Conversion therapy still isn’t banned. This government doesn’t prioritise LGBTQ+ issues

Even its equalities advisor says the government’s created a ‘hostile environment’ for queer people

It’s been almost 1,000 days since the Tory government pledged to “eradicate” conversion therapy, yet it still hasn’t been banned. This shows LGBTQ+ issues just aren’t prioritised by the government in this country.

Even its own equalities advisor has said the UK government has created a “hostile environment” for LGBTQ+ people.

Jayne Ozanne, a key member of the government’s LGBT+ Advisory Panel, yesterday resigned from her role and accused ministers of being “ignorant” to issues affecting queer people. Following this, two other advisors have also resigned from the panel, ITV reports.

Here’s just some of the LGBTQ+ issues the government still isn’t prioritising:

‘Abusive and abhorrent’ conversion therapy is still legal in the UK

Conversion therapy is a damaging and extremely harmful practice which attempts to “repress, cure or change” someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity. I don’t even need to tell you that survivors of the practice often experience lifelong mental health effects. A 2018 study found 68.7 per cent had suicidal thoughts as a result.

It sounds like something from the Middle Ages, but the year is 2021, and conversion therapy is still legal in the UK – and it’s very much happening to LGBTQ+ people. Seven per cent of LGBTQ+ people have been offered or undergone conversion therapy.

In 2018, Theresa May vowed to eradicate the practice, calling it “abuse of the worst kind”. In 2020, Boris Johnson said there is “no place” in the UK for “abhorrent” conversion therapy and said there were “plans to ban it”. Yet at the end of March, it will have been 1,000 days since he said this, and nothing’s happened.

Jayne Ozanne, the government equalities advisor, told ITV the catalyst for her resignation was Parliament’s debate over conversion therapy earlier this week, after over 250,000 people signed a petition calling for its ban. She said: “I’ve been increasingly concerned about what is seen to be a hostile environment for LGBT people among this administration”.

According to ITV News, the government “intends to bring forward its proposals on conversion therapy within weeks”. However, in the Parliament debate this week, Equalities Minister Kemi Badenoch didn’t discuss any specifics of the plans.

Lockdown has caused a mental health crisis for LGBTQ+ young people

Queer people are more likely than heterosexuals to have mental health difficulties in the first place, and lockdown hasn’t helped this.

Many LGBTQ+ young people have moved back home and been forced back into the closet, telling The Tab of the huge impact this has had on their mental health. It’s harder to connect with the rest of the LGBTQ+ community, with students feeling “isolated” and “controlled”. When they do try to meet other queer people through online events, they’re at risk of homophobic and racist “Zoom bomb” attacks, with incidents of Zoom bombing having now happened at multiple UK universities.

New statistics show LGBTQ+ young people are twice as likely to feel lonely during the coronavirus pandemic than their straight counterparts. They are also more than twice as likely to worry about their mental health on a daily basis, with 68 per cent of LGBTQ+ young people saying their mental health has worsened during lockdown.

Almost nine in 10 young lesbians said they’ve felt lonely during lockdown and separated from the people they’re closest to. Lockdown has also disproportionately affected the mental health of Black LGBTQ+ young people.

The Tories cut funding for tackling homophobic bullying

Only four months ago, it was reported the government had axed funding for projects tackling bullying of LGBTQ+ school children.

This came despite an earlier promise to continue investing in school projects for homophobic bullying, and despite ministers reportedly admitting LGBTQ+ young people face a higher risk of bullying. They said the funding was always due to come to an end.

Nancy Kelley, chief executive of Stonewall, said cutting funding would lead to students being left to “suffer in silence”. She also said LGBTQ+ people disproportionately experience poor mental health effects, “and some of this is because of the way they were treated at school”, including bullying.

Ministers ‘don’t understand transgender people’ or the issues they face

Last year, ministers ruled out changes which would have made it easier for trans people living in England and Wales to have their gender legally recognised. Campaigners were calling for a reform of the Gender Recognition Act, so people could self-identify their gender and change their birth certificates without needing a medical diagnosis, but ministers said this wasn’t the “top priority” for trans people.

Transgender people are required to go through a long process to be able to change the gender on their birth certificate, which includes receiving “a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria from an approved medical practitioner” – literally reducing trans people to being an illness.

Speaking about Equalities Minister Kemi Badenoch, and her boss and cabinet member Liz Truss, Jayne Ozanne told ITV: “I don’t believe that they understand LGBT people, particularly transgender people. I’ve sat in meetings and I’ve been astonished about how ignorant they are on issues that affect the real lives, particularly of younger people.”

There are fears ‘we are going back to Section 28’, a homophobic law made by Thatcher

In her interview with ITV, Jayne Ozanne said she fears the government is actually going backwards on LGBTQ+ equality, saying: “There are many who fear that we are going back to the days of Thatcher, the days of Section 28.

“I do not believe this Tory government, sadly, have the best wishes of the LGBT community at heart.”

Section 28 was a homophobic law, the repercussions of which many LGBTQ+ people still live with today. It was implemented in 1988 by then-Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, and stopped schools and local authorities from “promoting the teaching of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship”.

This meant you couldn’t teach about gay relationships, some schools and councils shut down youth LGBTQ+ support groups, and councils couldn’t fund books, films and other materials showing same-sex relationships. It effectively made it illegal for schools to talk to young people about being gay. Section 28 was called “unnecessary and offensive”, and it “fuelled prejudice and stigmatised homosexuality”.

Section 28 finally ended in 2003 – within your lifetime. You may have even attended school whilst it was still in effect. The homophobic law lasted 15 years and still affects many queer people now.

In a statement to ITV regarding the allegations made by Jayne Ozanne, a government spokesperson said: “The government is committed to building a country in which everyone, no matter their sexuality, race or religion, is free to live their lives as they choose.

“We have repeatedly made clear that we will take action to end conversion therapy and we are working to bring forward plans to do so shortly.”

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