Boris Johnson said that the “facts of biology” are some of the most important things to consider when distinguishing between a woman and a man.
The Prime Minister responded to a question from Angela Richardson at PMQs on 23 March about the Cass Review, which raised concerns over the lack of data available for young people questioning their gender identity.
He told MPs that “we must recognise when people want to make a transition in their lives that they should be treated with the maximum possible generosity and respect” though explained that, in his opinion, “when it comes to distinguishing between man and woman, the basic facts of biology remain overwhelmingly important”.
Johnson’s remarks differ from Labour Party leader Keir Starmer, who recently told The Times that a “woman is a female adult, and in addition to that trans women are women, and that is not just my view — that is actually the law.”
He continued: “It has been the law through the combined effects of the 2004 [Gender Recognition] Act and the 2010 [Equality] Act. So that’s my view. It also happens to be the law in the United Kingdom.”
Starmer stated that he supports the Gender Recognition Act being changed to allow trans people to get legal recognition of their identity through self-identification, as opposed to the requirement of a medical diagnosis.
"When it comes to distinguishing between a man and a woman, the basic facts of biology remain overwhelmingly important" — Asked about people experiencing gender distress, Boris Johnson says issue "requires extreme sensitivity, tact, love and care" #PMQs https://t.co/1idMaGgReE pic.twitter.com/qtFQLqcCsg
— Bloomberg UK (@BloombergUK) March 23, 2022
Meanwhile, little to nothing has been done to advance the rights of transgender people under Johnson’s administration, which in June 2020 was reported to have shelved plans drawn up by Theresa May’s government to allow people to change their legal gender through self-ID.
“We were pleased to see the PM’s answer today included an important emphasis on ensuring we treat trans people with respect and generosity and that his latter comments were distinctly made within this context,” Kair O’Doherty, Mermaids’ head of policy and research, told The Guardian. “We believe it is in everyone’s interest to not attach so much weight to biology when discussing trans matters. Sex rights and trans rights are not at odds with one another.”
This week, it was reported that the UK government is set to reveal a new strategy for LGBTQ+ rights, including the prioritisation of improving NHS gender services.
It is set to cover an array of other issues such as IVF, sex work and homelessness, The I newspaper reported.
Equalities Minister Mike Freer is set to announce the measures in April before they are fully launched at the government’s LGBTQ+ conference later in the year.