Contenders for the Conservative Party leadership, Rishi Sunak and Penny Mordaunt have waded into the trans debate by attacking rules on trans inclusion within female sport.
In an interview with Mumsnet, the Chancellor said: “I’m of the view that biology is important – it’s fundamental, it’s critical to how we approach those type of questions.”
Expressing compassion for those people who have or wish to transition, Mr Sunak has previously avoided directly commenting on the issue. In an interview with new station TalkTV, the Chancellor deferred to Boris Johnson‘s definition of a woman in the House of Commons despite being asked numerous times, saying: “I can’t put it as well as he did.”
Traditionally seen as supportive of the LGBT+ community, the former Minister for Equalities and now Trade Minister Penny Mordaunt met with trans exclusionary sports campaigners Sharron Davies and Daley Thompson.
Questions were raised as to the organiser of the meeting as the Sports Councils denied having any responsibility over the organisation of the meeting.
Both Davies and Thompson had been invited to meet with MPs by Baroness Anne Jenkins, founder of Conservative Party campaign group Women2Win that helps women to become elected as Parliamentary Candidates. The campaigners had been seen meeting with MPs including the Chair of the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, Julian Knight earlier in the day.
On twitter she praised the campaigners by thanking them for talking to her about UK Sport’s trans inclusion guidance, sporting governance and her work in 2018 on this issue.
Sports Council has “no involvement” in meeting
A spokesperson from UK Sport told Chamber that the published Guidance for Transgender Inclusion in Sport was not UK Sport’s. It is from all five Sports Councils in the UK – Sport England, Sport Scotland, Sport Northern Ireland, Sport Wales and UK Sport.
As Sports Councils, they clarified that they had “no involvement” in the meeting organised by campaigners and the Trade Minister.
She said that she was “looking forward” to working with the campaigners who have well known views on the exclusion of trans people from female sports.
The Department for Trade was keen to highlight that the Minister was meeting the campaigners in a personal capacity.
The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and Government Equalities Office were contacted for comment in respect of whether the meeting represented a wider shift in government policy.
The erosion of Women’s Rights?
The Chancellor said women’s rights were being “eroded” in debates over transgender issues and aligned with some of the more anti-trans members of the Cabinet. Earlier this month, Secretary of State for Culture and Sport, Nadine Dorries said it is “impossible” for transgender athletes to compete fairly against female competitors.
Boris Johnson has previously said that biological males should not compete in women’s sports and that hospitals, prisons and changing rooms should have dedicated female-only spaces.
Controversially, the Government delayed a ban on therapy that seeks to change someone’s gender identity. The Minister for Equalities, Mike Freer and Secretary of State, Liz Truss have been in “heated talks” with Number 10 over the re-inclusion of trans people within forthcoming legislation.
Trans People’s Inclusion in Female Sport
Following a two-year consultation process with more than 250 athletes and concerned stakeholders, last year the International Olympic Committee (IOC) published a framework on Fairness, Inclusion and Non-discrimination on the basis of gender identity and sex variations.
The body hoped the framework would promote a “safe and welcoming environment” for everyone involved in elite-level competition, “consistent with the principles enshrined in the Olympic Charter.”
However, after a consultation, the five Sports Councils in the UK – Sport England, Sport Scotland, Sport Northern Ireland, Sport Wales and UK Sport decided that trans women retain physique, stamina and strength advantages when competing in female sport, even when they reduce their testosterone levels.
Ministers are becoming increasingly outspoken in insisting that biology must trump gender identity in areas such as medical treatment and women’s sports.
The debate has left many trans athletes in limbo, some losing funding and others confused around where they can compete.
The Labour Party
It is no secret that the Labour Party is torn by internal disagreements about how to define a woman, which has led some Conservatives to use the gender debate as a political target.
However, others in Government consider the “toxic” debate to be a distraction away from serious harms affecting one of the most vulnerable communities.
A ‘wedge’ issue is one that unites your political base and divides your opponents. It is clear that trans rights divides the Labour Party and as of this week it seems that the cabinet have decided it unites the Conservatives.
At a time when people are facing a real cost of living crisis the Chancellor is attending interviews to hold forth on the intricacies of trans inclusion in sport, a decision he will likely never have any sway over.
On the eve of the local election, after which there may well be a new round of ‘partygate’ fines it is no mystery why senior Conservatives are throwing red meat to the base. Caught in the middle are the estimated 170,000 trans people in the UK who day in and day out have their rights ‘debated’ by the most powerful people in the country so that they may further their own careers.
Trans rights are a relatively new topic for discussion in the UK, as such people are looking to leaders to help them form their views on the subject. Sadly the Conservatives ‘leaders’ seem to be following their own self interest.