Tories’ flagship LGBT+ conference cancelled in embarrassing blow amid conversion therapy row

The Tory government’s flagship LGBT+ conference has been cancelled amid furious backlash over a U-turn on conversion therapy.

Described as the “first-ever global LGBT conference in London” by the Tory government, Safe To Be Me: A Global Equalities Conference, was to be held in June to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the first official London Pride.

It was first announced by ministers in 2021 as a way to bring together elected officials and policy-makers to “promote the rights of LGBT people around the world”.

But the conference was left in tatters after the government confirmed that it will no longer be legislating a ban on trans conversion therapy, despite assurances from ministers.

More than 120 LGBT+ rights and HIV advocacy groups pulled out from the conference due to Boris Johnson’s refusal to protect trans people from the barbaric practice, often compared to torture.

Stonewall and the Terrence Higgins Trust were among the initial raft of groups who withdrew their support fro Safe To Be Me on Monday (4 April).

By Monday evening, the number increased to at least 120 groups, according to The LGBT Consortium.

The umbrella group supporting the LGBT+ sector blasted the government’s “inaction over conversion practices”.

Reportedly, the decision was taken by Tory equalities minister Liz Truss. The lawmaker has been at loggerheads with Downing Street after being left out in the cold over decisions to scrap a conversion therapy ban, PinkNews understands.

Understand decision was taken by Equalities Minister Liz Truss, rather than PM. She must have decided conference was pointless given the boycott. But leaves her in a#tricky position. I’m told she still supports a ban on trans conversion therapy but is left clearing up the mess.

— Paul Brand (@PaulBrandITV) April 5, 2022

The decision to exclude trans people from a conversion therapy ban has caused strife both in and outside of government – Johnson has faced fierce backlash from LGBT+ organisations since ITV News broke the story on Thursday (31 March).

Earlier today (5 April), Iain Anderson, who served as the government’s LGBT+ business champion, announced his resignation over the furore. In a statement, he described Downing Street’s decision as “devastating”.

Jamie Wallis, the Tory MP who recently came out as trans, said he was “bitterly disappointed” by the decision to exclude trans people from conversion therapy legislation.

“If the [conversion therapy] ban passes through parliament without any protections for the transgender community, it cannot be described as anything other than a broken promise,” Wallis tweeted.

Conversion therapy, the practice that attempts to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity, has been discredited and debunked by every major psychiatric organisation. The United Nations has described it as a form of torture.

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