'Biological males shouldn't compete in women's sport': PM weighs in on trans athlete row

6 April 2022, 13:50 | Updated: 6 April 2022, 13:56

Boris Johnson has said trans women should not be allowed to compete in women's sport
Boris Johnson has said trans women should not be allowed to compete in women's sport. Picture: Alamy/Getty

By Daisy Stephens

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has weighed in on the ongoing row about trans athletes, saying "biological males" should not be allowed to compete in female sporting events.

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Speaking to broadcasters during a hospital visit on Wednesday, the Prime Minister said he was "immensely sympathetic" to people wanting to change their gender but that trans women should not be able to complete in female-only sporting events.

"I don't think that biological males should be competing in female sporting events," he said.

"It just seems to me to be sensible."

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He added: "That doesn't mean that I am not immensely sympathetic to people who want to change gender, to transition and it's vital that we give people the maximum possible love and support in making those decisions."

He also suggested trans women should not be allowed into female-only spaces such as changing rooms, saying: "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."

It comes after an open letter, signed by over 75 female sports figures, was sent to the cycling world governing body, the ICU, calling for transgender women to be banned from competing against people born as female.

The letter said the current rules around trans athletes are "discriminatory in that it advantages only biological male athletes".

The letter was sent after it was announced that Emily Bridges, a transgender cyclist, will be allowed to compete in women's events as her testosterone levels have dropped low enough to meet the criteria set out by British Cycling for her to compete against women.

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Boris Johnson has fallen under heavy criticism recently after the government announced it was not including transgender people in the proposed conversion therapy ban.

On Wednesday Mr Johnson defended the decision by saying there are "complexities and sensitivities" which needed to be worked through.

But Jayne Oxanne, a former LGBT Government adviser, said leaders needed to stop making "pathetic excuses" and said the LGBT+ community's trust in the Government is now "completely and utterly broken".

The decision has led to the cancelling of the Government's landmark international LGBT+ conference, scheduled for June, after at least 100 organisations pulled out.

The Safe To Be Me conference was going to be the first conference of its kind in the UK, but more than 80 LGBT+ groups and more than 20 HIV groups announced plans to boycott the event.

They said they would not take part unless Boris Johnson reverted to his promise for a trans-inclusive ban on conversion therapy.

Read more: Hormone therapy means trans women compete ‘meaningfully’ in sport, says Olympic adviser

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The fallout comes just a week after Conservative MP Jamie Wallis came out as transgender.

When the Government announced the conversion therapy ban would only apply for gay people, he said he was "bitterly disappointed" and called for the Government to work towards separate legislation to ban the "abhorrent" practice on trans people.

"I'm bitterly disappointed at the Government’s decision not to include gender identity in the ban on conversion therapy," he wrote on Twitter.

"Many have asked what my thoughts are. I've always believed that this debate attracts unnecessary hysteria and toxicity, and meaningful results can only come from meaningful debate.

"Understandably, concerns need to be looked at and debated, but it is wrong to exclude protections for a whole group of people from a practice described as 'abhorrent'.

"I hope the announcement that a separate piece of work will now be done on this issue will be done at speed.

"If the CT ban passes through parliament without any protections for the transgender community, it cannot be described as anything other than a broken promise."