‘It’s Abhorrent’: Photos from the Trans Conversion Therapy Protest

Thousands demonstrated in London on Sunday to call on the UK government to introduce a full ban on LGBT conversion therapy.

When the UK government decided to drop its upcoming ban on LGBT conversion therapy – only to U-turn and reintroduce it less than 24 hours later but exclude trans people from the ban – it sparked huge controversy and backlash. 

Over 100 LGBT organisations pulled out of its landmark Safe to be Me conference, billed as the UK’s first ever global conference on LGBT rights, prompting its cancellation. Iain Anderson, the government’s own LGBT business champion, quit his post and said the goverment was “trying to drive a wedge” between lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people. A parliamentary petition to include trans conversion therapy in the ban has now reached over 107,500 signatures and will now be debated in Parliament. 

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On Sunday, thousands attended a rally near Downing Street in London to protest for a full and complete ban on conversion therapy. As the demonstration spilled out onto Whitehall, forcing police to close roads for the crowds, organisers said that 3,000 people turned up to the demonstration – potentially making it one of the largest turnouts seen for a trans rights protest in the UK. 

Speakers – both trans people and cis allies – talked about the need to include trans conversion therapy in the ban. The rhetoric was powerful and resounding: that the LGBTQ community could not be separated and there cannot be an LGB without the T.

VICE photographer Bex Wade went down to document the protest and speak to some of the attendees.

Dr Ronx Ikharia: "I really want people to live as freely as I do."

Dr Ronx Ikharia, 37, doctor and TV presenter

Why are you at the protest today?
I’m here because I think it’s abhorrent that the government is even debating conversion therapy.  Nobody, LGBTQIA+ or anybody else, should have to be put through psychological, physical or spiritual methods of conversion so they align themselves with what people think is the correct status quo, which is cis heteronormativity.  

When did you realise that conversion therapy still exists in the UK?
I was brought up as Christian – although I didn’t know it was called conversion therapy, I knew that there were methods within religious circles [trying] to turn people from what they are to cis and straight. But I wasn't aware of how pervasive the therapy was.

How did you react to the government’s U-turn? 
I wasn’t surprised. I’m never surprised by anything that our government does. We need to realise that our government isn't necessarily here for LGBTQI people and that we need to protest, we need to fill in petitions and we need to be loud and continue to be angry.

How does this situation affect you or people you know?
It doesn’t affect me – no-one can ever convince me to be anything other than what I am – but it makes me sad that we live in a world where people like me potentially could be sent to conversion therapy. I really want people to live as freely as I do.

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What would you like to say to the government on this?
It is beyond me why people’s humanity is a debate. We need to be centring the needs of people in society who are the most marginalised. At that moment, that’s black trans humans and trans humans. We just need to do things to centre their needs and keep them safe.

Claire Ann Green: "All the medical organisations have condemned [conversion therapy] and it needs to go."

Claire Ann Green, 56, electrician

Why are you here today?
I’m here to continue protesting about the conversion therapy ban.  We’ve been protesting for a few years now. I came here in July and there was only a few hundred of us here. To see the government completely cock it up these last few weeks, U-turning and then excluding trans people is not on. We need to keep protesting as it’s an abhorrent practice and we need it gone.

When did you become aware that conversion therapy still exists in the UK?
A couple of years ago at Pride in Surrey we had various religious people coming to our Winter Pride. They gave out leaflets to children saying about how wrong it was to be gay or identify as trans – it affected a few of the children really badly. 

How does this situation affect you or people you know?
As as trans woman it affects me because I’m seeing [conversion therapy] in our community and I don’t want it around. All the medical organisations have condemned it and it needs to go.

What do think this says about trans rights generally?
It looks like human rights are being stripped everywhere. We know what will happen: they’ll come for us and then they’ll come for the gays and the lesbians… Yeah, it’s going to get messy.

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What message would you like to send to the UK government?
Do what a lot of governments around the world are doing and put the T in the ban.

Reema Huzair: "I just want more from this country."

Reema Huzair, 42, Public Sector D&I Lead and IMAAN trustee

What made you come down today?
My partner is trans, my friends are trans, and I work with lots of trans Muslims... Politics and the news is very disturbing right now. As someone who is cis I think I have some power to be just an extra voice [and] hopefully work towards some change, because I can’t live in a world like this.

When did you become aware that conversion therapy still happens in the country?
About two years ago, when I became a trustee at IMAAN [an LGBTQ+ Muslim charity].

How did you feel when you heard about the government’s U-turn? 
Absolutely shocked, horrified.  But we know what Tories are like – we know that they are dishonest, very sly, so in a way [I’m] not surprised.

How does this situation affect you or people you know?
People around me are talking about leaving the UK, their mental health is severely affected. People are talking again about suicide, especially people who are from additionally marginalised groups. It’s absolutely heartbreaking. I just want more from this country. This country offers so much to the right people: If you fit certain categories, you’re going to be OK.  But it’s just shocking how far set back you’re going to be if you’re trans in the UK. I just don’t understand it.

What do you think this says about trans rights generally?
The rights of trans people seem to be a debate too often – it seems like we’re not travelling in the right direction, we are stuck. We’re moving backwards, actually.

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What would you want to say to the government?
Honestly, you should be really really ashamed of yourselves. You make me ashamed to be British, and seriously just fix the fuck up.

Sarah Fyre: "Every day on social media in the UK, I see transphobes speaking freely."

Sarah Fyre, 24, postgrad student

Why are you here today?
I’m non-binary and I come from France – transphobia is a big thing in my country, but I didn’t know how it was such a big thing in this country too. Every day on social media in the UK, I see transphobes speaking freely and hurting trans people and gender non-conforming people.

When did you become realise conversion therapy still exists here?
Not that long ago. I was comparing with my home country who banned conversion therapy a few months ago – I thought that the UK was way ahead in terms of banning it. I was shocked, I thought this country was more open-minded.

How are you or people you know affected by this situation?
I have so many trans friends who’ve started their transition and I can see every day how this affects them.

What message would you like to send to the government?
Fuck this fucking government. We won’t stop until they include trans people, we won’t stop until they respect trans rights. We won’t stop until they protect trans kids.

Tara Lonergan: "It’s just the recycling of the moral panics throughout the 80s and before."

Tara Lonergan, 23, animator

How did you first react to the government’s partial U-turn?
It was very much a reaction of “are you fucking kidding me?!” They need scapegoats, fundamentally. It’s easy to equip the general public with [one] that I guess they don’t understand.  It’s just the recycling of the moral panics throughout the 80s and before. There’s zero critical thinking and it’s all purely phobic.

How does this affect you or people you know?
Most of my close friends are trans or non-binary. I’ve been in queer friendship groups for the past eight years and all this is my entire life. I generally have never prescribed to gender norms. 

What do think this says about trans rights generally?
We’re fighting against a very large system on a very upward hill.

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What message would you like to send to the UK government?
Trans people have data, transphobes have hypotheticals. These people do not have any fucking data to support what they’re saying. Biologists agree with trans people, scientists overall agree with trans people. The only people who don’t agree with trans people are the general public [because some] journalists distribute false information, and that’s all being directed by a bunch of posh Oxbridge tosspots in fucking parliament.

Kai Mensah: "Trans people shouldn't have to go through abuse."

Kai Mensah, 20, hospitality worker

Why are you here today?
I’m here because I think that trans people shouldn't have to go through abuse – abuse that they call conversion therapy.

How did you feel when you heard about the government’s U-turn? 
I wasn’t surprised because it seemed like they were stalling for quite a while and it seemed fishy. I don't really trust this government anyway so I wasn’t surprised that they would take this opportunity to sell out our community like this. That said, I was sickened and angry.  I’m just quite heartbroken by the way they’re trying to divide the community like this.

How does this situation affect you or people you know?
I think it give us a lot of anxiety and shows us that our lives are seen as less than. We already know that, but it just reinforces the idea that we’re not equal and it’s going to take a long time for them to see us on an equal playing field to cis people.

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What does this all say about trans rights here in general?
We have a long way to go, especially in terms of what’s also happening in the U.S. Generally, we’re not as progressive on this issue as much as we should be in 2022.

What would you like to say to this government on this?
“Fuck off”, first of all.  Secondly, [speak to] trans people and actual medical professionals in your decisions. Stop making decisions just to stoke up a fake culture war or to distract from issues of your own government. Stop being obsessed with people’s genitals, or fake issues which have no real research or evidence behind them. We want to hear cold hard facts and we don’t want to hear any more waffle or bullshit about how you’re trying to protect [the] community that you clearly give zero shits about.


Tagged:

activism, conversion therapy, protest, transgender, TRANS RIGHTS, Transgender rights

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