Rishi Sunak’s ‘disgusting’ anti-trans jokes condemned by MPs and LGBTQ+ charities

Rishi Sunak

Labour’s shadow equalities minister, MPs from across the political spectrum and LGBTQ+ organisations have criticised British prime minister Rishi Sunak over his mocking comments about trans women in a video shared with PinkNews.

Cross-parliamentary MPs have spoken out about Sunak’s words in the leaked footage, dubbing his conduct “disgusting”, and Anneliese Dodds, the shadow equalities minister, told PinkNews that “trans people should not be used as a political football”.

On Sunday (18 June), PinkNews reported on secretly-filmed footage of Sunak addressing Tory MPs at a social event for the 1922 Committee – an all-Conservative group of MPs that meets weekly when parliament is in session.

The video, taken at the party on 5 June, shows Sunak mocking Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey for “trying to convince everybody that women clearly had penises”.

The prime minister then went on to say: “You’ll all know that I’m a big fan of everybody studying maths to 18, but it turns out that we need to focus on biology.”

His anti-trans comments were met with laughter from Tory MPs.

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Anneliese Dodds slams Sunak for ‘trivialising’ trans rights

Dodds, the shadow secretary of state for women and equalities, told PinkNews: “Rishi Sunak’s childish snickering at what is a sensitive and complex issue is certainly not becoming.

“Trans people should not be used as a political football and these issues should not be trivialised for political purposes.”

A senior Tory MP condemned Sunak’s comments in a statement to PinkNews, calling them “profoundly depressing” and saying that the Conservatives “we should be trying to understand and support, not belittle and demonise”.

The SNP shadow culture secretary John Nicholson called the prime minister’s conduct “both vacuous and nasty”, adding: “How repulsive they are with their sneering and bullying.”

Kate Osborne, the Labour MP for Jarrow, tweeted: “It is disgusting that in public and private Rishi Sunak is escalating his culture war – throwing trans people under the bus to distract from the Tory-made cost of living crisis. 

“Using trans women as a punchline is a new low for this awful prime minister.”

‘Trans people deserve to be treated with respect and dignity by the government’

LGBT+ Labour described Sunak’s words as a “pathetic attempt at political point-scoring”.

The LGBTQ+ Labour campaign group told PinkNews: “Rishi Sunak’s comment were not only offensive but purposefully sought to perpetuate a culture war in a pathetic attempt to hold his party together.

“Trans people deserve to be treated with respect and dignity by the government, not used as a football in a pathetic attempt at political point-scoring.

“When the general election comes, there’s only one party in a position to kick out the Tories and strengthen the rights of all LGBT+ people – and that’s Labour,” an LGBT+ Labour spokesperson continued.

“Labour is proudly committed to reforming the Gender Recognition Act, alongside strengthening our country’s hate crime laws and banning conversion therapy, and we look forward to doing so in government.”

Stonewall, the largest LGBTQ+ organisation in Europe, called on Sunak to make a public apology.

The charity’s CEO, Nancy Kelley, told PinkNews: “No minority community should be the butt of a joke. It is incredibly disappointing that the prime minister chose to mock trans people in front of his parliamentary colleagues.

“This is a far cry from his pledge to govern with compassion and would be unacceptable in any modern workplace. The PM should apologise for his actions.”

‘These are points Sunak has made in interviews publicly’

When asked to address the issue, the prime minister’s official spokesperson told PinkNews: “You’ve heard the prime minister talk about his enormous compassion and understanding for people questioning their identity and that they should be treated with dignity and respect.

“On this specific issue, these are points he’s made in interviews publicly, with Piers Morgan, with ConservativeHome. Obviously, I can’t get into the political aspects of that, but he’s made the same broader point in interviews.”

TransLucent, an organisation that campaigns for visibility, acceptance, legal recognition and healthcare for the UK’s trans, non-binary and gender diverse community, delivered a heartfelt statement regarding Sunak’s comments.

TransLucent’s statement read: “We are disgusted but unsurprised that a recording has emerged with our prime minister Rishi Sunak MP mocking trans women.

“Here are some of the words we hear from trans people describing and suffering from gender dysphoria. Desperation … wrongness … jealousy … loathing … sadness … disgust … hopelessness … self-hate drowning and, even more disturbingly, rejection, homelessness and suicide.

“Mr Sunak may think all these words are funny – that trans people are not worthy of respect, compassion and empathy. We don’t.”

Leaked government policy guidance on Monday (19 June) suggests that UK schools will be barred from letting pupils socially transition without permission from parents or guardian, effectively outing trans children to family members.

The guidance is expected to be published in full later this week

PinkNews has contacted Ed Davey and Keir Starmer for comment. 

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