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Tories Urged To Be “Mindful” Of Language Following Boris Johnson Trans Joke


3 min read

MPs have been urged to be considerate of the language they use around trans issues after Boris Johnson faced backlash for a “flippant” joke referencing trans identity.

According to Politico, the prime minister opened a dinner attended by Tory MPs yesterday by saying: “Good evening ladies and gentleman, or as Keir Starmer would put it, people who are assigned female or male at birth.”

The quip came just hours before Tory MP Jamie Wallis announced on Twitter that they were trans, becoming the first MP in history to openly identify as such. 

Johnson’s comments have been criticised by two groups closely linked with the Conservative party, which have both encouraged the prime minister to consider his language. 

A spokesperson for the LGBT Conservatives, an official wing of the Conservative Party, said: “As a group that represents all members of the LGBT+ community, we encourage people to be mindful of the language they use.”

Writing on Twitter, the Tory Reform Group (TRG) urged the prime minister not to use LGBT people as “punch lines”.

The independent group, which includes former chancellor Ken Clarke and former deputy PM Damian Green among its patrons, went on to describe the joke as “flippant”.

“Trans lives are difficult and complex, they should not be ridiculed in flippant after dinner jokes,” the statement said.

“The Government needs to treat LGBT people with kindness rather than as punch lines, especially before we host a global conference on ‘Safe To Be Me’.”

However, some Tory MPs have sought to downplay Johnson's comments. Appearing on the BBC’s Politics Live programme, former business secretary Andrea Leadsom said the joke had been “lighthearted”. 

Another Tory MP told PoliticsHome: “As someone who is very much on the supporting trans people side of this argument — I saw it as a funny line aimed at Keir, not at trans people.”

Earlier this week Starmer faced backlash earlier this week for declining to answer the question of whether a woman can have a penis while speaking to LBC’s Nick Ferrari during a phone-in.

Johnson has offered his support to Wallis, who announced they were trans on Wednesday, both on Twitter and in the Commons. 

“Sharing this very intimate story would have taken an immense amount of courage,” he said on Twitter.

“Thank you [Jamie Wallis] for your bravery, which will undoubtedly support others.”

“The Conservative Party I lead will always give you, and everyone else, the love and support you need to be yourself.”

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