Letters to my MP – Ban Conversion Therapy

Dear Thangam Debbonaire MP,

I am writing to ask for your support for a comprehensive ban on so-called ‘conversion therapy’ in England and Wales.

‘Conversion therapy’, or conversion practices, refers to practices that seek to change, “cure”, or suppress an individual’s sexual orientation and/or gender identity.

Conversion practices are abuse. They cause severe and long-lasting physical and psychological suffering, violate the human rights of LGBTQ+ people, and were found by the UN to ‘amount to torture’ in some cases. The UN Independent Expert report on conversion practices found that individuals subjected to this abuse experienced “significant loss of self-esteem, anxiety, depressive syndrome, social isolation, intimacy difficulty, self-hatred, shame and guilt, sexual dysfunction, suicidal ideation and suicide attempts and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, as well as often significant physical pain and suffering.” 

The UK Government’s National LGBT Survey 2018 – the largest national survey of LGBT people ever conducted in the world, with over 108,000 respondents – found that 7 per cent of LGBT people have been offered or undergone conversion therapy, and that rises to 13 per cent of trans people.

The UK Government committed to banning conversion practices after the release of the National LGBT Survey, yet nearly four years have passed without a ban. This has left, and continues to leave, victims and potential victims of conversion practices at risk of abuse and lifelong harm.

The UK Government announced its intention to ban conversion practices in England and Wales in the Queen’s Speech May 2021, and released its proposals in October 2021. These proposals were open to consultation, which ended in February, and the Minister for Women and Equalities has committed to publishing draft legislation in the Spring.

The proposals include plans to introduce a new criminal offence for talking conversion therapy, as well as sentence uplifts for current offences that are found to have been used as a form of conversion therapy. There are also proposals to ban the advertising and promotion of conversion practices, to prevent young people being taken abroad for the purpose of conversion, and to engage statutory services in supporting victims and those at risk.

The Government will use the consultation responses to inform legislation for a ban, but there are concerning gaps in its proposals that must be dealt with for a legislative ban to be effective.

Please write to the Minister for Women and Equalities and call on her to ensure that any draft legislation to ban conversion practices:

  • Protects all LGBTQ+ people. The definitions used by the UK Government of ‘same-sex to opposite-sex attraction’ and ‘transgender to not transgender’, or vice versa, do not include bi, asexual or non-binary people or other minority sexual orientations or diverse gender identities.
  • Does not include a ‘consent loophole’. It is impossible to consent to abuse. Conversion practices are not a medical or therapeutic procedure, but the UK Government proposals suggest adults could provide ‘informed consent’. This is an incorrect application of the concept of ‘informed consent’ which could have significant legal implications for other forms of manipulative abuse such as domestic abuse.
  • Bans all conversion practices in all settings. Whether in healthcare, therapeutic, religious or cultural settings, there should be no exemption for any form of conversion practices. While ensuring religious freedoms are maintained, there should be no exemption for faith-based conversion therapy which constitutes over half of the experiences of conversion practices in the UK.
  • Provides support services for current and historical survivors of conversion practices.

Will you write to the Women and Equalities Minister to comprehensively ban conversion practices? Will you support legislation to ban conversion practices when it comes to the House? Will you support amendments to protect all LGBTQ+ people from this abuse, to remove the consent loophole, and to remove exemptions?

I welcome the opportunity to discuss this issue with you further and look forward to hearing from you soon. 

Yours sincerely,

Letters to my MP – Take Action to Reform the Gender Recognition Act

Dear Thangam Debbonaire MP,

Please speak at the Westminster Hall Debate on the petition to Reform the Gender Recognition Act.As your constituent, I am asking you to speak up in favour of reforming the Gender Recognition Act 2004 at the upcoming Westminster Hall Debate on Monday 21 February at 4:30pm.

The Gender Recognition Act 2004 enables trans people to change their legal gender (from female to male, or male to female) by applying for a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC). GRCs are required for trans people to have their correct gender recorded on birth and death certificates, certain pension and insurance policies, and to protect their privacy and safety by not requiring their trans status be revealed in various situations such as applying for a job or university or college course.

As it stands, the Gender Recognition Act subjects trans people to a process which is needlessly lengthy, intrusive and stigmatising. For example, obtaining legal gender recognition requires that an individual be medically diagnosed with ‘gender dysphoria’.

But while the Government promised reform and held a public consultation in 2018 that found clear majorities in favour of significant reform, there was no response until September 2020 to the consultation’s clear findings. And when the Government did respond, it only announced it would reduce the fee and digitise the process – welcome first steps, but nowhere near the reform that is crucially needed.

The Women and Equalities Select Committee held an inquiry into the Reform of the Gender Recognition throughout 2021. The Inquiry Report, published on 21 December 2021, concluded there had been “a lack of any real change to the gender recognition process”. The report made a number of key recommendations:

  • Immediately remove from the gender recognition process the requirement to live in the ‘acquired gender’ for a set period of time.
  • Remove the diagnosis of ‘gender dysphoria’ from the Gender Recognition Act by 2023.  
  • Remove the spousal consent provision in favour of a new approach where a full GRC can be issued at the same time as an annulment.

The Women and Equalities Select Committee recommended that the Government should bring back an action plan for reform within 12 weeks of publication of the report.

A straightforward system of legal gender recognition based on the principle of self-determination is already in operation in the Republic of Ireland by virtue of the Gender Recognition Act 2015. And in Scotland, following two public consultations that found similar majorities in favour of reform, the Scottish Government will be introducing a Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill in Spring 2022.

I am asking you to attend the Westminster Hall Debate on ‘Reform the Gender Recognition Act’ on Monday 21 February at 4:30pm, to speak up for trans communities and enable a fairer, shorter and non-stigmatising process of legal gender recognition.

Stonewall have produced a briefing in preparation for the debate, which you can find here. If you would like to contact them directly, you can email the Head of Policy at kieran.aldred@stonewall.org.uk.

If you cannot attend the debate, would you please write a supportive tweet on the day of the debate showing your support. You could write: “I support the findings of the @CommonsWomEqu report into legal gender recognition. The Government should reform the GRA and make the process less stigmatising, intrusive and medicalised for trans people. #ComeOutforTransEquality”

Yours sincerely,

CRAW – region 12 completed!

We are done! On 7th December 2021 team This Is The Way completed the 12 (and final original) region of the Circumpolar Race Around the World, travelling from the US/Mexico border across the North and South poles to return again to that border.

The region took a total of 34 days to cover the 2,057 miles, averaging 60.5 miles per day and I was third highest mileage of the team with 227.09 miles. At time of completion that puts me 210th for the region

So that is a total of 30,208 miles completed in a total of 471 days for a silver buckle. Of those miles I calculate that I ran and walked 4,230.05 of them.

Additional regions were added to fill in the map, but I am done and look forward to getting my final medals and buckle, and not having to have a browser window open all of the time to log my miles.

CRAW – region 11 completed!

Team This Is The Way managed to complete the penultimate region across the Great White North on 3rd November, taking a total of 52 days. This averaged 51.63 miles per day for the 2,685 miles.

I ended with the fourth highest mileage for the team with 293.8 miles and 237th overall for the region (at time of completion, this may well change as other people finish the region).

We used up 12 of our contingency days in this region, so only have 17 left in hand to try and complete within 486 days for the silver buckle. 28,151 miles completed with 2,057 to go.

CRAW – region 10 completed!

As close to home as I’m going to get on this global adventure, with a run across Europe taking on 2,696 miles. We began on 2nd August and took a total of 42 days, finishing on 12 September.

I finished with the 2nd highest mileage for the team with 346.15 miles and 148th for the region (at time of checking)

That’s 10 of the 12 regions ticked off and over 26,466 of 30,204 miles covered. We are currently averaging 66.14 miles per day, putting our completion days at 457 (rounded up), well within the silver buckle target of 486 days.

CRAW – region 9 completed!

A return to the longer regions as we trekked across the Stans for a total of 2,319 miles. Starting on 29th June we took a total of 35 days, finishing on 2nd August (after accidentally finishing mid-July with a typo that had to be corrected).

Now that my ultra is over and I’m back into marathon training, I finished 7th in the team with 234.09 miles, placing me 294th in the region and the team in 29th.

That’s 9 of the 12 regions ticked off and over 22,770 of 30,204 miles covered. We are currently averaging 66.38 miles per day, putting our completion days at 455, well within the silver buckle target of 486 days.

CRAW – region 8 completed!

Another short region, travelling across the Indian subcontinent, and with the late addition of a teammate’s husband (as we only started the region with 9 members) we finished the 1,661 miles in 24 days, starting on 6th June and finishing on 29th June.

Once again I logged the most miles for the team, but once my big race is out of the way this weekend that won’t be the case, so I enjoyed top spot with 255.4 miles, placing me 66th overall for the region (at time of writing). The team finished in 49th place.

That’s 8 of the 12 regions ticked off and over 20,451 of 30,204 miles covered. We are currently averaging 66.39 miles per day, putting our completion days at 455, well within the silver buckle target of 486 days.

CRAW – region 7 completed!

A lovely short region this one, travelling 1,989 miles up from Singapore to Bangladesh that we started on 9th May and finished on 6th June, a total of 29 days.

I was top logger of miles for the team again this region, totalling 322.98 miles, putting me 52nd for the region at time of finishing, and the team 28th.

As a team we have now completed 7 regions (of 12) racking up a total of 18,790 miles in 284 days. Our average miles per day is now 66.16, putting us on target to complete all 12 regions within 457 days, well within the 486 day target for a silver buckle.

CRAW – region 6 completed!

A shortish region this one and team This Is The Way managed to complete the 2,088 miles across the islands of Indonesia in a total of 32 days, starting on 8th April and finishing on 9th May.

We did overshoot the target number of miles due to not keeping on top of logging miles daily (especially towards the end) which is a shame as more miles could have been counted towards the next region which travels North through Malaysia, Thailand and Myanmar.

I logged the most miles for the team again with 366.63 miles, which put me (at time of completion) 43rd individual highest mileage for the region. The team was 19th with the overshoot.

We have now completed 6 regions (halfway in terms of region count) racking up 16,801 miles (over halfway in distance) in 255 days. Still on target for a sub-16 month completion time and that silver buckle.

CRAW – region 5 completed!

Team This is the way has left the island of Australia behind, after a 2,638 mile trek from Tasmania up to Darwin.

We had started region 5 on 28th February, and finishing on 8th April means it took us a total of 40 days, averaging 65.95 miles per day as a team.

I managed to log the most miles for the team in this region with 421.77, putting me in 54th place for the region at time of finishing, and the team in 29th place with a little overrun (but this all changes as other teams and individuals finish).

We have now completed 5 regions (14,713 miles) in a total of 223 days, averaging just under 66 miles per day. The total 30,208 miles of the trip would take us 458 days at that rate, well within the 16 month cut-off for a silver buckle.