The UK conservative government plans to exclude trans people from a bill that would ban conversion therapies but the Scottish Conservative Party disagrees, a month ahead of local elections.
The plan to ban conversion therapies is creating dissension amid the conservatives in the United Kingdom only a month before the local elections on May 5.
Since 2018, the UK is planning to ban conversion therapies but a row sparked after a modification was released last week. In 2018, the plan laid out by Theresa May’s administration banned conversion therapies that tried to change an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
But Boris Johnson’s government decided trans people would not be included in the law. It would therefore only apply to an individual’s sexual orientation. Last December, the government expanded its consultation period to listen to “hear all views”.
Boris Johnson has said that “we will have a ban on gay conversion therapy, which to me is utterly abhorrent. But there are complexities and sensitivities when you move from the area of sexuality to the question of gender. There, I’m afraid, there are things that I think still need to be worked out.” He also considers that biological men should not compete with females in sporting events and that women should be able to access single-sex rooms.
Health Minister Sajid Javid justified that a “more careful” approach needs to be taken for individuals who say they have gender dysphoria because it “is right for medical experts to be able to question that and to determine what the cause might be,” like trauma or abuse.
The decision created a row among LGBT groups and the government was forced to cancel a flagship LGBTQ+ conference.
It also created dissension among conservative politicians.
Iain Anderson, the government’s LGBTQ+ business adviser, resigned and sent a letter to Boris Johnson asking for “tolerance and respect” for trans people. Jamie Wallis, a conservative member of parliament who came out as trans last week, said he “was bitterly disappointed” by the new framework.
The Scottish Conservative Party, in the middle of a campaign for the local elections on May 5, decided to have a different view from its Westminster counterparts and is in favor of including trans people in a law banning conversion therapies.
The party is autonomous from the UK Conservative Party in its leadership and internal structure and may have divergent policies from London.
The Tories are the opposition party in the Scottish government. They are unionists, i.e. in favor of a Scotland part of the United Kingdom, while the largest political party the Scottish National Party, which advocates for independence, is part of a coalition government with the Scottish Greens.
The conservatives consider it would back a “trans inclusive” ban on conversion practices if it were discussed in the Scottish parliament, the Holyrood. The party’s gender reform spokesperson, Meghan Gallacher, said the Tories would stick to their manifesto promise, according to the Scotsman.
The manifesto is the political agenda of Scotland’s second party released in 2021 for the local elections. They pledged to “work with the UK Government to end conversion therapy in Scotland” in order to “tackle prejudice and discrimination in all forms to ensure no one is held back from succeeding due to their race, sexuality, gender, religion or disability”.
However, the Scottish Conservatives also pledged to provide single-sex toilets and changing rooms in local public services in counties they win. This move can potentially exclude trans people from the rooms they identify themselves with. Their local manifesto will include a commitment to protect women’s same-sex spaces, Meghan Gallacher told the Daily Mail, claiming “we cannot allow long-held rights to be eroded”.
In that sense, they would be rather in line with the Scottish National Party’s views, even if the party is also divided about gender reforms. It proposed Scotland would pass its own law if the British government doesn’t.
Local elections will be held throughout the United Kingdom on May 5 during which all 1,219 seats across the 32 local councils will be renewed.