Protesters Are Hitting Back At The Government's Failed LGBTQ+ Conference

"You can cancel your conference, but you can't cancel us."
Protesters in April campaigning against the exclusion of trans people from the conversion therapy ban back in April
Protesters in April campaigning against the exclusion of trans people from the conversion therapy ban back in April
SOPA Images via Getty Images

Activists are protesting in Parliament Square today after the government’s cancelled a landmark LGBTQ+ conference.

Just days before the 50th anniversary of London Pride, demonstrators are going to be pushing back against Downing Street’s recent controversy around trans rights.

Here’s what you need to know.

What’s going on?

Activists are hosting a protest in place of Downing Street’s cancelled LGBT conference, which was meant to go ahead today.

Demonstrators will gather in Parliament Square at 12pm, while a virtual protest is set to kick off on social media at the same time with the hashtag #NotSafeToBeMe.


The Conservative government caused uproar earlier this year when it excluded trans people from its conversion therapy ban.

Conversion therapy is an umbrella term for a range of methods, from aversive stimulation or religious counselling, to alter or suppress someone’s sexual orientation or gender.

The Tories first vowed to end all conversion therapy in 2018, under Theresa May.

So when prime minister Boris Johnson backtracked on his vow to ban the practise inflicted on all LGBTQ+ people, he infuriated campaigners and many Tory MPs.

At the time, Johnson slammed gay conversion therapy as “utterly abhorrent” but claimed there were “complexities and sensitivities” when “you move from the area of sexuality to the question of gender”.

He claimed: “I don’t think that it’s reasonable for kids to be deemed so-called Gillick-competent to take decisions about their gender or irreversible treatments that they may have.

“I think there should be parental involvement at the very least.”

Gillick competence is the term for whether children under the age of 16 can consent to medical treatment without parental permission or knowledge.

The backlash was so severe that the government’s international LGBTQ+ conference – called Safe To Be Me – was cancelled, after more than 80 groups pulled out of the event.

What do campaigners say?

Trans Activism UK promoted today’s protest on social media, tweeting: “The Conservative government has made a conscious effort to make the UK unsafe for all marginalised communities.

“You can cancel your conference, but you can’t cancel us.”

The campaigners added: “They cancelled their conference to try and escape the inevitable backlash of marginalised communities standing up for themselves, but we will not be deterred.”

LGBTQ+ rights in the UK

The UK has been slipping down the ranks for LGBTQ+ rights in Europe for the last three years, and is now 14th out of 49 countries.

Having been in first place back in 2015, the UK dropped four places this year alone.

The International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association Europe (ILGA-Europe) which produces the ranking, pointed to the government’s failure to reform conversion practices and gender recognition.

Katrin Hugendubel from ILGA-Europe said the UK’s fall in the rankings is “a sad reminder that when government don’t stand strong on their commitments to advance minority rights, a powerful opposition can use that space to spread hate and division”.

The organisation alleged that the government’s equality watchdog was also not “effectively protecting on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity”.

This came after the Equality and Human Rights Commission ruled that trans people could be legitimately excluded from single-sex services if the reasons were “justifiable and proportionate”.

The EHRC rejected ILGA-Europe’s claim, and said “our role is to strike a fair and appropriate balance based on evidence and the law”.

Stonewall’s chief executive Nancy Kelley also warned that years of progress in LGBTQ+ rights “has been rapidly eroded by a UK government that has taken its foot off the pedal”.

She called for Johnson to “step back into the game” to protect LGBTQ+ right.

A government spokesperson from the Equality Hub said in response that the UK has “one of the world’s most comprehensive and robust legislative protection frameworks for LGBT people”.

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