Boris Johnson’s anti-trans dog whistle is no surprise. The clues have always been there

Boris Johnson wearing a pink stetson in front of blue, pink and white balloons

To absolutely no one’s surprise, Boris Johnson appears to back the bigots.

Boris Johnson took to the podium in Wednesday’s (23 March) PMQs to respond to a question posed by Angela Richardson MP about healthcare and transgender youth. He used this to quite blatantly signal his own beliefs about trans people, via the usual dogwhistles about ‘basic biology’.

Richardson posed the question following the interim Cass Report into healthcare for trans youth which highlighted multiple issues with current provisions, such as the fact that there is poor data on the outcomes of the young people who enter these services. 

Johnson’s response at first was strong, calling for compassion and kindness for trans people, but he finished it up with: “When it comes to distinguishing between a man and a woman, the basic facts of biology remain overwhelmingly important.” An obvious anti-trans dogwhistle.

It’s not exactly a well-kept secret that Boris Johnson doesn’t value the lives of the trans citizens under his government, or those of the wider LGBT+ community for that matter given his infamously homophobic comments. 

He has also written specifically on trans issues before, popularising the idea that police should be out there fighting knife crime instead of hate crime – though to my knowledge he did not comment on the stabbing of a transgender woman in Birmingham last year. Does he recognise that anti-trans violence like this starts with the drumming up of anti-trans hatred in society? Probably not.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves Cabinet meeting at 10 Downing Street on 23 March 2022 in order to attend the PMQ session at the House of Commons

Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves Cabinet meeting at 10 Downing Street on 23 March 2022 in order to attend the PMQ session at the House of Commons. (Tolga Akmen/AFP via Getty)

We are only five years on from a UK prime minister having made some of the most positive and inclusive statements regarding the trans community, with Theresa May taking to the media in 2017 to promise improvements and stating unequivocally that trans people deserve to be treated with basic human dignity.

There’s a genuine sense of whiplash with how quickly and far we’ve reverted due to the ongoing moral panic surrounding transgender people. I don’t want to be accused of catastrophising, but these things are worth being concerned about as we see these sentiments being echoed elsewhere in government too.

Boris Johnson’s government has shown us how they feel about trans people

Minister for women and equalities, Liz Truss, has repeatedly made comments that allude to the promises made under previous leadership being dead in the water, along with her junior equalities minister, Kemi Badenoch.

Truss’ Equalities Office has met with various anti-trans groups and signalled support for their beliefs. They also caused quite a stir when they both refused to attend Caroline Nokes MP’s enquiry into reform of the Gender Recognition Act.

Baroness Falkners’ Equality and Human Rights Commission, Britain’s equalities watchdog, has followed suit, meeting with the likes of Fair Play For Women – a group which responded to the idea of pregnant trans women with hopes that the fetus would “invade the host and proliferate like a thousand cancers”.

Moreover, Boris Johnson’s beliefs regarding trans people and biology aren’t supported by the law of the country he is elected to rule over. As we saw with the original Maya Forstater tribunal outing, irrespective of your beliefs a Gender Recognition Certificate grants trans people the legal status of their “acquired sex” for all purposes. 

Liz Truss removing her face mask

Liz Truss removes her mask. (Getty)

In the words of Judge Tayler: this is not something you are entitled to ignore. These are the rights Johnson claimed we should be very proud of mere sentences before his dogwhistle. Further, the Equality Act 2010 prevents discrimination against us based on the protected characteristic of gender reassignment which protects you from the moment you even consider coming out as transgender.

To put it simply: without major changes to current legislation, no Boris, your ‘basic biology’ is not really all that important in deciding anything. Nor should it be.

None of this is really all that surprising but it is certainly worth taking note of and causing a ruckus about. Especially this year as the UK hosts its #SafeToBeMe conference regarding LGBT+ lives.

The UK has already been criticised by groups such as ILGA and The Council of Europe and continues to march backwards with its regressive anti-LGBT+ policy decisions. I expect the conference to be quite the car crash. Protest plans are being drawn up and I can only imagine the complete embarrassment waiting for the UK government at this conference.

If you can lend your voice and energy to the protest efforts, please do, the more the merrier in my opinion. You can find resources for this on via groups such as Trans Actual and Gendered Intelligence. The best way to beat politics designed to divide and set us against each other is always to make the connections between us stronger and stronger.