Socialist Alternative

Three leave advisory panel as Tories fail to ban conversion therapy

On Thursday 11th March, a third member of the LGBTQ+ Advisory Panel had quit in 24 hours, citing the Tory government not using “the panel for what it was intended” in finally banning conversion therapy and progressing LGBTQ+ rights. Conversion therapy is the torturous practice of attempting to force someone to be straight and cisgender against their own will. This has left a third of the panel with empty seats, with more considering their position in an increasingly “hostile environment”. 

It’s shocking to many that conversion therapy hasn’t been banned already. The LGBTQ+ community has been calling for the ban for years into decades, and while there has been hope in the 2018 promise to end the practice, 3 years of feet-dragging has turned that to frustration. In 2017, 2% of LGBTQ+ people had been through conversion therapy, and a further 5% had been ‘offered’ it. 

From some members of the LGBTQ+ community there has always been concerns over the actions of the Tories, renewed recently in the scrapping of Gender Recognition Act (GRA) reform in September 2020. Reform of the GRA would have removed the board of judges who review a person’s medical and financial history when changing their gender signifier on official documents. 

Government failing to act

Despite his openly homophobic comments, Boris Johnson has opportunistically voted in support of backing gay rights in the past. But the Tory party remains deeply LGBTQ+phobic, as reflected in his choice of Liz Truss for Equalities minister, which was worrying from the start. Truss has previously talked about the “powerful and reliable liberating force” of the free market and made a stance against “identity politics”. During her time in office, the gender pay gap has widened, if to add further evidence of the backwards nature of a capitalist approach. 

Under-Secretary of State for Equalities Kemi Badenoch has repeatedly refused to use the word “ban”, or give a timeline as to ending conversion therapy, showing no understanding on its impact on not only children but adults too. 

The three members of the panel who have quit are Jayne Ozanne, James Morton (manager at Scottish Trans Alliance), and Ellen Murray (policy and research officer for Transgender Equality Network Ireland). Although the exact wording of reasons to quit has varied, the general through-line has been the ill-faith and ignorance of the Equalities ministers and their junior staff, along with the government’s poor treatment of the trans community.

In response, Boris Johnson has said that conversion therapy is a “complex issue” and Liz Truss has promised that it will be banned “shortly” – another platitude without an actual timescale. March 28th will be the 1000th days since the initial pledge. 

Ozanne quit her membership of the Conservative Party on Wednesday – the same day that she resigned from the LGBT+ Advisory Panel. She has stated the government has created a “hostile environment” for LGBTQ+ people, with the government pledging only to take action to end the controversial practice where it refers to sexuality, and not gender identity. James Morton expressed worry over the government prioritising their “war on wokeness” over the lives of LGBT people, which Liz Truss has dismissed as “fashionable”.

No faith in the Tories!

Although it may be shocking that these people have quit, it will not be a surprise for some. The Tories have consistently ignored the panel and will continue to do so. We shouldn’t place our trust in government appointed boards to ask politely for our rights from a government who don’t consider the LGBTQ+ community equals.  We should be organising independently to demand and fight for transition services in addition to improving healthcare, protections for LGBTQ+ youth, self-identification, and a ban on conversion therapy. Trade unions should organise and support collective action against LGBTQ+ phobia inside and outside the workplace. 

Homophobia and transphobia have been the tools in the arsenal of divide-and-rule for capitalism since its inception. Socialists and trade unions, where they have organised in our defence and taken this issue seriously, have been great help to the LGBTQ+ rights movement in the past and the present. We must push for a socialist future where all people’s human rights are upheld.