Britain has abandoned plans for the ‘Safe to Be Me’ event after backlash over the government’s decision to exclude Trans people from the new conversion therapy ban. The conference was cancelled after more than 80 LGBTQ+ and HIV groups decided to boycott it in solidarity with the Trans community.
The ‘Safe to Be Me’ conference was scheduled to take place in London from June 27-29 and it was supposed to be a landmark international LGBTQ+ event to tackle inequality and discrimination.
However, after the UK government decided not to include Trans people in their planned conversion therapy ban, more than 80 LGBTQ+ groups and over 20 HIV groups withdrew from the event to show solidarity with the Trans community, leading to the conference being cancelled altogether. Activists pledged that they would not take part in the UK-hosted event unless British Prime Minister Boris Johnson would go back on the decision to exclude Trans folk from the protection of the ban.
As the UK LGBT+ umbrella body, we wholeheartedly back @StonewallUK’s decision to withdraw support for the UK Government-led Safe To Be Me conference. Read our statement here: https://t.co/hmdA2hXrDz #NotSafeToBeMe #TransRightsAreHumanRights #BanConversionTherapy pic.twitter.com/dm7mBapQ34
— Consortium (@LGBTConsortium) April 4, 2022
The government’s position also prompted UK’s LGBTQ+ adviser to resign on April 5, claiming that Downing Street seemed to be “trying to drive a wedge” between the different members of the LGBTQ+ community. Speaking to ITV News, he said: “Britain needs a strategy for trans people and I can’t see one at the moment. We have a tabloid debate going on about people’s lives. It’s not a respectful debate; it’s turned into a woke war. It’s turned into a wedge issue… I was LGBT business champion, not LGB or T, and that’s why I’m walking away.”
Meanwhile, the Trans community in the UK was profoundly impacted by the government’s decision on the conversion therapy ban. Activist and YouTuber Katy Montgomerie, who recently applied for a Gender Recognition Certificate, said: “Every single trans person I speak to, without exception, is incredibly demoralised”. She added: “People message me every day saying ‘I can’t stop crying, can you give me some hope?’ Do I have to call ahead to pubs now to see if I can use the toilet? It’s disgusting and there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight. It’s horrific to be told you are a second-class citizen.”
Secretary of Trans Media Watch, Jennie Kermode, commented with the following words: “There had been some hope around Jamie Wallis coming out last week, and the possibility of more trans people in parliament, but the past few days have been extreme.
“Trans people are feeling hurt, scared and threatened and some are talking about leaving the UK. But we are also feeling buoyed up by the support we’ve received from the wider LGBT community and allies.”
After news spread that the global LGBTQ+ conference was cancelled, Conservative MP Dehenna Davison reacted by sharing these words on Twitter: “We had such a huge opportunity to prove the UK (and the Conservative Party) is a defender of freedom. As a Conservative member of the LGBT+ community, it is so wrong it has come to this.”
Huge disappointment – one that breaks the Conservative manifesto commitment to host a global LGBT conference.
The Royal Family had been playing a key role in bringing Commonwealth countries (in many of which it is illegal to be gay) to 'Safe To Be Me'. What a missed opportunity. https://t.co/FQClr5HwH7
— Tom Harwood (@tomhfh) April 5, 2022
Shadow attorney general Emily Thornberry also took to Twitter to express similar feelings, saying: “For three years, they did nothing except talk up their ‘Safe To Be Me’ conference. And now where are we? What a sickening waste.”
For 3 years, I urged the government to use the opportunity they had as Co-Chair of the Equal Rights Coalition to take a global lead on LGBTQ+ issues. For 3 years, they did nothing except talk up their ‘Safe To Be Me’ conference. And now where are we? What a sickening waste.
— Emily Thornberry (@EmilyThornberry) April 5, 2022
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