Boris says women 'can't be born with a penis' as he backs swimming's ban on trans athletes

27 June 2022, 06:40 | Updated: 27 June 2022, 06:45

Boris Johnson has backed Fina's decision to ban transgender athletes from competing in women’s events
Boris Johnson has backed Fina's decision to ban transgender athletes from competing in women’s events. Picture: Alamy

By Sophie Barnett

Boris Johnson has said there is a difference between being a woman and a trans woman and that only men can be "born with a penis" as he backed the swimming body’s ban on transgender athletes.

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The Prime Minister has confirmed he supports Fina's decision to stop trans athletes taking part in women’s races if they have gone through any part of the process of male puberty.

He was asked by reporters on a visit to Rwanda whether women can be born with a penis, to which he replied: “Not without being a man.”

He also agreed there was a difference between being a woman and a trans woman when asked by reporters.

After pausing to think he said: "Yes."

He added: "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.

Read more: Starmer grapples with Labour's stance on trans rights and speaks out over 'intolerance'

Read more: Keir Starmer says 'vast majority' of women 'don't have a penis' and need safe spaces

"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 are 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.

"These are all very difficult problems and you have to be very, very sensitive."

The Prime Minister appeared to go further than comments in March when he told the Commons “the basic facts of biology remain overwhelmingly important”.

His comments come after Fina, swimming’s world governing body, voted on a new policy which means competitors must have completed their transition by the age of 12 in order to compete in women’s competitions.

The move was backed by 71 per cent of Fina’s 152 members.

Read more: Jacob Rees-Mogg insists women can't have a penis and quotes Bible

Boris Johnson during the G7 summit in Schloss Elmau.
Boris Johnson during the G7 summit in Schloss Elmau. Picture: Alamy

The governing body will also aim to set up an ‘open’ category for swimmers whose gender identity is different from their birth sex.

The ruling came after Lia Thomas, a swimmer transitioning from male to female, became the first trans swimmer to win the highest US national college title, the women’s 500-yard freestyle.

Hundreds of people signed letters of support for Lia but there has been opposition from other athletes and organisations who have raised concerns about trans competitors competing against biological women.

Other British sports governing bodies now face pressure to reform their policies.

British Cycling has suspended its domestic transgender inclusion policy pending a review, with World Athletics also set to re-examine its approach.

Read more: Trans swimmers banned from competing in women’s elite events by sport's governing body

Writing in The Mail on Sunday, the Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries, said she would make it “crystal clear” that she expects the country’s sports governing bodies to follow the example of swimming’s world governing body and bar transgender athletes who have gone through male puberty from competing in women’s events.

She said: “We can’t pretend that sex doesn’t matter”.

The Conservatives and Labour appear to be divided on the issue of gender, with MPS giving differing responses in media interviews.

In March, Sir Keir Starmer refused to tell Nick Ferrari at Breakfast whether he thought a woman could have a penis, sparking mockery on social media.

The Labour leader said: "I just don’t think that discussing this issue in this way helps anyone in the long run.

"What I want to see is a reform of the law as it is but I'm also an advocate of safe spaces for women."

Swimmer Lia Thomas is transitioning from male to female.
Swimmer Lia Thomas is transitioning from male to female. Picture: Alamy

He then told the LBC presenter during a recent 'Call Keir' segment that the "vast majority" of women "of course don't have a penis" and should be provided with "safe spaces".

Shadow Attorney General Emily Thornberry also told LBC some women "will have penises", after she was pressed on Labour's trans row by Nick Ferrari.

Of course most women are biologically adult females," Ms Thornberry said.

"There are, however, a minority of people who are born into the wrong gender, who are deeply unhappy and are marginalised people, who frankly, we should have a bit of compassion for.

"Women who are trans deserve to be recognised, and yes - therefore some of them will have penises. Frankly, I'm not looking up their skirts, I don't care, what I care about is that they're looked after properly and that they're not used as a political football by a Prime Minister who ought to know better."

Meanwhile, Brexit minister Jacob Rees-Mogg insisted that a woman cannot have a penis in the ongoing trans debate.

Mr Rees-Mogg told LBC: "God made man in his own image. He made man and he made woman. He made both of them.

"I think God making us in his own image is quite good enough for me."