Tories urged to be ‘conscious’ of language following Boris Johnson’s trans joke
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MPs have been urged to be careful of the language they use around trans issues after Boris Johnson faced backlash for a ‘glib’ joke referring to trans identity.
According to Politico, the Prime Minister yesterday opened a dinner attended by Tory MPs saying: “Good evening ladies and gentlemen, or as Keir Starmer would say, people who are assigned female or male at birth.”
The joke 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 were criticized by two groups with close ties to the Conservative Party, both of which encouraged the Prime Minister to consider his language.
A spokesperson for LGBT Conservatives, an official wing of the Conservative Party, said: “As a group representing all members of the LGBT+ community, we encourage people to be careful of the language they use.”
Writing on Twitter, the Tory Reform Group (TRG) urged the Prime Minister not to use LGBT people as “punchlines”.
The independent group, which includes former Chancellor Ken Clarke and former Deputy Prime Minister Damian Green among its patrons, went on to describe the joke as “glib”.
“Trans lives are difficult and complex, they shouldn’t be ridiculed after flippant after-dinner jokes,” the statement read.
“The government needs to treat LGBT people with kindness rather than as punch lines, especially ahead of holding a global ‘Safe To Be Me’ conference.”
Trans lives are difficult and complex, they shouldn’t be ridiculed in flippant after-dinner jokes
Government must treat LGBT people with kindness rather than as punch lines, especially ahead of hosting global conference on ‘Safe To Be Me’
— TRG (@ToryReformGroup) March 30, 2022
However, some Tory MPs sought to downplay Johnson’s comments. Appearing on the BBC’s Politics Live, former business secretary Andrea Leadsom said the joke was “light”.
Another Tory MP told PoliticsHome: ‘As someone who strongly supports trans people in this argument – I saw it as a funny line aimed at Keir, not trans people.’
Earlier this week, Starmer faced backlash earlier this week for refusing to answer whether a woman can have a penis while speaking to LBC’s Nick Ferrari in a phone conversation.
Johnson offered his support for Wallis, who announced they were trans on Wednesday, both on Twitter and in the Commons.
“Sharing this very intimate story would have taken a tremendous 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 who you are.”
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