HUNDREDS of people gathered in York’s St Helen’s Square this afternoon to protest against government plans to exclude trans people from the conversion therapy ban.
The government says it wants to ban “abominable” practices designed to convince people they are not gay or bisexual.
But the ban will not include attempts to convince trans people that they are of a certain gender.
Those gathered in St Helen’s Square from 2pm said that was not right.
Sophie Fox, 36, from Pocklington, who spent most of her life living as Sam but is now transitioning, said being trans was not a phase.
“It doesn’t go away,” he said. “Trying to convince people that they are not trans is not right.”
Protesters in St Helen’s Square this afternoon
Sophie said that she had known since she was in primary school that something was wrong. But due to pressure from school and her family, she tried to convince herself that she was a boy.
He suffered from years of depression, he said.
“I didn’t feel comfortable with my body, I didn’t identify with the person I saw in the mirror.”
It was only when the transition began that he felt like he could be who he really was.
“I’m much happier, more comfortable,” she said. “I have better relationships and better friendships.”
Amelia Connolly, 19, of York, who is also transitioning, said she knew from the age of three that she was not a boy.
She also suffered from depression. “They say it’s a phase, it’s going to go away,” she said. “It’s not. Trans people are at higher risk for suicide.”
No one in the trans movement wanted to force anyone to be something they weren’t, she said, they just wanted the practice of conversion therapy banned. “It’s really dangerous. It can lead to people committing suicide.”
Several hundred people gathered outside the Mansion House.
Conversion therapy can include talk and prayer therapies, but more extreme forms can include exorcism, physical violence, and even food deprivation.
The British Psychological Society and other professional bodies, including England’s NHS, have warned that all forms of conversion therapy are “unethical and potentially harmful”.
Plans to ban conversion therapy for gay and bisexual people under the age of 18 were included in the Queen’s Speech.
But the government has said that transgender conversion therapy is too complicated to be included for now and separate work on the “complexity of the issues” will be carried out.
He said there were concerns that a ban could have “unintended consequences” that could affect teachers, parents and therapists who help children struggling with their gender identity.
But Alexandra Watts, 64, from Leeds, who spent most of her life living as Alexander, said the government had been influenced by members of the General Medical Council who felt they were the only ones qualified to determine someone’s gender.
That’s rubbish, she said. “If you’re trans, you know you’re trans.”
Jake Furby of the York LGBT Forum
Jake Furby of the York LGBT Forum, which organized this afternoon’s protest, said he welcomed the proposed ban on gay/bisexual conversion therapy, but said it should include trans people.
Conversion therapy was an “abhorrent” practice often practiced on young and vulnerable people, he said.
“We are here to show solidarity. We need to push for change, for trans people to be included.”