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Image: Pexels / Markus Spiske
Image: Pexels / Markus Spiske

Badenoch is ignoring LGBT+ people

Peter Tatchell
March 1, 2024

The UK Equalities Minister, Kemi Badenoch, this week told me that she is not willing to meet a cross-section of mainstream LGBT+ organisations. We wanted to discuss with her our concern about a number of Government policy failings, including nearly six years of delay in banning harmful anti-LGBT+ conversion therapies.

I wrote to her a few weeks ago offering to facilitate a roundtable discussion where she could hear the concerns of groups such as Stonewall, Mermaids, Terrence Higgins Trust, Ban Conversion Therapy Coalition, my own Peter Tatchell Foundation and others.

What prompted my letter was the revelation that Badenoch had met trans-critical groups but not trans ones or leading LGBT+ organisations.

I was also alarmed that Kemi had asserted in the House of Commons on 6 December last year that she had engaged "extensively" with LGBT+ organisations. In truth, since assuming her equalities role, hardly any have been given an opportunity to meet her.

To make matters worse, she made her misleading claim while outlining proposals to block official recognition of trans people who have obtained a Gender Recognition Certificate in countries where self-identification, via a legal declaration, is permitted. This was another policy that was causing many of us worry.

We wanted an opportunity to explain how this would negatively impact trans people and would go against the principle of reciprocal recognition of laws in countries with which Britain has similar legal and legislative systems - like Australia, Canada and the US, where some states have trans self-ID and it works well without problems.

Badenoch dismissed my appeal for engagement with the LGBT+ community Quote

Alas, this week, Badenoch dismissed my appeal for engagement with the LGBT+ community. She wrote:

We have ample opportunity to engage with and hear from a wide range of organisations interested in LGBT rights. On that basis and given the considerable pressures on my diary, I will not be taking up your offer to facilitate a roundtable meeting.”

Justifying her refusal to meet, Badenoch’s letter favourably cites “organisations that offer constructive and collaborative approaches to working with Government, and with which we continue to maintain a good working relationship.” This is presumably a reference to the trans-critical organisations that she has met and apparently gets on well with. But they are not representative of the wider LGBT+ community.

Badenoch has reportedly never met the trans charity Mermaids. There has been a two-year hiatus in meetings with Britain’s leading LGBT+ group, Stonewall. The Minister should at least listen to a full range of viewpoints. Meeting and addressing the concerns of the mainstream LGBT+ community should surely be the Minister’s goal?

There is a majority consensus among LGBT+ people that the Government needs to do more to support trans people, tackle homophobic hate crimes and ban anti-LGBT+ conversion practices.

Regrettably, reported instances of homophobic and transphobic hate crime are on the rise, propelled by often inflammatory, divisive and intolerant rhetoric - some of it coming from present and past Government ministers and Conservative MPs.

Badenoch’s letter does once again pledge that draft legislation to ban conversion therapy is coming. I won’t hold my breath, as we were promised this legislation repeatedly since July 2018 and we have still seen nothing. Even if the Minister published her draft bill this week, there is now not enough parliamentary time to debate and pass it before a general election. This makes Badenoch’s promise meaningless.

Under successive Conservative governments, the UK’s ranking in the European LGBT+ rights league table has fallen from first to 17th place. This is very disturbing and merits urgent rectification. A similar decline in health or education would rightfully be deemed a national disgrace.

Shutting the door on dialogue is more than contempt for the LGBT+ community. It's indicative of the Government’s arrogance towards, and aloofness from, civil society. Badenoch seems to be saying that if people are critical of Government policy, she's not prepared to meet them. She is picking and choosing whose voices she wants to hear. One of her tasks as Equalities Minister is to engage with a wide variety of stakeholders and communities. Yet Badenoch is refusing to fully engage. She's selectively met LGBT+ groups that agree with her, and not those that don't; sabotaging the opportunity to find common ground. This smacks of divide and rule, which is not a good look for a Government that is seeking public consent and support.

A joint Badenoch-LGBT+ community meeting could have helped inform policy making and given useful input to the Conservative manifesto for the upcoming general election. Many LGBTs will conclude that a Government unwilling to listen is a Government unworthy of support – and they will cast their vote accordingly at the polls. Saying no to dialogue is an own goal by Kemi Badenoch.

Peter Tatchell

Peter Tatchell is a human rights campaigner, long-standing LGBT+ activist and is Director of the Peter Tatchell Foundation.

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