Boris Johnson: Women cannot be born with a penis

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Boris Johnson said: ‘When you start to move from issues of sexuality to issues of gender, you start to raise particular problems’ - Dan Kitwood/Getty Images
Boris Johnson said: ‘When you start to move from issues of sexuality to issues of gender, you start to raise particular problems’ - Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Women cannot be born with a penis, Boris Johnson said as he backed the decision to ban transgender women from competing in women’s swimming.

The Prime Minister said he sees “no reason to dissent” from a ruling by World Swimming that bars any trans athletes who have reached male puberty from competing in women’s events.

Asked whether a woman can be born with a penis, Mr Johnson said: “Not without being a man”, adding that there is a difference between being a woman and a trans woman.

Last week, World Swimming announced that only swimmers who transitioned before the age of 12 would be permitted to compete in women’s events.

The ruling came after Lia Thomas, a swimmer transitioning from male to female, became the first transgender person to win a title at the highest level of American collegiate sport.

Other British sports governing bodies now face pressure to reform their policies. British Cycling has suspended its domestic transgender inclusion policy pending a review, with World Athletics also set to re-examine its approach.

‘You have to be very sensitive’

Speaking in Kigali, Rwanda, Mr Johnson said: “It’s very, very important that as a society we should be as understanding of everybody else as possible. I’ve always stood for that.

“When you start to move from issues of sexuality to issues of gender, you start to raise particular problems.”

He said he had three main concerns – the age at which people are deemed competent to transition, the question of safe spaces for women and difficulties with sporting competitions.

“These are all very difficult problems and you have to be very sensitive,” Mr Johnson added.

Labour has come under fire over its stance on transgender issues, and earlier this year Sir Keir Starmer refused to answer the question of whether a woman can have a penis.

The topic has been a point of division in the party for more than a year after Sir Keir said backbencher Rosie Duffield’s comment that “only women have a cervix” was “not right”.

Yvette Cooper and Anneliese Dodds, two of Labour’s frontbench MPs, both declined to give a definition of a woman.

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