Boris Johnson has been accused of deflection by a leading LGBT charity after he claimed a woman cannot be born with a penis in response to a question by journalists on the restriction of eligibility criteria for trans women in women’s sports.
During his recent visit to Rwanda, the U.K. prime minister was asked to comment on the decision taken by FINA, swimming’s international federation, to ban transgender athletes who have gone through male puberty from competing in women’s events.
“I haven’t studied it in detail, but I see no reason to dissent,” Johnson told reporters.
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When pressed on the matter, and asked whether or not an individual born with a penis could be classed as a woman, Johnson replied, “Not without being a man, that’s my view about that.”
The Conservative prime minister agreed with the statement that there remains a difference, for the purposes of some protected areas of life, between being a woman and being a trans woman.
“Look, it’s very, very important that as a society we should be as understanding of everybody else as possible. I’ve always stood for that.
“When you start to move from issues of sexuality to issues of gender, you start to raise particular problems.
“I think I’ve spoken of three concerns I’ve had in the past. They have to do with the age at which you can become Gillick competent to transition, the question of safe spaces for women, and the difficulties you have in sporting competitions.
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“These are all very difficult problems and you have to be very, very sensitive,” Johnson added.
His comments, however, were not well received by the prominent LGBT charity, Stonewall, which accused Johnson of political deflection.
Campaigns associate director, Sasha Misra, said: “The real question that should be on the nation’s lips is this: At a time when we are living through multiple national crises, why are journalists squandering valuable interview time by asking the prime minister leading questions about a tiny, vulnerable minority?
“The Prime Minister might welcome the distraction, but he should not be fooled into thinking that anti-trans talking points will win votes,” Misra added.
The ongoing trans debate has become a prominent talking point in Britain and around the world, with international sport federations adapting their rules to now exclude men who transitioned to women, like swimmer Lia Thomas, who will now need to swim in a soon-to-be created “open” category, rather than in women’s events.
Labour opposition leader Sir Keir Starmer had previously refused to comment on the matter until earlier this month when he told LBC radio that the “vast majority of women” don’t have penises, but there remains a “small minority of individuals who are born in a gender they don’t identify with.” He insisted that these women need “respect and support.”