After promising to legislate that “sexual and sadistic” killers would spend their lives in prison, Sunak listed other positions he said “shouldn’t be controversial,” including “for parents to know what their children are being taught in school about relationships.”
“Patients should know when hospitals are talking about men or women,” Sunak continued during his closing speech at his party’s annual gathering, held this year in Manchester. “And we shouldn’t get bullied into believing that people can be any sex they want to be. They can’t. A man is a man and a woman is a woman — that’s just common sense.”
In April, Sunak made headlines for agreeing with a conservative interviewer’s suggestion that all women — rather than 99 percent — “haven’t got a penis.”
He took a less strident tone at the time, stating that “we should always have compassion and understanding and tolerance for those who are thinking about their gender,” but that “the issue of biological sex is fundamentally important” to women’s rights and women’s spaces.
In June, PinkNews, a British news outlet that covers the LGBTQ+ community, accused Sunak of mocking trans women as it published what it said was a secretly recorded video of the prime minister talking during a meeting with conservative MPs.
In the video, a man purported to be Sunak is heard joking that Liberal Democrats party leader Ed Davey “has been very busy” trying to “convince everybody that women clearly had penises.”
“You all know I’m a big fan of everybody studying maths at 18, but it turns out that we need to focus on biology,” the man in the video said.
A spokesperson for the prime minister defended those comments, saying it was “a joke aimed at a political opponent rather than a specific group.”
While gender identity is a hotly debated topic among politicians in Britain, a survey from Ipsos, published in June, found that most Britons think transgender people face discrimination. A 2022 survey of about 5,000 Britons from the think tank More In Common also found that 46 percent of respondents agreed with the statement that “a trans man is a man and a trans woman is a woman.” Less than a third said they disagreed.
After Sunak’s speech Wednesday, India Willoughby, a prominent transgender newsreader, accused the prime minister of “putting people in danger and inciting threats to their lives” in a video posted to the social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter.
“We now have a British government and a prime minister that has said that it doesn’t recognize trans people,” Willoughby said. “If you don’t acknowledge a group of people exist, then obviously that group of people don’t have rights.”
More than 2,800 potential transgender hate crimes were reported between September 2001 and February 2022, according to data from the Metropolitan Police Service in Greater London. The number of reported incidents significantly increased starting in the mid-2010s, jumping from 75 incidents in 2013 to 428 in 2021.