What I said at the Lib Dem conference in Liverpool, Pt. 1: On Conversion Therapy

During the Spring 2015 Liberal Democrat Conference, the LGBT+ Liberal Democrats moved an amendment aimed towards extending the Memorandum of Understanding on Conversion Therapy—which effectively prohibits the use of sexual orientation conversion therapy on the NHS—to transgender people. Originally, the amendment was a much larger policy motion, but after it fell at the Federal Conference Committee due to time concerns, the motion was repurposed into an amendment. The original mover of the amendment was LGBT+ Chair Dave Page, who switched with Sarah (Elizabeth) Brown to allow her to move the amendment, with the summation waived by Dave to me. The amendment passed without opposition, and my speech is, as always, below the cut.

Good morning Conference.

I’m going to tell you a story. When we successfully passed the safer sex work motion in Glasgow several months ago, the Guardian journalist Julie Bindel asked on Twitter where she “could get a pump-action shotgun”, adding that she was asking for a “man-hating feminist”. There can be no doubt that in the context of what was happening, she was trying to intimidate the people who spoke up for sex workers. But I don’t care. I’m proud of getting that motion passed. I’m proud of keeping sex workers safe, even if it’s just for a while.

What does this have to do with the amendment today? Well, in addition to annoying Julie once more – and if you do so, you often make good policy – it provides a way for us to protect more of the most vulnerable in society. If we have just one responsibility, it should be to do that.

Norman, and I’m sure Paul Burstow before him, is helping us do just that. In January, he worked with the NHS and mental health regulatory bodies to publish a memorandum of understanding on conversion therapy, to protect lesbian, gay, and bisexual people from the evils of conversion therapy. We want to go further. We want to protect our trans and intersex brothers and sisters too. We don’t want to be left behind.

These therapies aren’t ethical. They aren’t medicine. Needles into the skin. Emetic drugs. Isolation from our peers. These are just a few of the techniques used to make us ashamed of who we are. It’s not a coincidence that I’m the fourth member of the LGBT+ executive to speak on this motion. We are at a much higher risk of mental illness than the general population. And as Sarah Brown said moving this amendment, it kills us. It’s killed so many of us already.

Trans people know all too well the devastating effects of mental illness. The feeling that something about you is not quite right. The longing pain when we see a body we don’t recognise in the mirror. We have enough to handle as it is without quack doctors and quack journalists trying to push us into an early grave.

We are the only party that fully accepts trans people as equal. You can’t expect the Greens or Labour to stand up for us when their leaderships are against us. We must stand up for the trans community, because no-one else will, because it’s the right thing to do. Please pass these amendments. We need to help protect the trans community. Do it for us. Do it for Leelah.

Thank you.

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