UK Government’s LGBT+ Conference cancelled
The UK has cancelled its first-ever international LGBT+ conference after a boycott by more than 100 organisations.
The three-day “Safe To Be Me” conference was scheduled to begin in London on the 29 June, coinciding with the 50th anniversary of London’s first official pride marches, to promote LGBT+ rights within the UK and globally.
The event will not go ahead after LGBT+ charities and other groups pulled out over the government’s stance on conversion therapy. They also failed to get sponsorship from Vodafone, BP, Virgin Media, NBC Universal and OVO Energy due to the government’s poor record on LGBT+ rights.
The Stonewall statement (below) is backed by more than 100 LGBT+ and other organisations including GIRES, Gendered Intelligence, Mermaids, The LGBT Foundation, The Peter Tatchell Foundation, The Intercom Trust and The Proud Trust.
Stonewall Statement on the “Safe To Be Me” conference
“Due to the Prime Minister’s broken promise on protecting trans people from the harms of Conversion Therapy, we regret that we are withdrawing Stonewall’s support for the UK Government’s Safe To Be Me conference. We will only be able to participate if the Prime Minister reverts to his promise of a trans-inclusive ban on conversion therapy.
This is a decision we take with a heavy heart. As the UK’s first global LGBT+ conference, Safe To Be Me should be a moment for redoubling efforts globally to improve LGBTQ+ people’s rights and experiences. This is why we have worked hard with government and civil society organisations over the last few months to try to make the conference work.
However, last week’s leaked plans, which revealed that Number 10 planned to scrap the conversion therapy ban, have left us with no choice but to withdraw our support. That the Prime Minister would so casually walk away from four years of promises to the LGBTQ+ community is appalling, and we cannot in good conscience back Safe To Be Me at a time when our community’s trust in the UK Government is shattered.
We recognise that in response to outrage from the LGBTQ+ community and our allies, the Prime Minister’s position has shifted. He now proposes a partial ban, one that protects lesbian, gay and bi cis people, but leaves trans people, including trans children, at continued risk of abuse. This is out of step with every other nation that has recently introduced a ban on conversion therapy and ignores all credible international research that is available, including the position of the UN Independent Expert.
It is apparent that trans people have once again been sacrificed for political gain. Commissioning a separate body of work to unpick something that has already been resolved many times the world over, can only be read as an attempt to kick the issue of protecting trans people into the long grass. This is callous and unacceptable.
Conversion therapy is happening to LGBTQ+ people in the UK right now, and every day without a ban is a day where LGBTQ+ people remain at risk of lifelong harm. Trans people are amongst the highest risk groups in our community – the latest research from Galop shows that 11% of trans people have been subjected to conversion practices by their own families.
Trans people are no less worthy of respect, care and protection than cis lesbian, gay and bi people. If the UK Government cannot stand behind and respect all LGBTQ+ people’s fundamental human rights, it should not be convening an LGBTQ+ rights conference on the global stage.
Stonewall remains a civil society co-chair of the Equal Rights Coalition, and we continue to engage with ERC processes and events. This includes the upcoming ERC conference, which is separate from the UK government’s ‘Safe to be Me’ event, and which we will continue to be a part of. Our commitment to this mechanism, and to progressing global LGBTQI+ rights, remains unchanged.”
RHS Garden Bridgewater
Have you got your garden ticket ready for #PrideInNature on Sunday 10 April?
There’s a cracking line up of performances, talks and workshops to celebrate the LGBTQIA+ community who work and make a difference in the horticulture, environment and nature sectors.
Out In The City has 15 free tickets (usually £11.50 each). There’s still two left. Please contact us here to be added to the guest list.
RHS Garden Bridgewater is at Occupation Road, off Leigh Road, Worsley, Salford M28 2LJ.
In April 1938 Homosexual Prisoners Were Sent To Concentration Camps
Paragraph 175 was a provision of the German Criminal Code established in May 1871 that made homosexual acts between males a crime. It was not until April 1935 that the German Nazi party broadened the law so that the courts could prosecute any “lewd act” whatsoever, even one involving no physical contact. That move caused convictions of gay men under Paragraph 175 to multiply by a factor of ten to over 8,000 per year by 1937.
Just when it seemed things couldn’t get any worse for gay men in Germany, on 4 April 1938, the Gestapo publicly announced that men condemned for homosexuality would be deported to concentration camps.
Under the orders of Heinrich Himmler, leader of the SS, the police and the Gestapo arrested around 100,000 men suspected of the crime of homosexuality.
In his memoirs, Rudolf Höss, commandant at Auschwitz, describes how the camp guards would often assign homosexuals, forced to wear pink triangles for recognition, to some of the most dangerous jobs and they were sometimes separated from other prisoners to prevent homosexuality being “propagated” to other inmates and guards. Judges and officials at SS camps could even order the castration of homosexual prisoners without consent whenever they wished.
Survival in camps took on many forms. Some homosexual prisoners secured administrative and clerical jobs. For other prisoners, sexuality became a means of survival despite the Gestapo’s best attempts to stop it. In exchange for sexual favours, some Kapos protected a chosen prisoner, usually of young age, giving him extra food and shielding him from the abuses of other prisoners.
SS doctors also performed cruel experiments on prisoners to “cure” them of their homosexuality. In fact, these tests resulted in illnesses, mutilations and the deaths of hundreds upon hundreds of gay prisoners.
Even though there are no definite statistics on the number of homosexuals murdered at the Nazi camps, estimates range anywhere from 100,000 to 200,000 gay men were detained in concentration camps under the Nazi regime with little chance of survival.
Paragraph 175 stayed in effect in Germany until 1969. Even after the concentration camps were liberated gay prisoners who had survived would be sent to regular prisons to finish out the terms of their sentences.
In 1985, gays and lesbians had wanted to place a plaque in the camp at Dachau, but it was not until 10 years later, in 1995, that they would be officially recognised as victims of the Holocaust.
Requests for help
Out In The City has been contacted by Alex Schellekens, a trainee journalist, who is producing a TV documentary about gay men who were convicted under historic anti-gay laws, in light of the recent amendment in January to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill to waive those convictions.
He is currently looking for more interviewees! If you were previously arrested due to old homophobic laws, or maybe had a close encounter with the police, he would love to hear your story. Equally, if you have any friends or family members who were arrested and convicted he would love to hear from you as well.
All interviews will be handled sensitively, and if you prefer to remain anonymous that is something that can be arranged.
If you’re interested in speaking to Alex, it would be great to arrange an initial chat soon, with a view to hopefully filming interviews between 11 – 24 April. Please contact us here and we will put you in touch.
Out In The City has also been contacted by Alex Bingham, who is working on a feature-length documentary which will celebrate 50 years since the first official Pride march in the UK. The aim is to tell a story not just of how Pride events in the UK have developed since 1972, but also how Pride’s history reflects broader changes in LGBTQ+ lives and communities during those five decades – including key battles fought, and those yet to be won. The film is being made by BBC Studios for broadcast premiere on Channel 4 at the start of July this year.
Central to the documentary will be the voices, memories and perspectives of a diverse range of LGBTQ+ figures from around the country.
If you have memories or stories relating to Pride events, please contact us here so we can link you up.