Chancellor Rishi Sunak told trans people deserve respect after ‘unseemly’ Mumsnet interview

Rishi Sunak out an about wearing a suit

Rishi Sunak has been called out for his “unseemly” comments on trans lives.

The chancellor took part in a Q&A with Mumsnet, hosted by founder Justine Roberts, on Tuesday (26 April).

Between concerns around paying bills, users posed questions on the lives and liberties of trans people.

Rishi Sunak said that while trans people should be “respected”, when it comes “to questions like toilets or sports” he is “of a view that biology is important, is fundamental”.

“I think biology is critically important as we think about some of the very practical functions, like toilets or sports,” he said.

Sunak added that he “absolutely” agrees with prime minister Boris Johnson, who stated earlier this month that “biological males” should not compete in women’s sports.

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Johnson also told the House of Commons that “when comes to distinguishing between a man and a woman, the basic facts of biology remain overwhelmingly important”.

His words were, at the time, condemned by trans-led charity Gendered Intelligence, which said they “dehumanise trans people by reducing us to our body parts and suggesting we run counter to the ‘basic facts of biology”.

Sunak added in his Mumsnet interview: “You need to have compassion for those thinking about their identity and thinking about what that means for them, their families as they’re potentially going through a change and we need to be compassionate and understanding about that.

“And we also have to have respect, in particular for views of women who are anxious that some of the things they have fought really hard for and rights that are important to them will be eroded. We need to have respect for that point of view.”

Stonewall, Britain’s largest LGBT+ rights charity, rebuffed the claimed conflict between trans-inclusivity and competitive fairness.

“Sport has this amazing power to bring communities together and trans people deserve to be a part of that,” a spokesperson told PinkNews.

Britain’s chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak. (PAUL ELLIS/AFP via Getty Images)

“This is an evolving area where much of the science doesn’t yet exist – so inclusion policies should be determined on a sport-by-sport basis.”

Veteran human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell slated Sunak for wading into the anti-trans “toilet wars”.

“Biology and gender identity are different but both are equally valid,” Tatchell told PinkNews. “They merit equal respect and treatment.

“It is pathetic and unseemly for Rishi Sunak drag this debate into the sewer of ‘toilet wars’. Gender-neutral toilets with locked cubicles have existed for decades without a problem.

“Whether trans women athletes have a significant advantage over non-trans women is disputed and contested. Most women athletes have some form of competitive advantage, from fast-twitch muscle fibres to extra strong hearts and lungs. It is unfair to single out trans women for special restrictions and penalties.”

Stonewall stressed that there is little trans representation in domestic sports played in Britain as it is. Bans on trans athletes – and the extent to which powerful decision-makers are using them as a political football – are simply not justifiable.

“While elite sport dominates discussion, this is only a fraction of sport played in the UK,” they added. “We know that trans people often feel excluded from community sport because of rhetoric like this.

“We strongly believe that the starting point of sporting policies should be inclusion, not exclusion.”

Kai O’ Doherty, head of research and policy at young trans people’s charity Mermaids, has previously urged Tories to not “attach so much weight to biology when discussing trans matters”.

“Sex rights and trans rights are not at odd with one another,” O’Doherty said.

Tories have increasingly used anti-trans talking points as they fight to shrug off scandal after scandal.

But ministers have shared few thoughts on what it means to be trans in Britain today, declining to meaningfully tackle years-long waits for threadbare gender-affirming healthcare or the sharp rise in transphobic hate crimes.

Sunak’s intervention comes after the nation’s equality watchdog, the Equalities and Human Rights Commission, issued guidelines for single-sex service providers that legal experts told PinkNews amounted to a manual on how to “blanket ban” trans people.

It also comes as his political prospects nosedive, following his receiving a fine from the Metropolitan Police for breaking lockdown rules, and a row over his billionaire wife’s tax status.

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