UK

Government LGBT+ adviser blasted for blaming ‘LGBT lobby’ for Safe To Be Me cancellation

Josh Milton April 10, 2022
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Boris Johnson appointed former MP Nick Herbert as special envoy for LGBT+ rights (Peter Summers/Getty)

The British government’s LGBT+ adviser has condemned the “LGBT lobby” for the cancellation of a landmark queer rights conference.

In what he described as an “act of self-harm”, LGBT+ special envoy Nick Herbert criticised the “crocodile tears” shed by LGBT+ groups amid the “debate” over trans rights.

Herbert said that “decent” lawmakers have expressed “genuine concerns that gender ideology may have gone too far”, so time is needed to ensure a trans conversion therapy ban is “safe and justifiable”.

More than 120 LGBT+ organisations and HIV groups pulled out of “Safe To Be Me: A Global Equality Conference” after the government excluded trans folk from its long-promised conversion therapy plan.

Left in tatters, Tory ministers scrapped what they described as the “first-ever LGBT conference in London” while prime minister Boris Johnson doubled down on barring trans people from the ban.

To Herbert, “the conference’s cancellation is damaging to the government and to the UK’s global reputation,” he said in a statement published Sunday (10 April) on his website.

“But it is also an act of self-harm by the LGBT lobby.”

Herbert, who has previously stressed that the government doesn’t want to turn trans rights into a “culture war“, said the “LGBT lobby” has been “organising boycotts and shouty protests”.

“Crocodile tears will be of little consolation to brave human rights defenders in countries where the right to wave a rainbow flag without being arrested is a distant dream,” he added.

‘Decent’ politicians have ‘concerns that gender ideology has gone too far’, says LGBT+ adviser

He said: “LGBT groups were understandably dismayed, as was I, when a promised conversion therapy ban was suddenly dropped and then only partially reinstated just hours later.

“The bill will no longer extend to trans people, reflecting concern that more time is needed to ensure that legitimate therapies to help young people with gender dysphoria are not inadvertently criminalised.”

Britain’s top medical, psychological and scientific groups have stressed that trans conversion therapy must be banned without delay. Further pushing back the already delayed ban will cause more “physical and psychological suffering,” the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy warned.

While the government’s LGBT+ business champion, Iain Anderson, resigned less than a year into the role over the “damaging” move.

“I believe such concerns can be allayed,” Herbert, a member of the House of Lords appointed to the envoy post last year, continued.

“Helping people come to terms with who they are is not the same as setting out to take them in one direction or the other – that is not therapy, it is ideology, and it can do irreparable harm.”

Critics, he added, are “decent, middle-of-the-road politicians who supported gay rights but have genuine concerns that gender ideology may have gone too far, and that women’s rights and children must be protected”.

A protester holds a placard saying "No excuse for abuse" during a demonstration against conversion therapy outside UK Cabinet office
A protester holds a placard saying ‘No excuse for abuse’ during a demonstration against conversion therapy outside the Cabinet office. (May James/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty)

Also worried are human rights experts who have said that the “toxic debate” over trans rights in Britain is directly harming the nation.

“We, as a society, would suffer enormously if, in a decade’s time, we are still having this debate,” said the departing chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission David Isaac in 2020.

Herbert added that Johnson has expressed “reasonable” concerns about “biological males” participating in elite sports. Countless LGBT+ rights and sporting groups told PinkNews that his remarks were “backwards” and “divisive”.

The lawmaker called on a Royal Commission, a type of committee appointed to investigate or advise on a specific issue, to scrutinise “contested areas” such as sports, single-sex spaces and gender-affirming healthcare for trans youth.

Doing so will help “detoxify the debate, protect trans people from being caught in the political crossfire, and find the common ground we need”.

“No one will win from a culture war on these issues, and those most harmed will be trans people who already feel stigmatised, people who are different yet just like us, human beings who deserve greater kindness than today’s politics will permit,” Herbert concluded.

His “deeply disappointing” statement was slammed online by LGBT+ community leaders, advocacy groups and Twitter users. Among his faulters was Jayne Ozanne, herself a former LGBT+ adviser to the government.

More: Nick Herbert

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