UK government officials hold secret meeting with ‘ex-gay’ conversion therapy providers

UK government officials hold secret meeting with 'ex-gay' conversion therapy providers

The Core Issues Trust book was recently sent to all UK MPs and group leader Mike Davidson. Photos: Supplied

Officials from the UK’s Government Equalities Office held a private meeting with the “ex-gay” leaders of a group that offers some form of conversion therapy, VICE World News has learned.

A representative from Core Issues Trust told VICE World News that the group’s leaders have “spent years” trying to talk to the UK government about how they “help people who want to get away from unwanted gay feelings.” but they have always been ignored. – until this year.

Following communications with Equality Minister Kemi Badenoch in June of this year – LGBTQ Pride Month – the group was then invited to what they called a “productive” meeting.

The group also told VICE World News that they recently published a new book for every UK MP called X-Out-Loud: Emerging Voices of Former LGBT People. It features 44 stories of people who claim to be “former homosexuals” or who have turned away from “LGBT lifestyles”.

“In the middle of having sex with another woman, I asked for a tearful Bible,” one person wrote in the book. “Later, I received a specific prayer that freed me from demonic spirits. I threw up blood and screamed like a maniac.

Carrie Johnson, an environmental activist and wife of the British Prime Minister, made headlines last month when she praised her husband’s plans to ban conversion therapy. She said he was “totally committed” to protecting the rights of LGBTQ people.

Speaking at an LGBTQ reception at the Conservative Party conference, she added: “Whether you are LGBT + or an ally like me, we are all committed to equality and acceptance for all, whoever you are and who you love. “

A spokesperson for the government’s Equality Hub, which works with several departments including the Equality Office, said: “The values ​​of government do not match those of the Core Issues Trust. conversion is a heinous practice and will soon publish our plans to ban it in this country. “

Carrie Johnson speaks at an LGBTQ Pride event at the Conservative Party's annual conference in October.  Photo: Stefan Rousseau / PA Wire / Bloomberg via Getty Images

Carrie Johnson speaks at an LGBTQ Pride event at the Conservative Party’s annual conference in October. Photo: Stefan Rousseau / PA Wire / Bloomberg via Getty Images

However, emails sent to VICE World News from July 2021 imply that government officials were eager to speak to the group, following communications with Badenoch. The government actually met with what the Core Issues Trust described as ten “former LGBTs”.

Fundamental questions Trust is a charity based in Northern Ireland, where she actively promotes ‘talk therapy’ for people who wish to ‘explore the removal of unwanted homosexual attraction and gender confusion’. It is one of the most vocal pressure groups for conversion therapy in the UK.

The term “conversion therapy” refers to any form of treatment or therapy that aims to change a person’s sexual orientation or remove a person’s gender identity.

Some violent practices that may qualify as conversion therapy – such as “corrective rape” – are already illegal in the UK, but many religious practices are not, including those carried out by the Core Issues Trust. The government of former British Prime Minister Theresa May has pledged to ban conversion therapy in 2018.

Boris Johnson’s government is currently conducting a six-week consultation on how to ‘end’ conversion therapy, however, activists said current plans don’t go far enough. Currently, “therapies” would only be banned for people under the age of 18 and for those not actively seeking them, so Core Issues Trust expects it to be able to continue to operate.

After a few viral social media posts last year, some Core Issue Trust content and services promoting conversion therapies have been released. banned from Facebook, Instagram and other social media platforms.

In July 2020, Barclays closed the association’s bank accounts – and kept them closed even after a petition of 70,000 people defended the group.

Exactly one year later, representatives of the Government Equality Office met with the group. A representative from Core Issues Trust told VICE World News that this was the first time a government “took the time to talk to former LGBT people.”

An email sent by the Equality Office to the group, seen by VICE World News, suggests the office’s eagerness to arrange a meeting.

The invitation reads, “I am part of the GEO Conversion Therapy Team and I am contacting you to arrange a meeting with yourself prior to the initiation of the Conversion Therapy Consultation, following a letter from Minister for Equalities last month.

“Not sure if you will be available for the next week or so, but we are happy to work on your schedule as much as possible.” Please see below for a few suggested hours next week.

The charity’s representative said the “productive” meeting took place in July. Government advisers “listened with respect” and “encouraged” the large “ex-LGBT” group to participate in the upcoming public consultation on conversion therapy.

They continued, “We have already requested meetings and never received anything. So, you know, that was a step in the right direction.

“They were just officials from the equality office. It was a brief meeting. I think it was a little over half an hour, maybe 40 minutes in total.

“We tried to talk to Theresa May’s government and on two occasions we tried to contact them. We have no record of the government, or any other government, having taken the time to talk to former LGBT people so far. “

MPs across the UK – who started receiving books from Core Issues Trust last week – called the content “horrible”.

“After I continued to pray, live with God, and say no to temptation, I saw how much my same-sex attraction has diminished, as has my desire for same-sex relationships,” wrote one woman.

An introduction in the book reads: “X-Out-Loud (a Core Issues Trust project) is an international community based in Europe and, like several other groups, contributes to the growth of the old emerging LGBT community”.

He continues: “We call on ministers and peers in the Westminster government as well as politicians in UK decentralized governments to carefully consider the damage that will be caused by the prohibition of the right and freedom to leave practices. unwanted sex. “

VICE World News has been contacted by “concerned” employees working in parliament who have received the book.

“The book came with our Friday article, which I sort through daily. Some of the testimony is shocking,” said a parliamentary staff member. “I am really worried about the way organizations opposed to the conversion therapy ban are contacting MPs like this.”

All of the “testimonials” come from people who claim to have “overcome” same-sex attraction with the help of Christianity.

“I am 22 years old and I no longer identify as a homosexual”, confides a man. “I also made the decision to quit leading a gay lifestyle because my soul didn’t like what I was doing.”

When asked if any MPs had ever responded to their donation of books, the representative from Core Issues Trust replied, “We have received a few letters thanking us, that sort of thing. But it’s very early because he just arrived. They were unwilling to share specific communications.

John Nicolson, Scottish National Party shadow culture secretary and vice-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on LGBT + Rights Around the World, said “my copy of the X-Out-Loud booklet went straight into the trash recycling ”.

He continued, “Conversion therapy is a horrible practice. It’s cruel. It does not work. And that gives false hope to the most vulnerable in society. Its practitioners are malicious. I support the banning of so-called “conversion therapy” under all circumstances. “

Anneliese Dodds, fictitious Secretary of State for Labor for Women and Equalities, said: “More than three years since the Conservatives pledged a ban on conversion therapy, LGBT + people will be dismayed to learn that the The government agency responsible for protecting their rights now holds private meetings. with a group that promotes this insidious practice.

She added: “The next Labor government will not sit like the Tories. We will once and for all ban the heinous practice of conversion therapy. “

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