100 groups pull out of government's LGBT+ conference over trans conversion therapy ban exclusion

ITV News UK Editor Paul Brand reports on the shambles U-turn by the government over conversion therapy and the uproar it has caused in the LGBT+ community

One hundred leading charities and organisations have pulled out of the government's international LGBT+ conference, Safe To Be Me 2022, set to be held in June following a decision to exclude transgender people from a conversion therapy ban.

Last week ITV News exclusively revealed the government's plans to scrap a ban on conversion therapy - which attempts to change or suppress someone’s sexuality or gender identity and is already outlawed in several other countries.

Hours later the government performed a partial U-turn, recommitting to banning conversion therapy - but crucially not including transgender conversion therapy.

The departure of the groups from the conference "makes the conference essentially pointless," according to ITV News UK Editor Paul Brand.

Intended to show global leadership on LGBT+ issues, Brand says the situation is "hugely embarrassing for the government".

Stonewall, Human rights charity ReportOUT, national trans-led charity Gendered Intelligence, and Community activist group House of Guramayle are among those pulling out of the government's event.

Stonewall said: "Due to the prime minister’s broken promise on protecting trans people from the harms of conversion therapy, we regret that we are withdrawing Stonewall’s support for the UK government’s Safe To Be Me conference.

"We will only be able to participate if the prime minister reverts to his promise for a trans-inclusive ban on conversion therapy."

Conservative MP Jamie Wallis, who revealed he was trans last week, said he was "bitterly disappointed at the government’s decision not to include gender identity in the ban on conversion therapy."

He said: "If the conversaion therapy ban passes through parliament without any protections for the transgender community, it cannot be described as anything other than a broken promise."

It's also been reported that major sponsors of the conference are refusing to sign up to back the event.

In a statement issued on Monday, the government sought to clarify why it had decided to exclude transgender people from the ban.

“The government has a proud record on LGBT rights, and the prime minister is committed to bringing forward legislation to ban conversion therapy,” a government statement read.

“Recognising the complexity of issues and need for further careful thought, we will carry out separate work to consider the issue of transgender conversion therapy further.

“This is a legally complex area and we have a responsibility to ensure unintended consequences are not written into legislation, particularly in the case of under-18s.”

The news comes after the former archbishop of Canterbury and other religious leaders called on the government to include transgender people in any proposed conversion therapy ban.

Rowan Williams along with 13 other faith leaders wrote to the prime minister following the series of U-turns by Boris Johnson's government.

Watch ITV News Paul Brand's exclusive report on the initial plans to scrap the ban

Days of backlash have followed, both to the original plan to ditch legislation and now to the exclusion of trans people.

ITV News understands ministers and officials from the Equalities Office met for crunch talks on Monday, to consider whether or not to continue to exclude trans conversion therapy from the ban.

In the letter sent to the prime minister, religious leaders wrote: "To be trans is to enter a sacred journey of becoming whole: precious, honoured and loved, by yourself, by others and by God.

"To allow those discerning this journey to be subject to coercive or undermining practices is to make prayer a means of one person manipulating another.

"We see no justification for the ban on so-called 'conversion therapy' excluding trans people".

Alex Clare-Young, now a minister at the United Reformed Church, told Paul Brand how coming out as trans had meant being told to change, but not how Alex wanted to, and how pastors tried to use conversion therapy as some kind of cure.

"This very quickly led into a process of prayer, particularly prayer very late in the night in my bedroom, processes of attempted exorcism and bits and pieces of what I would now term as physical abuse.

"It made me become really really anxious to the point of not being well. During the trip, I started being quite sick and by the time I got home, doctors were testing me for tropical diseases.

"Eventually, they sent me to a breathing specialist where eventually it was found out that it was just really severe anxiety that I was experiencing."

The Deans of Manchester, St Paul's and Southwark Cathedral were among those calling for a reconsideration.

The Welsh government is also seeking legal advice on what “unilateral action” it can take to ban conversion therapy, separately from the UK government - not excluding trans people.

The Government's first international LGBT conference is now in question after conversion therapy ban row.

At least 100 organisations have pulled out over the “unacceptable” exclusion of transgender people from plans to ban conversation therapy.

A Government spokesman said it was “disappointing” to see partners quit the event planned for this year and that the Government is “considering how to proceed”.

Separately, the Terrence Higgins Trust issued a joint statement on behalf of 23 HIV organisations, saying they will also not be supporting or attending the Safe To Be Me conference, scheduled for June-July.

It comes as religious leaders including the former archbishop of Canterbury wrote to Boris Johnson urging him to include trans people in a ban on conversion therapy.