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Ms Badenoch, who has just been given a key ministerial position in the housing ministry, reportedly made the comments in her parliamentary office in 2018, a year after she was elected as an MP.
In the conversation, which was reported by Vice World News, Ms Badenoch seemed to suggest that transgender people had campaigned for increased rights because they wanted to pick a cause. Ms Badenoch argued that politics had moved on from debates about the rights of ethnic minorities, adding: “It’s not even about sexuality now. It’s now like the whole transgender movement, where, OK well we’ve got gay marriage, and civil partnerships, so what are transsexuals looking for?”
The phrase transsexual, like transvestite, is considered outdated and offensive by some transgender people.
She then went on to talk about the debate over gender-neutral bathrooms, saying: “Even when ... people hear about ... the whole bathroom thing, its actually more of an American thing but they have a similar problem, that ... now it’s not just about being free to marry who you want, you now want to have men using women’s bathrooms.”
A government spokesperson defended the comments by saying that Ms Badenoch, who has been minister for equalities since February 2020, was talking about balancing competing demands from different groups.
They said: “The minister for equalities is working hard to deliver for LGBT people, whether that is modernising the process of applying for a gender recognition certificate, driving forward LGBT rights in the workplace, or banning conversion therapy.
“This 2018 comment has been taken out of context, with the minister making a clear point about striking the balance for equality and fairness when there are multiple and often competing demands between different groups. It should not be used to misrepresent her views.”
Angela Rayner, shadow chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster, called the comments “disgusting”. She said: “With hate crimes and transphobia on the rise we need an equalities minister who will stand up for trans people.”
She added: “Everyone should be able to be themselves and be celebrated, supported and loved for who they are. The equalities minister should not be in the job if she does not believe that. Solidarity with my trans brothers and sisters today and always. The Labour Party is absolutely committed to advancing trans rights and updating the GRA to introduce self-declaration for trans people and upholding the Equality Act. Your fight is our fight.”
Ms Badenoch is currently tasked with putting together the UK’s first ever global LGBT+ conference, which aims to celebrate “kindness, tolerance and openness”.
John Nicolson, the SNP’s shadow culture secretary and deputy chair of the all-party parliamentary group on global LGBT+ rights, told Vice News that Badenoch had “no credibility” as equalities minister.
LGBT+ charity Stonewall responded to the revelations, saying: “We’re shocked to hear of the comments attributed to the minister, which are both hurtful and harmful to LGBTQ+ communities.”