Belgian transgender deputy PM urges Sunak not to join ‘the real bullies’

Belgian transgender deputy PM urges Sunak not to join ‘the real bullies’

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Petra De Sutter responds to ‘hurtful’ remarks UK prime minister made at Tory conference

Belgium’s deputy prime minister, who ranks as one of Europe’s most senior transgender politicians, has urged Rishi Sunak not to join “the real bullies” after remarks made by the British prime minister at the Conservative party conference this week.

Sunak told the audience: “We shouldn’t get bullied into believing that people can be any sex they want to be,” to cheers and loud applause. “They can’t. A man is a man and a woman is a woman. That’s just common sense.”

The prime minister’s comments came as it was revealed that the number of hate crimes committed against transgender people last year in England and Wales had climbed to a record high, with the Home Office suggesting in its report that the 11% rise may have been prompted by comments by politicians and media.

On Thursday, Petra De Sutter, Europe’s first openly transgender minister, described Sunak’s comments as “hurtful and very disappointing” on social media.

“These words are fuelling transphobia and are endangering the lives of many people around the world,” she said. “Trans women are women. And in no way a threat to others. Don’t join the real bullies, Rishi Sunak.”

De Sutter, a doctor and gynaecology professor, was sworn in as deputy prime minister in Belgium in 2020.

Sunak’s comments were widely seen as an attempt by the prime minister – whose party is trailing 20 points in polls before an election expected next year – to lean further into the culture wars.

During the Tory party conference in Manchester, Suella Braverman took aim at so-called “gender ideology”, in a speech during which a prominent Conservative was ejected from the premises after he accused the home secretary of homophobia and transphobia, saying there was “no such thing as gender ideology”.

Andrew Boff, who is gay and previously served as the leader of the Tories in City Hall, later told the Press Association that Braverman “was basically vilifying gay people and trans people by this attack on LGBT ideology or gender ideology”.

Attenders at the conference also heard from the health secretary, Steve Barclay, who promised to ban transgender hospital patients in England from being treated in female- and male-only wards.

Barclay’s comments were criticised by moderate Tory MPs, amid concerns that LGBTQ+ people are being targeted as the party attempts to appeal to those on its right flank.

“I hope to see him solve problems which actually exist,” said Jamie Wallis, a Conservative who became the first openly transgender MP last year.

The Guardian

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