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Oxford protest against trans conversion therapy

Hundreds gathered in Oxford to protest the government’s failure to ban trans conversion therapy.

On the 19th April, Oxford saw hundreds of protestors turn up in Bonn Square to voice their anger at Boris Johnson’s government leaving the trans community out of plans to ban conversion therapy.

The protest was organised by the recently formed Oxford Against Conversion Therapy, and was supported by Oxford Pride, the Oxford University Labour Society, Oxford LGBTQ Society, Oxford Green Party and many others.

Holding up handmade signs and draped in pride flags, the crowd chanted slogans in support of trans rights, and against the Tory government’s continued betrayal of the LGBTQ community, with speakers citing the long-lasting damage of Margaret Thatcher’s infamous Section 28.

Section 28 was legislation that began in 1988, and prohibited the ‘promotion of homosexuality’ by local authorities. In schools, Section 28 prevented the discussion or acknowledgement of LGBTQ issues in classrooms, curriculums or textbooks.

LGBTQ students did not receive any sex education, information about issues that affected them, or support for homophobic bullying, as teachers were unable to step in because of this law.

Co-Chair Elect of the Oxford University Labour Club, Bella Simpson (she/her) pointed out the parallels between the treatment of gay individuals then, and of trans individuals now by Conservative governments.

Despite Boris Johnson acknowledging the harm of these “abhorrent practices” and promising to ban conversion therapy, his government has flipped back and forth on the issue, causing three advisors to quit the advisory panel.

The current plans exclude a ban of trans conversion therapy, despite a 2017 government survey showing that transgender individuals were twice as likely to be offered CT as other members of the community.

Protests against the government’s treatment of trans rights are not new; last August, protestors in London called for the overhaul of the trans healthcare system, as well as accountability for the Tories’ failure to protect trans individuals.

Alana Steart (she/they), co-founder of Oxford Against CT said the group was “absolutely delighted” at the “hundreds of people” who turned up to protest the ban and celebrate trans joy.

Stewart also highlighted the widespread disappointment felt by Oxford students because of the university’s ‘academic transphobia’, continuing to employ openly transphobic staff and funding of gender critical research.

Other members of the team emphasised the ineffective and dangerous nature of CT, with Clay Nash (she/they) stating “conversion therapies are psychological and physical abuse” and the group’s determination to continue until “our government [and] our universities recognise the rights of trans people” (Emma Bentley, she/her).