Boris Johnson uses mocking jibe about trans women to deflect from cost of living crisis

Boris Johnson wears a dark suit jacket, white shirt and blue tie as he gestures to the side

Prime minister Boris Johnson used a mocking remark about the trans community to deflect from answering a question about the cost of living crisis. 

Johnson was grilled by Labour leader Kier Starmer on whether the government would introduce a windfall tax during the Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) on Wednesday (18 May). Starmer told the MPs gathered for the weekly event that a windfall tax on oil and gas firms could help raise “billions of pounds”, “cutting energy bills across the country”. 

He explained that Rishi Sunak, the chancellor of the exchequer, says there are “two camps on this”: “You are either for it, or you’re against it.”

However, Starmer said that the chancellor is in “neither” camp while the Labour Party leader is “in favour of it”. 

“The question for the prime minister is: is he for it? Is he against it? Or is he sitting on the fence like his chancellor?” Starmer asked. 

However, instead of answering the question directly, Johnson decided it would be better to comment on Starmer’s remarks about the trans community instead.

“I just remind the House the right honourable gentleman struggled to define what a woman was,” Johnson said. “He couldn’t make up his mind on that point. Heaven help us.”

He then went on to declare that the Tory government is “not in principle in favour of higher taxation”. 

Keir Starmer stressed that, while Boris Johnson’s government “dithers” on making a decision, British households are being “slapped with an extra 53 million on their energy bills every single day”. He then accused Johnson of letting “people struggle when they don’t need to”. 

Despite Johnson’s claims, Starmer has easily offered up his definition of ‘woman’ multiple times over several interviews. He told The Times in March that a “woman is a female adult” and stressed that “trans women are women”. 

“And that is not just my view, that is actually the law,” he told the outlet. “It has actually been the law through the combined effects of the 2004 [Gender Recognition] Act and the 2010 [Equality] Act.”

In September, the Labour Party leader insisted it is “not right” to say “only women have a cervix” during an appearance on The Andrew Marr Show. He also called for there to be a “tolerant debate” on trans rights in the UK and pointed out that the trans community is “among the most marginalised, abuse communities”. 

Boris Johnson has continued to be a great example of how not to be an ally to the trans community

The LGBTQ+ community widely condemned Johnson for anti-trans comments he made during the PMQs on 23 March. The prime minister declared that the “basic facts of biology remain overwhelmingly important” when it “comes to distinguishing between a man and a woman”.  

Just a few days later, on 29 March, Johnson was criticised for reportedly making a crude joke at the trans community’s expense during a dinner for the Conservative Party. He began his speech to Tory MPs by welcoming “ladies and gentlemen, or as Keir Starmer would put it, people who are assigned female or male at birth”.

Johnson’s distasteful comment came just hours before Jamie Wallis, MP for Bridgend, came out as trans in a statement posted on Twitter on 30 March. 

In April, Johnson defended his decision to leave trans people out of a ban on conversion therapy – a move which has drawn widespread backlash from LGBTQ+ advocates and allies.

He argued there are “complexities and sensitivities” when protecting gender diverse people from the widely-debunked, pseudoscientific practice. So he claimed there were “things that I think still need to be worked out”, but he said the Tory government is still determined to “tackle prejudice wherever we can”. 

But then, he argued that it was a “sensible” opinion that trans women shouldn’t compete in women’s sports. He also said there should be spaces “dedicated to women” in prisons, hospitals and changing rooms. 

“That’s as far as my thinking has developed on this issue,” Johnson added. “If that puts me in conflict with some others, then we have got to work it all out.”

Boris Johnson added that his opinion on these “complex issues” didn’t mean he wasn’t “immensely sympathetic to people who want to change gender, to transition”.