OPINION: As the new Prime Minister, Liz Truss must protect trans people from conversion therapy

by Luan Morris | Unaffiliated
Monday, 5 September 2022 12:35 GMT

Liz Truss speaks after being announced as Britain's next Prime Minister at The Queen Elizabeth II Centre in London, Britain September 5, 2022. REUTERS/Hannah McKay

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* Any views expressed in this opinion piece are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Liz Truss must educate herself on issues which directly affect trans people and introduce a complete ban on conversion therapy

Luan Morris is a 19-year-old queer, autistic and chronically ill trans man with a passion for LGBTQ+ rights and history.

The government first promised to ban conversion therapy in 2018 - yet today this is still far from being accomplished.

Today Liz Truss has been named as Prime Minister. As Equalities Minister, she oversaw the government's decision to exclude trans people from the planned conversion therapy ban. Instead the ban will now not apply to changing someone’s gender.

This is despite a YouGov survey in April finding that 62% of the British population believe it should be outlawed.

It is yet another reason I fear for my safety as a young trans person in Britain. Life can be scary for us, particularly from a legal, governmental, and national perspective.

Read more: What are the UK Prime Minister hopefuls' stances on LGBTQ+ rights?

Much of the media, which holds great influence, publish anti-trans views. Last year the BBC was accused of transphobia after it published a story stating lesbian women felt pressured into sex by trans women. The article was later found to have fallen below the broadcaster’s standards of accuracy.

On top of that, the government has repeatedly shown it does not care about or want to fight for the rights of transgender people. Instead, it makes trans lives harder and has helped villainise our community.

While competing to become Prime Minister, both Truss and Rishi Sunak answered “no” when asked if trans women are women – despite this being legally incorrect.

The lack of concrete action to protect trans people is overwhelming. I often feel helpless.

I would love to be proven wrong in my thinking, or at least have it shifted from the one it is in now. A great start would be for Truss to propose a total conversion therapy ban for all – and follow through with it.  

The words conversion therapy alone nullify the severity and harm of the practice. It is abuse.

The treatment is also not always overtly violent or aggressive, which means some survivors remain unaware they are being abused and their perpetrators go undetected.

By excluding trans people from the ban, the government is giving direct permission to perpetrators to continue. It also sends a message to the wider public that our persecution is acceptable.

E, a non-binary teenager, was subjected to conversion therapy in a church without realising what it was. They described how they were so upset they confided in their parents – “who then denied it being an issue”.

The case also highlights the lasting damage, trauma and impact going through conversion therapy has on survivors.

E said: “I have been damaged by the process and never once would I have considered what was happening to me to be a form of conversion therapy. It was just conversations and suggestions, but they held so much power over me and genuinely made me hate who I was.”

Their story shows the complex nature of conversion therapy, and how it can be further sanctioned by parents’ belittlement and denial. It is an example of how cultural acceptance leaves many vulnerable young people at risk.

Without laws in place this abuse will continue. Perpetrators will continue to get away with their sinister practices and LGBTQ+ young people will continue to be harmed in the process. When will we learn?

This is why I am calling on Truss to introduce a complete ban on conversion therapy for the entire LGBTQ+ community, including the practice of trying to change someone’s gender identity.

I also strongly encourage her to reflect on her potential bias, and prejudice towards trans people and educate herself from a trans perspective.

Charities like Mermaids, which supports young trans people, help conversion therapy survivors through their helpline and webchat. They facilitate focus groups where young people can get peer-to-peer care and connect with others who may have gone through a similar situation.

We need immediate change. I am also backing the Ban Conversion Therapy Campaign, which asks people to write to their local MP to demand change.