LGBT conference after last week’s back and forth on the ban.
More than 80 LGBT+ groups and more than 20 HIV-positive groups have said they will not take part in the Safe To Be Me event, scheduled for June, unless Mr Johnson backtracks on his promise of an inclusive ban on conversion therapies.
Human rights charity, the Peter Tatchell Foundation, said that “a ban on conversion therapy that does not include trans people is not a real ban at all”.
The Rainbow Project said any ban that didn’t include trans people was “not a real ban”.
Conservative MP Jamie Walliswho came out as trans last week in a very personal statement, also rallied around ministers’ plans to limit the gay conversion therapy ban.
Posting on Twitter, he said it was “wrong to exclude protections for an entire group of people from a practice described as ‘abhorrent'”.
A national LGBT survey carried out by the government in 2017 suggested that 5% of LGBT people were offered conversion and 2% went to therapy.
These figures were higher among trans people, with 8% saying they had been offered the therapy and 4% saying they had undergone it.
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