Police and protestors clash as trans youth and allies demonstrate outside the Royal College of General Practitioners headquarters on Euston Square on the 23rd of March in protest of the CAN-SG conference taking place inside. ‘This is what community looks like!’ they declare, standing against what they believe to be the RCGP’s endorsement of conversion therapy in hosting the conference.

‘First Do No Harm’ it says on every page of the Clinical Advisory Network on Sex and Gender (CAN-SG) website. The phrase is one of the principles of bioethics, taught to students in healthcare across the globe. It implores healthcare professionals to consider the possible harm posed to patients with their intervention. It is a rule that accentuates the patient’s safety. This term, adopted by CAN-SG for their first London conference, ought then to convey to trans patients that these clinicians, physicians and parents are acting in their best interest – and yet those protesting outside of the conference say otherwise.

‘Do no harm? That’s a lie, you don’t care if children die!’ was the call that rang down Euston Road as protestors swiftly gathered outside the main entrance to the building. They gathered in the name of trans liberation, accusing CAN-SG (‘fascists hiding behind stethoscopes’, described one of the protest speakers) of endorsing conversion therapy with its insistence on the restriction of access to trans healthcare for young people. Advocating against the prescription of hormones and lobbying doctors to deny trans youth the healthcare they want and need, CAN-SG is controlled by anti-trans group Genspect, with conservative extremist Stella O’Malley at the helm. CAN-SG is a far-right, anti-transgender front posing as concerned professionals and parents, claiming they care for today’s youth, but the youth outside disagree.

The counter-demonstration outside was held with the aim of showing the severity of the persecution the country’s trans youth is facing. With an 11% increase in reported hate crimes against trans people in 2023, there is little indication that the government has plans of slowing down its subjugation of one of the most vulnerable sectors in the LGBTQIA community.

Fearing legal action for breaching the Equality Act if they refused, the RCGP decided to let the conference go ahead, despite continued uproar from trans patients and GPs alike. ‘[W]e understand that any association with the event, even inadvertently, has called the College’s commitment to inclusion and to the care of our LGBTQ+ members and patients into question’, they stated on their website in February. ‘We wish to reiterate that we take our responsibility of supporting our diverse community of LGBTQ+ members and patients, as well as our members providing gender identity services to patients, very seriously.’

Though the RCGP claims no involvement or endorsing of CAN-SG and its principles, those protesting were of a different mind. A joint post on Instagram by the Trans Action Block, LGSMigrants and The Dyke Project accuse the RCGP (an organisation representing 55,000 general practitioners) of ‘hosting a conversion therapy conference at their headquarters.’

With the recent banning of puberty blocker prescriptions and the approaching close of the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust—which is closing at the end of March—the conference’s timing could not be more incendiary. With torturous waiting lists, years of psychological assessment and withholding of hormone treatment, the trans youth present on the day are angry and exhausted, constantly the subject of misplaced government oppression. They refuse to be discouraged, however, sticking together, chanting and letting off blue, pink and purple smoke bombs.

Safety and security of identity was a priority for the group, those speaking with megaphones or microphones reminding protestors to not talk to the police no matter the circumstances. ‘We are safer when we are together,’ one of the speakers implores. Among the flags and signs, a protestor holds a square of cardboard drawn in red with the gender-inclusive transgender symbol (⚧), carrying with them armfuls of masks that were held out to those participating or observing, a testament to the group’s prioritising of covid-safeguarding.

Stretched between two entrances, the group made sure to move as a unit, ensuring no one was left vulnerable. At one point a large throng of police barged through to the main entrance without warning, allotting no time for the group to move on their own accord. Pushed from the entrance, they took to the road, blocking entrance of cars into Euston Station, holding up one of London’s busiest hives for taxis and travellers. And when this too was interrupted, they moved onto the side of the building, taking up the pavement and forcing those walking past to take notice, though not all that passed were in agreeance, as was shown when a passer-by lambasted protestors before police eventually ushered him away with a level of consideration certainly not afforded to any of the protestors.

The Metropolitan police have reported no injuries, though there are allegations of the use of pepper spray by the police, whilst furious chants of ‘ACAB’ (All Cops Are Bastards) picked up. Following one the scuffles a protestor was hauled away by their arms and legs, patted down some feet away from the group, infusing passions further.
‘We leave together!’ the group cries, not wanting to leave before the protestor that was removed was returned to them. Hands were forced, however, and soon the protest disbanded ten minutes before midday – not even two whole hours after the demonstration was set to begin.

With frequent and aggressive police intervention, heckling passers-by and those inside the conference peeking through windows to watch the unravelling of events outside, all eyes were on the protestors. ‘Allyship means all of us have to be uncomfortable,’ declared a speaker into one of the microphones, calling out the RCGP’s complacency in letting the conference go ahead. In a time where silence is tantamount to violence, under the anger it was clear many demonstrating against the RCGP were deeply disappointed, unsure how an organisation can claim to support queer identity whilst simultaneously hosting groups like CAN-SAG.