Boris Johnson's equalities minister Kemi Badenoch has been criticised for comments in which she referred to transgender women as men and questioned gay marriage.
In an audio recording obtained by VICE news, Badenoch is heard asking: “What are transsexuals looking for?”
"It's no longer about minority rights in the terms of race anymore or nationality," she said.
"It's now, you know like, it’s not even about sexuality now, it’s now like the whole transgender movement, where, okay - well, we’ve got gay marriage, and civil partnerships: so what are transsexuals looking for?”
The term "transexual" is widely viewed as an antiquated and offensive term among transgender communities.
The MP for Saffron Walden, elected in 2017, was promoted to be "levelling up" minister this week in prime minister Boris Johnson’s cabinet reshuffle.
It is reported that her comments were made three years ago in her parliamentary office in 2018.
Prior to the reshuffle, Badenoch had served as exchequer secretary to the Treasury and previously as parliamentary under-secretary of state (minister for children and families).
Badenoch is regarded as a controversial figure by some, and last year said she opposed the teaching of “white privilege” during a Black History Month debate in parliament.
She also came under fire last year for meeting the controversial group LGB Alliance, which has been described as transphobic by a variety of MPs and charities.
Dame Melanie Dawes, the chief executive of Ofcom, has previously said it would be “extremely inappropriate” to quote the LGB Alliance while discussing issues surrounding transgender people.
There has been condemnation from the opposition benches on Badenoch's comments – with deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner lambasting her on Twitter.
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.
— Angela Rayner (@AngelaRayner) September 17, 2021
"These comments are disgusting," wrote Rayner.
"With hate crimes and transphobia on the rise we need an Equalities Minister who will stand up for trans people, not add fuel to the fire of abuse and discrimination faced by LGBT+ people in our country."
She then 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."
Lyn Brown, Labour MP for West Ham, also took to Twitter to criticise Badenoch, saying she held LGBT+ people “in utter contempt."
Posting on Twitter, she said: “If this report is correct, and there’s no resignation, I can only conclude this govt. holds LGBT+ people in utter contempt.
“How can you give someone with these views govt. responsibility for LGBT+ equality! It beggars belief!”1
A government spokesperson dismissed the criticisms aimed at Badenoch, telling Yahoo! News UK: “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.
“The 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.”
The revelations have been met with disdain by campaigners for LGBT+ rights.
Stonewall CEO Nancy Kelley, said: “We’re shocked to hear of the comments attributed to the minister, which are both hurtful and harmful to LGBTQ+ communities.
“It is the responsibility of the minister of state for equalities to be a champion for all marginalised communities, regardless of personal opinion, and we call on the minister to clarify her remarks and reaffirm her support for all LGBTQ+ people urgently.”
Discrimination against transgender people in the UK is a longstanding issue with devastating consequences.
A report by Stonewall found in the year up to 2017: one in eight trans people were physically attacked at work; 41 per cent of trans people experienced a hate crime or incident because of their gender; and more than a quarter of trans people faced domestic abuse.
And a study last year found in the year up to 2020, a third of trans youths attempted suicide.
Watch: Equalities minister Kemi Badenoch slam's 'bad faith' critics of government-commissioned report