Labour MP praised for ‘sensible’ answer to loaded ‘what is a woman’ question

In this video screen capture, Chris Bryant speaks on LBC

Labour MP Chris Bryant has been praised for his “accurate and sensible” response to being asked “what is a woman?” is by a caller on LBC.

The MP for Rhondda, Wales – who is gay – took part in an LBC phone-in on Tuesday afternoon (30 August) to discuss the heated Tory leadership race.

Following comments from both Tory leadership hopefuls Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak saying trans women aren’t women, one called asked Bryant: “What is a woman?”

Bryant replied: “Well, I do know the difference between a man and a woman. A man has a penis. A woman has a vagina.

“There are, of course, some medical situations where individuals are born slightly differently. They’re very rare exceptions,” he added, referring to intersex people.

“Then there are people who feel they are trapped and I have every single sympathy for somebody who feels the need to transition.”

This clearly wasn’t what the caller wanted to hear. He told Bryant that the difference between men and women is down to whether they have XY or XX chromosomes which are “immutable”.

“So what does it mean to transition?” the caller asked.

“I think I’ve answered your question,” Bryant answered.

“I tell you, something that really frightens me at the moment is politicians who want to use this issue to stir division because, for me, your right to live your life the way you want and feel comfortable is absolutely intrinsic to a decent society.

“I fear today, being a gay man, what the future holds more than I did five years ago. Let’s move on.”

Chris Bryant’s calm and collected response to the caller was praised by Twitter users.

“Can I thank you for this wholly accurate and sensible answer,” tweeted trans television personality, India Willoughby.

“Thank you for both showing support for trans people and for showing the context of the question. A principled man,” added another user.

No simple answer

From politicians to the media, trans rights have become the go-to culture war for the powerful in recent years.

Boris Johnson’s government has been a huge driving force in this – excluding trans people from a conversion therapy ban, taking aim at them playing sports or receiving healthcare and often cracking cruel jokes at their expense.

The press has leapt on it too. There’s been a 400 per cent increase in coverage of trans lives in British newspapers over the last decade, according to research by press regulator IPSO. The coverage was described as “heated” and “strident”.

Increasingly, politicians are being asked to define “what is a woman”, usually by trans-hostile journalists, and always in an attempt to have them reveal whether or not they believe trans women are women.

But the answer to “what is a woman”, so often asked by journalists to politicians amid the cost of living crisis, the Ukraine-Russia war and Brexit, doesn’t have a simple answer.

Chromosomes are the instruction manual for the body and determine everything from body parts to hair colour. But sex chromosomes can come in many combinations besides the usual XY and XX – so it certainly isn’t a binary.

Moreover, gender isn’t necessarily defined by chromosomes or sex. Under the Equality Act 2010, a trans woman is protected from discrimination and entitled to be treated like any other woman. The same is true for any trans person.