David Tennant and Kemi Badenoch’s row over trans rights explained

The star spoke out as he picked up a gong at the British LGBT Awards

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 12: David Tennant attends the 2024 BAFTA Television Awards with P&O Cruises at The Royal Festival Hall on May 12, 2024 in London, England. (Photo by Shane Anthony Sinclair/BAFTA/Getty Images for BAFTA)
David Tennant made the comments at the British LGBT Awards. (Getty Images for Bafta)

David Tennant has become embroiled in a public row with Kemi Badenoch over trans rights.

The Doctor Who actor took aim at the minister for women and equalities at the British LGBT Awards as he picked up a gong for being a top celebrity ally, saying he wanted her to “shut up” and referencing a world where she "doesn't exist anymore". However, his comments have caused a stir, with the likes of Rishi Sunak weighing in.

So what exactly did the star say? And what do people think about it?

Tennant spoke out about Badenoch – whose views on gender have previously been criticised – as he collected his Celebrity Ally gong at the ceremony.

He said in his acceptance speech: "If I'm honest I'm a little depressed by the fact that acknowledging that everyone has the right to be who they want to be, and live their life how they want to live it, as long as they're not hurting anyone else should merit any kind of special award or special mention, because it's common sense, isn't it?"

Read more: David Tennant

He added that it was "human decency” and went on: "We shouldn't live in a world where that is worth remarking on.

"However, until we wake up and Kemi Badenoch doesn't exist anymore — I don't wish ill of her, I just wish her to shut up — whilst we do live in this world, I am honoured to receive this."

LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 21: David Tennant poses with the Celebrity Ally award inside the winners room at The British LGBT Awards 2024 at The Brewery on June 21, 2024 in London, England. (Photo by Tim P. Whitby/Getty Images)
David Tennant poses with the Celebrity Ally award at The British LGBT Awards 2024. (Tim P. Whitby/Getty Images)

The Conservatives want to amend the Equality Act so that protections it enshrines on the basis of someone’s sex apply only to their biological sex.

In June this year, Badenoch said that “changing your clothes doesn’t change who you are” as she set out the Tories’ pledge to change the Equality Act so that sex is defined only as someone’s biological sex.

The Conservatives say the change will make it simpler for service providers for women and girls, such as those running sessions for domestic abuse victims, to prevent biological males from taking part.

Labour said it would not amend the Equality Act if elected and that the Tories’ attempt to stoke a culture war was a “distraction” from issues voters care about, such as the cost-of-living crisis.

Badenoch later told Sky News that the Conservatives are seeking to clarify the Equality Act, not change it saying: “It is re-emphasising what should be the status quo."

Tennant, a father of five, is known to be an ally for LGBT rights, and often sports a badge in support of non-binary people.

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - 2024/05/01: Business and Trade Secretary Kemi Badenoch is being interviewed during a Westminster morning broadcast round in London. Local Elections are going to held tomorrow in various parts of the United Kingdom in which the governing Conservative Party is expected to perform extremely poorly. (Photo by Tejas Sandhu/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Kemi Badenoch posted a response on X. (Tejas Sandhu/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Badenoch responded to Tennant’s remarks in a post on X, insisting: “I will not shut up.”

She went on: “I will not be silenced by men who prioritise applause from Stonewall over the safety of women and girls. A rich, lefty, white male celebrity so blinded by ideology he can’t see the optics of attacking the only black woman in government by calling publicly for my existence to end….

“Tennant is one of Labour’s celebrity supporters. This is an early example of what life will be like if they win.”

“Do not let the bigots and bullies win,” she added.

Prime minister Rishi Sunak was one of the people to share his thoughts, writing on X: “Freedom of speech is the most powerful feature of our democracy. If you’re calling for women to shut up and wishing they didn’t exist, you are the problem.”

Watch: Sunak hits back at David Tennant after star says equalities minister should 'shut up'

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer was asked about it during a visit on the campaign trail and has been quoted as saying: “I wouldn’t have engaged in the way that he did. I think it’s right that we have these robust discussions, but we must do it respectfully.”

Harry Potter author JK Rowling, who has been outspoken on trans and gender issues, reposted Badenoch’s response on X. She also shared a post on the subject from tennis ace Martina Navratilova, which read: “Wow. The misogyny is in full force!!! Ladies and gentlemen - I give you the perfect example of Male Entitlement… Omg…”

Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer during LBC's Nick Ferrari at Breakfast show, at Global Studios, London, while on the General Election campaign trail. Picture date: Tuesday June 18, 2024. (Photo by Aaron Chown/PA Images via Getty Images)
Keir Starmer also shared his thoughts. (PA Images via Getty Images)

Tennant’s comments also came up on ITV’s This Morning, where Ashley James said while the actor may have been “a bit clumsy in calling her out”, what he said was “very powerful”.

“I don't think it's fair to say that celebrities should stay out of politics because politics affects everyone,” she said. “You know it's our healthcare, you know. Even celebrities would get ill and potentially collapse and need an ambulance. Everyone is allowed to have a say in education, healthcare and all of those things.”

LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 26: David Tennant attends the
David Tennant stepped out amid the row wearing a pin badge of the non-binary flag. (Mike Marsland/WireImage)

Nick Ferrari agreed that celebs should be allowed to have their say on politics, but insisted: “You cannot use language such as ‘they should not exist now’. In fairness, once the applause dies down, he goes on to say he wishes her no ill. But we can't have language like this. It is not appropriate.”

He went on: “Or do I have to remind your viewers? Do I have to remind Mr Tennant that sadly within recent years, two MPs have been murdered. There is a toxicity out there that someone as intelligent as Mr Tennant should have been aware.”