Senior Tory on Boris Johnson’s handling of LGBTQ+ rights: ‘I can’t defend the indefensible’
The Scottish Conservatives’ shadow justice secretary Jamie Greene has said he can’t “defend the indefensible” when it comes to the UK government’s approach to LGBTQ+ rights.
Speaking at PinkNews’ summer reception in Edinburgh on Wednesday (29 June), Greene, who is the most senior LGBTQ+ Scottish Conservative, criticised the UK government’s approach to LGBTQ+ issues.
The Conservatives have faced blistering criticism from LGBTQ+ rights groups after it announced that it would be excluding trans people from its conversion therapy ban.
“I’m not a member of the UK government first of all, I want to make that clear, and it’s not my job to defend the indefensible,” Greene said.
“I was asked here to share my experiences and why it’s relevant to you being here today and that’s exactly what I’m going to do.”
Greene went on to share his own experience of growing up gay, revealing that he was targeted my homophobic bullies at school.
“I went to a strict Catholic school. I was bullied for most of my secondary school years. The term ‘you’re gay’ was used daily to me. It was probably just a general derogatory term as it often was in those days, not necessarily a sexuality based one, but nonetheless I used to think to myself probably quite rightly, if only you knew.”
He went on to speak about hate crime and inequality in the healthcare system before saying: “I will not fail to hold the government to account. I don’t think I could look myself in the mirror if I didn’t.”
Greene went on to throw his weight behind reform to the Gender Recognition Act (GRA) and a fully-inclusive conversion therapy ban in Scotland.
Jamie Greene: UK government should honour its commitment on conversion therapy
Speaking to PinkNews after the event, Jamie Greene said the UK government had been “very explicit” when it committed to banning conversion therapy for all LGBTQ+ people. He called on the government to honour its commitments.
“We made a commitment to do that, it was very explicit, and I think it was welcomed at the time and we should stick to it.”
I hope the UK government reflect on commitments that they’ve made. I think commitments are important to people.
He added: “We made a commitment to the LGBTQ+ community that we would ban conversion therapy. We should fulfil that promise and the Scottish government should do exactly the same.
“We should do it here, we should do it in Westminster, we should do it in Wales, we should do it in Northern Ireland.”
Speaking about the UK government’s failure to reform the Gender Recognition Act (GRA), he said: “I hope the UK government reflect on commitments that they’ve made. I think commitments are important to people.”
‘Hyperbole’ in trans debate is ‘unhelpful’
Other speakers at the PinkNews summer reception in Edinburgh included SNP equalities minister Christina McKelvie, Scottish Liberal Democrats leader Alex Cole-Hamilton, Labour MSP Pam Duncan-Glancy and Scottish Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie.
Cole-Hamilton said reform to the Gender Recognition Act (GRA) is “much-needed”, saying trans people shouldn’t have to convince psychiatrists that they are who they say they are.
He criticised the “hyperbole” in the debate around trans lives, saying it’s “unhelpful” and a “moral panic”.
Cole-Hamilton went on to say there should be a moral panic about the UK government’s decision to send refugees it deems “illegal” to Rwanda and about its failures to tackle child poverty.
“You will always have the support of my party,” Cole-Hamilton said, describing himself as an “ally” to the LGBTQ+ community.
We are also taking steps to ban conversion practices and that will be a full ban.
SNP equalities minister Christina McKelvie spoke about the “long journey” to GRA reform in Scotland and re-affirmed her commitment to banning conversion therapy for all LGBTQ+ people.
“We are also taking steps to ban conversion practices and that will be a full ban,” McKelvie said.
“We don’t care how you define yourself. You will be protected under that ban.”
People’s imaginations have ‘run wild’ on trans issues
Labour MSP Pam Duncan-Glancy said trans rights had become “part of a horrible heated debate”, adding that people’s imaginations about the trans community had “run wild”.
Speaking directly to trans people, Duncan-Glancy said: “Your rights are human rights, not because you’re trans but because you’re human… They belong to all of us.”
She also said a fully inclusive ban on conversion therapy is needed, saying people are being “punished and tortured” for who they are.
Patrick Harvie, co-leader of the Scottish Greens, also joined Jamie Greene in speaking about his experience of growing up gay in the 1980s. He said he thought he had seen “some of the worst” of what the press could do to the LGBTQ+ at that time.
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Harvie said he used to walk past a billboard every day in the 1980s which said “protect our children”, adding that much of the coverage at the time was “nasty”.
It tears my heart out to see all that happening again.
He went on to say that many of the debates from that time are being “reheated” by the media, including the myth that trans people need to be “fixed”.
“It tears my heart out to see all that happening again,” Harvie said.