Protest outside Downing Street, London over Tories blocking Scottish gender recognition reforms. (Picture: Guy Smallman)

On the same day as their assault on transgender rights in Scotland, the Tories announced that conversion practices would be outlawed.

Last April Boris Johnson went from deciding conversion therapy wouldn’t be banned, to saying it would—but that trans people would be excluded to avoid ­“unintended consequences”. Now the government has said a draft bill will be published setting out the proposed ban—and it outlaw practices aimed at transgender people.

The Tories have promised protection against conversion multiple times, first by Theresa May back in 2018. So LGBT+ charities are ­calling on the Tories to stop further delays. 

Conversion therapy aims to change a person’s sexual orientation or suppress their gender identity—seeing these as something that can be “cured”. So-called treatment can range from therapy and prayer to extreme forms including “exorcisms, physical violence and food deprivation”.

A survey in 2018 found that 5 percent of 108,000 people had been offered conversion therapy and 2 ­percent were undergoing it. Some 8 ­percent of trans people had been offered it, with 4 percent undergoing it.

One in 20 LGBT+ people—and one in five trans people—say they have been pressured to access services by ­healthcare advisors. This rises to 9 percent for those aged 18-24, 9 percent for black, Asian and ­minority ethnic LGBT+ people and 8 percent of disabled LGBT+ people. More than half of ­conversion therapy is carried out by religious groups and one in five by healthcare professionals.

So are the Tories offsetting the attack in Scotland with the conversion therapy ban? Perhaps there are some Tories who worry the party’s bigotry will put them even further out of step with more liberal public opinion. 

Last April the Tories faced a backlash again their plans to exclude trans people from legal protection. Over 100 charities ­boycotted their global Safe To Be Me LGBT+ conference. Rishi Sunak’s weak ­government doesn’t want another upset like this. 

But although the Tories may still be split, they are not about to dump their vile overall assault on trans people. As the grubbily search for votes, they believe they can use the issue to divide and distract people. 

Equalities minister Kemi Badenoch intends to set out her “concerns” over the proposed legislation. She was expected to say that “legitimate conversations” between parents and trans children must not be outlawed and that “freedom of religion” must be protected.

Her move reflects concern in Downing Street that Tory MPs will rebel over the introduction of the conversion therapy ban. They want anti-woke measures, not concessions.

Jacob Rees-Mogg, a former Cabinet minister, raised concerns about the government’s plans, saying, “It is difficult to phrase this Bill without unintended consequences in a highly complex area.” 

Mark Jenkinson, the Tory MP for Workington, said, “From all the published evidence, it is clear that current laws are sufficient to cover the vanishingly rare number of cases of conversion therapy. We need to ensure that any new legislation does not have unintended consequences”. He said it must not “enshrine in law the nebulous concept of ‘gender identity’.”

Culture secretary Michelle Donelan has said the ban risks “inadvertently criminalising or chilling legitimate conversations” with clinicians or therapists. So any ban will be hedged with exceptions.

Even if there is a new law, it will be Badenoch who will be responsible for implementing it. She opposes ­gender‑­neutral bathrooms and has never voted in favour of LGBT+ rights

Badenoch once said, “It’s now not even about sexuality now, it’s now like the whole transgender ­movement, where, OK well we’ve got gay marriage, and civil ­partnerships, so what are transsexuals looking for?”

Her offensive and outdated language—used in 2018, a year before Boris Johnson appointed her as a minister—shows her contempt for trans people. She is also a friend of the transphobic LGB Alliance.

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