Boris Johnson has said that “biological males should not be competing in female sporting events”.
Speaking to broadcasters on a hospital visit on Wednesday, the prime minister said of his view: “It just seems to me to be sensible.”
He continued: “I also happen to think that women should have spaces – whether it is in hospitals or prisons or changing rooms or wherever – which are dedicated to women.”
The PM added: “That doesn’t mean that I am not immensely sympathetic to people that want to change gender, to transition and it is vital that we give people the maximum possible love and support in making those decisions.”
Transgender cyclist barred from women’s event
It comes after transgender cyclist Emily Bridges was last week barred from competing in a women’s event after the sport’s governing body ruled she was not eligible.
Bridges, 21, who had been due to compete in a women’s event for the first time at the British National Omnium Championships, set a national junior men’s record over 25 miles in 2018 and began hormone therapy last year to reduce her testosterone levels.
Also this week, new guidance from the Equality and Human Rights Commission said that transgender people can be legitimately excluded from single-sex services – but only if the reasons are “justifiable and proportionate”.
The government’s watchdog said that the justification could be for reasons of privacy, decency, to prevent trauma or to ensure health and safety.
But LGBT+ charity Stonewall warned that the new guidance is likely to cause more confusion and a greater risk of illegal discrimination.
Deputy PM Dominic Raab took to social media to express his agreement with the prime minister, saying “it doesn’t strike me as fair for those born male to compete with those born female in sport”.
Mr Raab continued: “Above all, we should work through these issues without either side of the debate shouting the other side down.”
PM commits to ‘ban on gay conversion therapy’
The prime minister made clear that his government “will have a ban on gay conversion therapy”, but added that there are “complexities and sensitivities when you move from the area of sexuality to the question of gender”.
Meanwhile, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer told broadcasters that “conversion therapy in all forms should be banned” and that the government must “stick to its promises”.
In 2015, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) changed its rules allowing transgender athletes to compete as a woman if their testosterone levels are below a certain threshold – ten nanomoles per litre for at least 12 months before the competition.
Testosterone is a hormone that increases muscle mass.
In 2019, World Athletics lowered the maximum level to five nanomoles per litre.
New IOC guidance last year said transgender women should not be forced to reduce their testosterone levels to compete in sports.
It replaced the guidelines from 2015 and reversed the IOC’s previous stance on transgender athletes.
The new framework also states that no athlete should be excluded from competition on the grounds of a perceived “unfair and disproportionate advantage” due to their gender.
However, the new guidelines are not legally binding.
Former LGBT adviser accuses PM of ‘pathetic excuses’
At the time they were issued, the governing body said that it was not in a position to issue regulations that define eligibility criteria for every sport, instead leaving it to individual federations to make the final call.
The IOC said it plans to work with federations on a “case by case basis”.
The new guidelines were introduced just a few months after the New Zealand weightlifter Laurel Hubbard made history as the first transgender athlete to compete at an Olympics in the games’ 125 year history.
At the time, critics argued her participation in the competition to be unfair.
Meanwhile, a former LGBT government adviser has urged leaders to stop making “pathetic excuses” for not banning transgender conversion therapy.
Jayne Ozanne told the PA news agency the LGBT+ community’s trust in the government is “completely and utterly broken” by a series of U-turns last week and its backtracking on commitments to include transgender people in upcoming legislation to ban the practice.
And plans for a landmark global LGBT conference in the UK this summer look set to be cancelled after more than 100 groups pulled out following changes to plans to ban conversion therapy.
Posting on social media on Wednesday, Conservative MP Elliot Colburn said he was “extremely concerned” by the conference being scrapped.
“Fuelling the fire and giving into some kind of culture war will benefit no-one,” he warned.