The issue of transgender athletes – centred around the balance of inclusion, sporting fairness and safety in women’s sport – has recently focused on the case of transgender cyclist Emily Bridges.
Bridges was recently ruled ineligible to compete in her first elite women’s race by cycling’s world governing body.
Johnson was speaking on a range of issues, including the government’s approach to the ban on so-called conversion therapy, before adding: “I don’t think biological males should be competing in female sporting events. Maybe that’s a controversial thing to say, but it just seems to me to be sensible.
“I also happen to think that women should have spaces – whether it’s in hospitals, prison or changing rooms – which are dedicated to women. That’s as far as my thinking has developed on this issue.
“If that puts me in conflict with some others, then we have got to work it all out. It doesn’t mean I’m not immensely sympathetic to people who want to change gender, to transition and it’s vital we give people the maximum love and support in making those decisions.
“These are complex issues and they can’t be solved with one swift, easy piece of legislation. It takes a lot of thought to get this right.”
In response to Johnson’s comments, LGBTQ+ charity Stonewall said: “Trans people deserve the same opportunities as everyone else to enjoy the benefits of sport and blanket exclusions on trans people participating are fundamentally unfair.
“This is a complex and fast-evolving issue and much of the science doesn’t yet exist in this area.
“Inclusion policies need to be considered on a sport by sport basis and it’s vital to avoid using inflammatory rhetoric, which often causes trans people to stop playing the sports they love.”
Stonewall said that although elite sport “often dominates these discussions”, transgender people are also “underrepresented in community sport” where they “often feel excluded”.
The organisation added: “Sport has the unique power to bring us together and it’s important trans people have the opportunity to enjoy the benefits of sport without facing exclusion or abuse.”