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How some parts of the media helped to create a perfect storm for the "Conversion Therapy" U-turn

How some parts of the media helped to create a perfect storm for the "Conversion Therapy" U-turn

Jamie Wareham
Jamie Wareham
Jamie Wareham, he/him, gay,queer,disabled I started QueerAF to fund queer media careers. Will you join our movement?
TL;DR: After nearly four years of dither, delay, and false promises, the government's ban on so-called conversion therapy won't include trans people. This was revealed on Trans Day Of Visibility, a day that is supposed to focus on the joy in transgender lives.

This week in the UK, the largest energy bill price hike hit us. Covid-19 cases were higher than they've ever been. Twenty 10 Downing Street staffers were fined for breaking lockdown rules.

But what did the political and media elite discuss? People's genitals.

Journalists across the media asked: "Does a woman have a penis?"

They laughed at the expense of a marginalised community as their new 'gotcha' left politicians flailing. Day after day, this was the question they asked. This, while scandals of great political importance were left seemingly unchecked.

This all created the perfect environment for the Government to U-turn on its biggest current commitment to LGBTQIA+ people in this country.

This week we finally learned what a ban on so-called conversion therapy looks like. Except, it nearly didn't happen at all.

Conversion therapy U-Turns

Thursday night, a leak suggested that after nearly four years of consultations and delays, Boris Johnson agreed to drop it.

The uproar was enormous. At any moment for several hours on Thursday, 75K people were tweeting their dismay. Given that Twitter trends can kick off with only a few hundred tweets, it's fair to say the anger was palpable.

That's why, only three hours later, Boris Johnson changed his mind."A U-Turn on a U-Turn" was reported.

Except it became clear, though the ban would now go ahead to protect gay and bi people, trans people would be excluded.

Let's take, for example, a family with two children where one is cis and bisexual and the other trans.

Despite their parents forcing them to be subjected to exactly the same abuse and violence, under an altered "conversion therapy" ban, the government will only protect one of them.

This isn't just a hypothetical. It's a real case that anti-LGBT abuse charity Galop has dealt with.

That bears repeating: Only one of these very real victims of a violent, traumatic form of torture will be protected.

So-called conversion therapy is something 5% of LGBTQIA+ people have been offered and 2% have undergone.

If we underestimate how many queer people there are - by the old '1 in 10' model - that means 13,400 people are being put through an abusive, pseudo-scientific practice. In reality, the numbers are likely much higher.

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A sign of more to come?

Last week I wrote about our Prime Minister's transphobic dog whistle in Parliament and asked: Is this a sign of more to come?

I didn't expect it to be confirmed so quickly. Or for it to descend across the political spectrum. It seems UK politics has resolved that "biology matters".

That's a line we heard from Kier Starmer this week, meanwhile, Labour health secretary Wes Streeting did a 'train wreck' interview with Talk Radio. While Angela Rayner countered when asked by Kay Burley on Sky News, that these kinds of questions debase trans people and the “debate”.

Journalists, producers, and media who repeatedly put this to politicians played their part in trans people losing protection from the ban.

And I understand why the journalists did it. It makes for 'great content.'

When you work in a newsroom, driven by clicks for ads, you have to deliver these moments. Yet they are done without a care for the fragility of trans lives and the very real impact these “debates” have on those lives.

It helped create the perfect moment to allow a small group of 30 MPs to persuade the PM to drop the ban.

Speaking to trans friends, family, and colleagues, it's clear just how tough this week has been. If you're close to anyone trans, reach out and check-in.

It all stings the hardest given this all broke on Trans Day Of Visibility (31st March), a day that is supposed to focus on the joy in transgender lives.

It was also the week when senior Conservatives welcomed the UK's first trans MP in their ranks. The day after that, they chose to drop trans people further into a culture war - one that even the Tories’ own equalities minister says mirrors the gay panic of the ‘80s.

The message from LGBTQIA+ organisations and queer people all over the country this weekend is clear:

A ban on so-called "conversion therapy" that doesn't include transgender and non-binary people is not a ban at all.

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Jamie Wareham, he/him, gay queer disabled - A note from me:

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