Government Equalities Office LGBT Advisory Panel, By Paul Roberts Consortium CEO

Yesterday marked the inaugural meeting of the Government Equalities Office LGBT Advisory Panel! I am delighted to be representing Consortium, and hopefully therefore portraying some core views of our Members, around the table. I feel very privileged to be sat around the table with my peers who bring a wealth and diversity of knowledge.

Our role on the Panel is, as the name would suggest, to advise the Government on LGBT+ policy issues, which as we all know are very diverse in their nature. This topic of conversation came up during our first discussions and we are all consciously aware that a Panel that meets quarterly will only be able to achieve limited things whilst wanting to have our rightful say on many things! We have agreed that we don’t just want to be a talking shop and want our advisory role to be able to make a real difference in the Government’s ability to further LGBT+ equality. This is a challenge with so much on the table but is also incredibly exciting. We will therefore be drilling down into some core topics of discussion each meeting, but also setting time aside to consider pertinent issues coming up for our communities. As we all know, media stories affect our communities massively and we have a worrying increase in negative media attention over the last 12 months so it is important space is given to consider this.

Converstion Therapy

The first major topic of discussion was conversion therapy, as a result of the LGBT Survey results highlighting 2% of respondents having had received conversion therapy and 5% of respondents having either been offered it or received it. We are all keen to work with the GEO over the coming months to explore what Government can do to help bring an end to this abhorrent practice.
What became clear from the Panel was that conversion therapy means so many different things to different people, and that for most it might not recognise as conversation therapy, which adds to the challenge of tackling the issue. We were lucky to have some really great insight from the likes of Jane from the Ozanne Foundation, an organisation at the forefront of this work, who clearly articulated the pain and damage this can cause individuals. I cannot say that we came up with a perfect solution in the short time we had to discuss this issue, but what I can say is there is a real commitment from Government to do whatever is necessary to help bring an end to it. This is positive to hear and there are many different options for future work and scope to do this.

The Voice of our Members

In preparation for the meeting I spoke with some of our Members, to find out their experience of working with LGBT people who had encountered conversion therapy. It was interesting to hear how those organisations rarely encountered someone saying they had undergone ‘conversion therapy’. This is not to say that people haven’t been effected by it but allows us to acknowledge that the practice is complex and presents its self in many ways, not all instantly recognisable under a the term conversation therapy.

I raised with the Panel that any future solution needs to rightfully look to safeguard individual people but also needs to provide the right information and support for those LGBT+ organisations undertaking client support work. It was acknowledged that a multi-layer package of work needs to be looked at as further as work on this issue continues.

Consortium will continue to speak with Members about this important issue and if anyone would like to speak to me about this so I can relay further thoughts to the Panel then please do get in touch with me.

As a Panel of 12 people meeting for the first time we felt that it was important to talk through the practical elements of how we will operate and to ensure that our work makes a difference. I am so pleased that important things like transparency and accountability are universally seen as important facets of such a Panel. As part of Consortium’s commitment to this, I will produce a blog post following each Panel meeting, and more importantly in the run up to each meeting will be reaching out to Members on the topics on the agenda so I am taking sector intelligence with me and ensuring the voices of grassroots communities are heard around the table.

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