Former Tory Minister Accuses Colleagues Of 'Vilifying' Trans Community

Mike Freer said: "When senior colleagues had throwaway comments, vilifying the trans community, that was simply not acceptable."
Conservative MP Mike Freer
Conservative MP Mike Freer
HuffPost UK

A former Tory minister launched a furious attack on his colleagues last night, accusing them of “vilifying” the trans community.

Mike Freer said he resigned as equalities minister because he felt “deep frustration” with the lack of progress on fully banning so-called conversion therapy.

He said the argument for trans-inclusive protections fell on “deaf ears” despite his protests.

Freer slammed his colleagues for picking on a part of the LGBTQ+ community and unleashing a “torrent of abuse”.

The Conservative MP for Finchley and Golders Green was among a number of ministers who resigned last week, triggering the end of Boris Johnson’s premiership.

Freer warned the government was “creating an atmosphere of hostility” for LGBTQ+ people and he could no longer defend policies he “fundamentally” disagreed with.

At a PinkNews reception in Westminster last night the former minister let rip about his frustrations, saying he had “frankly had enough”.

It comes after Johnson’s government moved to exclude trans people from the conversion therapy ban and scrap vital reforms to the Gender Recognition Act.

Freer also revealed he had spoken to four of the Tory party leadership candidates, adding: “I’ve spoken to the four front-runners who may lead my party, and they’ve all told me that they support a fully inclusive ban on conversion therapy.”

Freer told guests: “I didn’t think I would be speaking as the ex-minister, I have spent the last few days thinking that I stayed too long, or did I go too soon.

“There comes a point when you have tried your best to persuade the forces of opposition to change their stance, at which point you decide you’re banging your head against the wall.

“And also, when you see what I regard as the forces of opposition, the forces of regression, unleashed against our community I had frankly had enough.

“So I resigned as minister for equalities because I felt the deep frustration that the lack of progress on getting the review that had been asked for signed off so that we can ensure that ban on conversion practices was fully inclusive. I tried to address the concerns of clinicians, parents and teachers.

“Even Dr Hilary Cass said very clearly, that there was no reason to have a non-inclusive ban and no reason to delay it. And, yet, that argument fell on deaf ears.

“And when senior colleagues had throwaway comments, vilifying the trans community that was simply not acceptable.

“Not least because trying to pick a part of our community as a joke is bad enough. But it also unleashed a torrent of abuse.

“It gave free rein to some of my colleagues who felt it was fair to vilify our community.

“And one of the final straws that broke my back was, as we were having a consensual debate on Pride in the main chamber, in Westminster Hall there was the most awful debate on sex education.

“When one of my colleagues described the ‘plus’ in the LGBT+ as representing kinks, fetishes, and BDSM. Not only was it factually wrong, but it was deeply offensive.

“And that hostility was engendered by people believing it was right to have throwaway comments.”

Theresa May said she wanted to see the government looking at trans conversion therapy and not “sliding back”.
Theresa May said she wanted to see the government looking at trans conversion therapy and not “sliding back”.
TOBY MELVILLE via Getty Images

Freer said it deeply upset him further because the row also obscured the good work taking place in government such as ensuring the ban on LGBTQ+ personnel in the armed forces was going ahead, tackling LGBTQ+ homelessness and stopping new HIV infections.

“All of that good work that was being done by the people in the equalities team was being lost and obscured by hostility and toxic jokes, making fun of our trans colleagues,” Freer added.

The Tory MP finished his speech asking for “legitimate” debate on issues of concern and saying they must not “shout down those people that disagree with us”.

He added: “We must take the debate to them. We must ensure that with respect, we educate, we engage and we explain. That is how we will win people over.”

Former prime minister Theresa May also attended the reception and told PinkNews she wanted to see the government looking at trans conversion therapy and not “sliding back”.

“I think much has been achieved over the last 50 years since that first Pride March, but there is more to do,” she added.


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