Transgender Conversion Therapy Debate

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Department: Department for International Trade

Transgender Conversion Therapy

Kate Osborne Excerpts
Monday 13th June 2022

(2 years ago)

Westminster Hall
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Kate Osborne Portrait Kate Osborne (Jarrow) (Lab)
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It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Graham. I thank the 145,000 people who signed the petition, ensuring that today’s debate would go ahead.

As politicians, we should always ask ourselves which side of history we are on. When the gay liberation movement started, it had almost no support in the House of Commons. When queer communities came under attack from homophobes and the police, it was left to us to defend ourselves. Now, once again, this Government seem to want the House to be on the wrong side of history. Well, I stand on the side of history that has learned lessons from the past—from when queer communities came under attack from homophobes and the police, and when AIDS arrived and its victims faced stigmatisation. I have seen those failures of Government in protecting the LGBTQI+ communities at first hand, and I am steadfast in my belief that conversion therapy must be banned for all, including transgender people.

Zarah Sultana Portrait Zarah Sultana (Coventry South) (Lab)
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Carolyn is a trans woman in her 70s. Recounting trans conversion therapy that she underwent in her youth, she said:

“When I remembered it…I would physically shake. It made me hate myself. 40 years later…I’d still have flashbacks.”

Does my hon. Friend agree that these practices are abusive and must be banned, and that the Government’s refusal to ban them is part of a cruel, cowardly and cynical tactic to distract us from their failings, stoke division, and target one of society’s most marginalised and disadvantaged groups?

Kate Osborne Portrait Kate Osborne
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I agree with my hon. Friend; we need this ban to come in without delay, without loopholes and without exclusions.

Jeremy Corbyn Portrait Jeremy Corbyn
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My hon. Friend is making an excellent speech, particularly with the historical references. Those of us who were here during the grim days of section 28 remember just how horrible it was, and how brutally the media then treated LGBT communities. The proposal to not include trans people in the conversion therapy ban is unbelievably wrong, divisive and short-sighted. We need to be very clear, and when this legislation comes along, I hope there will be a majority in this House that says, “We need a total ban on conversion therapy,” as the Scottish Human Rights Commission and others have proposed, as the hon. Member for Stirling (Alyn Smith) said earlier. Does my hon. Friend agree?

Kate Osborne Portrait Kate Osborne
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I do agree. My right hon. Friend referred to section 28. Interestingly, the first march I went on as an activist many years ago—more than I care to remember —was in opposition to section 28.

Jacob Young Portrait Jacob Young
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It is touching to hear the hon. Lady make those historical references. Does she agree that the rights of LGB people were only won by LGBT people, and that it if were not for the T people, she and I would not have the rights that we enjoy today?

Kate Osborne Portrait Kate Osborne
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I absolutely agree with the hon. Gentleman. There should be no division, as the hon. Member for Darlington (Peter Gibson) said.

We know from numerous studies and polls that transphobes are in the minority, but unfortunately, that minority is hardening and seems to have this Government’s ear. As casual prejudice fills the airwaves and column inches, the Government’s failure to deliver a ban on conversion therapy for trans people sends a terrible message. Conversion therapy causes serious mental health problems for those who undergo it, and it has driven people to suicide. Trans people are twice as likely to have been offered conversion therapy as those who are cis, gay or bi, but the Government seem to exclude them even though they are the very people whom the ban would help the most. In Britain today, around half of trans people attempt suicide before the age of 26. Many face harassment, bullying and discrimination daily.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport (Luke Pollard) mentioned, trans people and their very existence are not up for debate. Under the Prime Minister, this Government’s strategy is to harness prejudice and stoke a culture war, pitting communities against each other. It is not surprising that the Tories are undermining trans rights. If the Conservative party had a motto, it would probably be, “Never let basic humanity get in the way of a potential vote winner.” If the proposed legislation does not include trans people, it will not go far enough. It is essential to close all loopholes to prevent the possibility of this abuse continuing.

The Government know and have clearly acknowledged that conversion therapy is abuse, yet they seem willing to allow an entire community to continue to be subjected to it. History has judged how wrong some of our politicians have been in the past, and it will judge those who fail to protect our trans community now.

None Portrait Several hon. Members rose—
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