It’s time to end conversion practices for good

There can be no place for ‘conversion therapy’ in the fairer and more equal Scotland that we are building.

Last week made it clear how selective and rhetorical the Prime Minister’s commitment to human rights and equality really is. It began with a ‘leak’ that revealed the UK Government was dropping its plans to ban conversion therapy for the LGBTQ+ people.

The announcement was immediately met with condemnation and anger from campaign groups and MPs. Within hours, Downing Street had partially U-turned by clarifying that conversion therapy would still be banned – but the ban would no longer apply to the use of conversion therapy against trans people.

It was a callous, cruel and divisive political move that the LGBTQ+ community responded to with unity and solidarity.

Over 100 organisations condemned the decision and announced that, unless the ban was extended to include trans people, they would boycott the UK Government’s ‘Safe To Be Me: Global Equality Conference’ an international event which was meant to promote LGBTQ+ rights.

The UK government refused to budge, and the conference has now been cancelled altogether. The blame for the cancellation lies entirely with one man: Boris Johnson.

The decision also led to the resignation of the UK Government’s LGBT business adviser, Iain Anderson, who wrote a scathing resignation letter that described conversion therapy as “abhorrent” and emphasised that the trans exclusion from the ban was “deeply damaging” to his role.

Conversion ‘therapy’ is not therapy. Attempting to change or suppress a person’s identity through harmful methods isn’t therapeutic. It is abuse. It is abhorrent and cruel. Nobody should be told that they should be ashamed of who they are or how they identify.

This was not an isolated decision. It was the latest stage of an intensifying campaign of smears and disinformation that is being used against our LGBTQ+ community, and our trans and non-binary siblings in particular.

With Greens in government, we are putting equality at the heart of the Scotland we are building. That is why me and my Green colleagues are working with the End Conversation Therapy campaign and MSPs from across all parties to ensure that a ban is introduced by the end of 2023.

Ending conversion practices is vitally important, but it is only one step on the journey. Last December the Scottish Government provided £2 million worth of “crisis funding” for trans healthcare services in a bid to cut down waiting times while we overhaul the system.

Over the course of this parliamentary term we are determined to ensure that waiting times for gender identity services are reduced and brought in-line with national waiting time standards.

Last month my Scottish Government colleague Shona Robison introduced legislation to amend the Gender Recognition Act to finally allow self-identification and remove some of the pain, trauma and bureaucracy from the existing system.

These changes will take us closer to creating a fairer and more equal Scotland, where all LGBTQ+ people are free to live their lives without fear of persecution.

The Scotland that I want us to build, and the Scotland I know we can be, is one where people can love who they choose and nobody is told that they are broken or that they need to be fixed.

Conversion practices are wrong, regardless of who they are used against. It’s time to end them for good.