The resignation of a UK government official over the decision to exclude gender identity in a ban on conversion therapy is bad news for the inclusion of the LGBTQ+ community in the workplace.
The UK’s LGBQT+ business champion, Iain Anderson, resigned over the issue accusing the Government of trying to divide the LGBTQ+ community. The exclusion has raised concerns it leaves the transgender community exposed and lacking legal protection.
Anderson’s resignation follows the decision of 100 major charities and organisations to pull out of a government-run LGBTQ+ conference after hearing that ministers were planning to retract their promise to ban conversion therapy as a whole.
In short, the Government has stated that it will ban conversion therapy for gay or bisexual people in England and Wales, but not for transgender people.
However, Anderson’s resignation hasn’t been good for LGBTQ+ rights either. While based on understandable principles, his departure from the post has halted plans to create a set of best practices to improve LGBTQ+ workplace inclusion, leaving employers without improved workplace guidance.
In his role as the UK’s first-ever LGBTQ+ business champion, Anderson had been focusing on workplace equality for the community following his appointment in September 2021. In his position, which was expected to last for an initial 18 months, he was to create a network of business figures to share best practices on workplace equality for LGBTQ+ people.
According to NHS guidelines, conversion therapy tries to change someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity. However, the Government’s latest move could leave trans people vulnerable to this practice, which many see as harmful and discriminatory.
The harmful nature of conversion therapy is highlighted by NHS England and other British psychological bodies that have said that all forms of conversion therapy are unethical and can cause harm to individuals.
Conservative Bridgend MP Jamie Wallis, Britain’s first openly trans MP, echoed Anderson’s sentiments and called the Government’s decision disappointing and exclusive.
The Government has explained its back-tracking as the result of the ‘legal complexities’ involved with minors, especially those under 18, where a ban might affect the ability of therapists to help children experiencing gender identity issues.
From Anderson’s resignation to Wallis’ comments, the decision has clearly caused discord within the Government. Anderson claimed that Equalities Minister Liz Truss wasn’t aware of the last-minute change until news channels picked it up.
The lack of consensus, communication and information sharing in the Government over the issue is concerning as it leaves employers with little direction when it comes to protecting transgender employees from harm.
Certainly, the ruling doesn’t help transgender staff facing coercion by family or partners to undergo conversion therapy for the wrong reasons, namely to conform to cis-gender ‘norms.’
With transgender rights up in the air and Anderson’s departure from his important government position, improved guidance to help employers be more LGBTQ+ inclusive is on hold. Who will fill Anderson’s position? We’ll have to wait and see.