LGBT+ conference axed after 100 groups pull support over trans exclusion from conversion therapy ban

People shelter from the rain at a Trans Pride March in Dublin's city centre.
Government's LGBT+ conference cancelled after 100s of groups pull out over conversion therapy row. Credit: PA

The government’s international LGBT+ conference, which was due to set an example to the rest of the world, has been cancelled.

It comes after more than 100 organisations withdrew their support for the event over government plans to only partially ban conversion therapy.

ITV News UK Editor Paul Brand reports that it was Equalities Minister Liz Truss who took the decision to scrap the conference rather than Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

The convention, Safe to be Me 2022, was meant to show global leadership on LGBT+ issues, but Brand said it has become "hugely embarrassing for the government", after more than 100 organisations withdrew their support.

The departure of the groups from the conference rendered the "conference essentially pointless", he added.

Brand says the decision has several implications for the UK hovernment, chief among which is "it’s embarrassing for the UK - other countries were looking to us".

Any future attempts will be made "harder to bring LGBT organisations back to the table as some were using attendance as a bargaining chip", and it puts the government's LGBT envoy Lord Herbert on "resignation watch", he added.

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 over sexuality, but crucially not including transgender conversion therapy.

Earlier on Tuesday, key LGBT+ adviser to the government, Iain Anderson, revealed to ITV News that he has quit over the plan to exclude transgender people from the ban and accused ministers of waging a "woke war" on the community.

ITV News UK Editor Paul Brand explains the significance of Iain Anderson's resignation

Mr Anderson said he was resigning from his role as the LGBT business champion because the government is "trying to drive a wedge" between transgender and lesbian, gay and bisexual people, he said.

"Britain needs a strategy for trans people and I can’t see one at the moment," he said.

"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."

Mr Anderson told ITV News that not even Equalities Minister Liz Truss (who is also foreign secretary) was aware of plans to drop the conversion therapy ban, nor were any of the government's team of LGBT+ advisers - until ITV News published its report on Thursday.

The plan to scrap the ban was revealed on Transgender Visibility Day, on which Mr Anderson made commitments in public that the government had an inclusive approach to a flagship conversion therapy ban to include all LGBT+ people - "until it changed twice on Thursday".

"I do feel undermined," Mr Anderson said, adding: "This came as a complete bolt out of the blue. Not just to me but to Liz Truss and the government's LGBT envoy. It came on the very day of International Transgender Visibility. I was completely shocked."

Tory MP Jamie Wallis, who just last week came out as trans, said the government had broken a promise.

"I'm bitterly disappointed at the government’s decision not to include gender identity in the ban on conversion therapy," he said.

"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."