A lawmaker in Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party came out as transgender on Wednesday, making him the first openly transgender member of Parliament.
Jamie Wallis, 37, said in a statement that he had endured a yearslong battle with gender dysphoria, a condition marked by persistent discomfort between a person’s gender identity and sex assigned at birth. Wallis, who continues to use he/him/his pronouns, said that a recent diagnosis of gender dysphoria, among other challenges, pushed him to live more authentically.
“I’ve felt this way since I was a very young child,” Wallis wrote. “I had no intention of ever sharing this with you. I always imagined I would leave politics well before I ever said this out loud.”
He added: “For a while, it seemed as though I would be able to get on with things and move on. Being an MP and hiding something like this was always going to be tough, but I arrogantly assumed I was up for it.”
Leading up to this decision to come out, Wallis said he faced a series of personal challenges. Two years ago, someone blackmailed him and outed him to his father, he said, adding that the blackmailer was sentenced to two years in prison. Within the last year, Wallis also revealed that he was raped and involved in car accident, which resulted in post-traumatic stress disorder.
Since coming out as transgender, Wallis said his colleagues in both parties and LGBTQ groups have pledged their support on social media.
“Well done on taking this step Jamie. You have our full support and solidarity. Love from all of us at Stonewall,” wrote Stonewall, an LGBTQ advocacy group in the U.K.
The lawmaker’s journey comes as trans rights and gender identity are being fiercely debated in Parliament and British society. Hours before Wallis’ statement, Prime Minister Boris Johnson made a transphobic joke at a dinner for conservative MPs at a London hotel.
“Good evening ladies and gentlemen, or as Keir Starmer would put it, people who are assigned female or male at birth,” Johnson told the audience, according to Politico.
After Wallis’ statement, Johnson applauded Wallis on Twitter.
“Sharing this very intimate story would have taken an immense amount of courage. Thank you @JamieWallisMP for your bravery, which will undoubtedly support others,” Johnson tweeted. “The Conservative Party I lead will always give you, and everyone else, the love and support you need to be yourself.”
Wallis said he’s thankful for the outpouring of support.
“I am proud to be completely open and honest about the struggles I have had, and continue to have, with my identity,” Wallis said in the statement. “However, I remain the same person I was yesterday.”