Trans Britons ‘appalled’ by Rishi Sunak’s ‘dehumanising’ comment in the Commons

Members of the trans community have said they were “appalled” by Rishi Sunak’s “dehumanising” comment made in the House of Commons when the mother of murdered trans teenager Brianna Ghey was visiting Parliament.

The Prime Minister accused Sir Keir Starmer of having difficulty in “defining a woman” during an attack on Labour Party U-turns.

Methodist minister Karl Rutlidge, a 39-year-old trans man from Kingston-upon-Thames, south-west London, told the PA news agency: “I haven’t been so angry in a long time, actually.

“I was really appalled by what Rishi Sunak had to say from the dispatch box, partly because of the context, with Brianna Ghey’s mother being in Parliament that day, and how upsetting that must have been for her to hear, but also because it suggests that transphobia has become so normalised that it’s acceptable for the leader of a major political party to stand up and say the kind of thing he said,” Mr Rutlidge said.

“It was a cheap jibe at a political opponent. I thought it was actually pretty pathetic as a thing to do.

“I think, actually, the fact that Brianna’s mother happens to be there makes it worse, but it doesn’t mean that it would have been acceptable if she wasn’t.”

Brianna’s father, Peter Spooner, said Mr Sunak should say sorry for the “degrading” and “dehumanising” remark.

Mr Rutlidge added: “Brianna’s father is completely right. It was dehumanising, it was despicable, and of course he should apologise, but more than that, he needs to learn why it’s a problem.

“It’s not a problem purely because Brianna’s mother was potentially in the chamber at that point. It’s a problem because it’s stoking bigotry, and it’s incredibly offensive and, yes, dehumanising.

Methodist minister Karl Rutlidge (Karl Rutlidge/PA)
Methodist minister Karl Rutlidge (Karl Rutlidge/PA)

“It’s the fact that that kind of prejudice has become one of those acceptable things, you know, we’ve become a group that it seems to be acceptable to hate and to mock and deride and dehumanise, as Brianna’s father put it.”

Describing what he would say if he could speak directly to Mr Sunak, Mr Rutlidge added: “That actually, I am as much of a valuable human being made in the image of God – to use Christian theological kind of language – as he is, and to have my humanity as a trans person dragged through the mud… is just wrong.”

Trans woman Wendy, 19, who did not wish to provide her surname, told PA that Mr Sunak’s comment was a “basic disregard for decency”.

She said: “(It was) frankly, incredibly ignorant and kind of insane, almost, that he thinks it’s appropriate.”

The university student based in Cambridge thinks Mr Sunak should apologise but she “wouldn’t really believe that he actually meant it if he did”.

“I think it’s the most basic decency he could possibly offer,” she said.

Wendy said Mr Sunak’s comment was a ‘basic disregard for decency’ (Wendy/PA)
Wendy said Mr Sunak’s comment was a ‘basic disregard for decency’ (Wendy/PA)

Regarding the presence of Brianna’s mother, Wendy said: “I don’t think it’s in good faith to be having discussions like that with her in the room and making jokes about it and laughing, but you could see he was very pleased with himself with what he said.

“Especially the way a lot of Conservatives talk about trans people, trans women in particular, we’re framed as predators and dangerous to be around and that makes people violent to us.”

Mr Sunak’s comment prompted fierce criticism from across the political spectrum, with Sir Keir responding to the Prime Minister: “Of all the weeks to say that, when Brianna’s mother is in this chamber. Shame.”

Asked to respond to Brianna’s father’s demand for an apology, Mr Sunak insisted his comments had been “absolutely legitimate”.

He said: “If you look at what I said, I was very clear, talking about Keir Starmer’s proven track record of U-turns on major policies because he doesn’t have a plan.”

Downing Street pointed PA to these comments when contacted for a response.