A balancing act on transgender rights

Boris Johnson has sought to chart a careful course through the increasingly heated debate on transgender rights. Yesterday, the Prime Minister said that he was immensely sympathetic towards people who wanted to transition, but that he did not think children should be permitted to make decisions about their gender or about irreversible treatments without parental involvement. He added that biological males should not be playing women’s sports and that there should be dedicated women-only spaces in prisons, hospitals and changing rooms. Most people would surely agree.

Not LGBT campaign groups, which have denounced the Prime Minister for his recent interventions. They have taken particular issue with the Government’s decision not to proceed with a ban on transgender conversion therapy. It is a complex and contentious matter, with some campaigners fearing that the original proposal would have prevented therapists from exploring with children their feelings lest they fall foul of the law. Ministers were right to rethink.

But they have come rather late to this discussion. For the past few years, a small number of courageous people – mostly women – have sought to challenge the increasingly strident demands of radical activists who refuse to acknowledge that these are not simple questions. For their pains, these women have faced social cancellation and the destruction of their careers.

Society must somehow find a way of balancing the competing rights of different groups in as sensitive a way as possible. That endeavour is best served through a debate that is calm and reflective, not dominated by ideology and rage.

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