The government’s plan to exclude trans people from promised conversion therapy bans goes against the wishes of Conservative voters
The government has been under fire recently for watering down a long-promised ban on conversion therapy, where individuals attempt to change someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity, by excluding transgender conversion therapy from the proposed legislation. The move has angered campaigners and LGBT rights organisations and split the Conservative party, with LGBT Tories pledging to not stop campaigning until Downing Street confirms trans people will be included in conversion therapy bans.
While on this issue the government seems to draw distinction between lesbian, gay and bisexual people compared to trans people, Britons do not. New YouGov/The Times research shows Britons would support a ban on conversion therapy at about the same rate for both sexual orientation and gender identity, with widespread support across parties and social groups.
Two-thirds of Britons (65%) say conversion therapy where people seek to change someone’s sexual orientation should be banned, while 62% say conversion therapy to change someone’s gender identity should be banned. Only 14% say each practice should not be banned, while 22-23% are unsure.
According to ITV journalist Paul Brand, government sources have said the removal of the transgender conversion therapy ban from the legislation is an attempt to trap the Labour party into ‘owning’ trans issues. The government’s former LGBT adviser Iain Anderson, who resigned in protest at the decision, has likewise suggested that the government is treating trans people as a ‘wedge issue’.
But if this is the plan then Boris Johnson is going against the wishes of his own supporters. Six in 10 of those who currently intend to vote Conservative (58%) say conversion therapy to change someone’s gender identity should be banned, about the same as the number who say sexual orientation conversion therapy should be banned (63%). Only 19% want to allow gender identity conversion therapy to remain in place.
Those who currently intend to vote Labour are even more in favour of a ban on conversion therapy – 72% for sexual orientation and 68% for gender identity.
Women are more likely to say conversion therapy should be banned than men (69% to 60% for sexual orientation, 66% to 58% for gender identity.
While there is consistently high support across all ages for a ban on conversion therapy for sexual orientation (66% of 18 to 24-year-olds say it should be banned, compared to 63% of those aged 65 and older), older Britons are less sure about a ban on conversion therapy for gender identity.
Six in 10 (58%) of those aged 65 and older say transgender conversion therapy should be banned, compared to 66% of those aged 18-24. This does not, however, translate into more older Britons saying the practice should not be banned: older Britons are equally likely as young people to oppose a ban, at 14%.
See full results here
A subsequent wording experiment with this survey conducted 8-10 April asked the same questions but using "change someone from being gay, lesbian, bisexual or otherwise not-heterosexual" instead of "change someone's sexual orientation", and "change someone from being transgender" instead of "change someone's gender identity" to see if using more lay language would make a difference to the results. The results were effectively identical across both versions. You can see the results for this experiment here