Protests across Ireland call for inclusion of Trans people in UK conversion therapy ban

Trans people were excluded from a UK ban on conversion therapy and protests broke out in Ireland in solidarity with the community.

Cara-Friend, a Belfast-based LGBTQ+ non-profit, joins the protest while donning Transgender pride flags

Over the past weekend, protesters all across the island of Ireland gathered to rally for the inclusion of Transgender people in the proposed UK conversion therapy ban. While there were promises to fully outlaw conversion practices in Britain, the Government has decided to exclude a vital part of the LGBTQ+ community, leading to a lot of resistance.

More than 200 people gathered in Belfast on Sunday in protest of the UK Government’s decision. Attendees stood in front of the City Hall holding placards that read, “Ulster says no to transphobia”, and “no ban without Trans”, among other powerful statements.

“If conversion therapy is wrong for lesbian, gay, and bisexual people, it is also wrong for our Trans and non-binary communities as well,” said John O’Doherty, director of the Rainbow Project in Northern Ireland. 

“For too long conversion therapy has hugely impacted on the lives of LGBTQ+ people. For too many years we have been told we are not good enough. For too many years we have been told that we must change who we are.

“We are here today in this very iconic space to say…Never. Never. Never,” he added emphatically.

Aisla Wrathmell, a Trans psychological therapist, was frustrated that the UK Government is still putting Trans people, especially youth, at risk of dangerous conversion practices.

“On a personal level, it’s extremely upsetting because the idea that I’m a threat to anyone, the idea that the Trans people I know are a threat to anyone, is just so out of kilter with reality that it’s just absurd,” she said to the Belfast Telegraph. 

Several groups such as LGBT Ireland and Dublin Pride also assembled this past weekend in solidarity with Trans people fighting to be included in the UK conversion therapy ban. They gathered at the British Embassy in Dublin, the same location activist groups protested at in 1974 when homosexuality was still heavily criminalised under antiquated English criminal statutes.

In relation to the protests, LGBT Ireland issued a statement reading: “LGBT Ireland and partners throughout the island of Ireland stand in solidarity with the LGBTI+ community in the UK and in particular, the trans community in the wake of a short-sighted and unjust decision by the UK government to exclude trans people from the ban on conversion practices.”

It continued: “We again stand against the potential impacts of discriminatory decisions made in Westminster on LGBTI+ people on the island of Ireland. In leading this demonstration, LGBT Ireland reaffirms its commitment to ensuring that the legislation promised by the Irish government is comprehensive, inclusive and leaves no-one behind.

“LGBT Ireland will continue to work alongside its partners in Northern Ireland to ensure the fullest possible level of protection for LGBTI+ citizens from outdated, unscientific and cruel conversion practices,” the statement concluded.

Boris Johnson’s administration had previously halted all progress in banning conversion therapy in order to “prioritise the Ukraine crisis.” Johnson had also expressed that Transgender women should not compete in sports because of their “biology”.

Although he had expressed his “abhorrence” toward conversion therapy, Johnson stated that gender reaffirming surgeries and bathroom policies “are complex issues” and he “[doesn’t] think they can be solved with one swift, easy piece of legislation.”

Nick Herbert, Boris Johnson’s special envoy for LGBTQ+ rights, was “dismayed” by the decision, but said that people should not respond with “shouty protests,” and that extreme measures would “suffocate the reasonable middle ground.”

As a result, hundreds of organisations boycotted the Safe to Be Me conference, the UK’s first international LGBTQ+ conference, and it was later cancelled.

© 2022 GCN (Gay Community News). All rights reserved.

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