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Saturday, June 25, 2022

Oxford students protest conversion therapy

Niamh Hardman reports from the protest in Bonn square

On Tuesday, crowds gathered in Bonn Square to protest the exclusion of trans people from the ban on conversion therapy.

According to NHS England, conversion therapy – sometimes called “reparative therapy” or colloquially known as “gay cure therapy” – tries to change someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity. The NHS has described it as “unethical and potentially harmful”

According to the 2018 National LGBT Survey, approximately 5% of the 108,000 people who responded reported to have been offered some version of conversion therapy whilst 2% had undergone it. Those from an ethnic minority background were twice as likely to be affected. About 10% of Christian respondents and 20% of Muslims said they had undergone or been offered conversion therapy, compared to 6% who has no religious affiliation. Over half of those who had experienced conversion therapy reported that it was done by a religious organisation. Isolating the statistics from transgender respondents perhaps demonstrates why the call to “include the T in the LGB” is particularly prevalent with issues of conversion therapy.  Almost one in 10 trans men said they had been offered conversion therapy, and one in 25 said they had undergone it. These statistics were raised repeatedly by protesters to emphasise that transgender people are at the highest risk of being affected by conversion therapy. The LGBT Action Plan 2018 set out to bring forward proposals to end the practice of conversion therapy in the UK and was cited often at the protest as an example of a Government who is failing to keep its promises to the LGBTQ+ community.

Currently, all other countries that have introduced some form of conversion therapy ban have covered gender identity in their definitions. On the 1st of April, hours after it had said it would drop plans for the ban entirely, the Government announced its intention to ban conversion therapy for matters of sexuality, but not around gender identity. Clay Nash, one of the leaders of Oxford Against Conversion Therapy and organiser of the protest told Cherwell: “The Government went from scrapping the ban all together to protecting gay people from conversion therapy because there was a mass outcry from a majority. So now we need allies to stand beside us while we fight for the protection of trans people too […] If we, members of the public, continue to make noise and insist that a ban that doesn’t protect trans people isn’t enough, I’m hopeful that there will be another backtrack – this time one that protects us all”.

As the Government address the issue of rights for transgender and non-binary people as carrying a “complexity of issues”, protesters in support of a full ban on conversion therapy accused the government of playing politics with people’s lives. Speaking to Cherwell, Clay Nash noted the importance of protesting in Oxford: “there is something very powerful about Oxford, the place where these politicians’ journeys began, coming together to say that we do not stand for transphobia and that we want to forge a more inclusive future.”

Speakers including, but not limited to, Jayne Ozanne, Director of the Ozanne Foundation and the Global Interfaith Commission on LGBT Lives, Green Party Councillor Chris Jarvis, Sarah Stephenson-hunter, speaking on behalf of Trans Actual UK, and Dr Clara Barker addressed the people gathered to protest. Support was visible from the Student Union LGBTQ+ campaign, the University of Oxford and the Brookes’ LGBTQ+ societies, Oxford Pride, The Jolly Farmers and the Oxford University Labour Club.

The overarching theme was one of solidarity and the celebration of trans joy and trans beauty.

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