BBC issues Dame Jenni Murray with warning over her transgender comments

Harry Yorke
Dame Jenni Murray has provoked backlash on social media over her comments about trans women

The BBC has issued presenter Dame Jenni Murray with an impartiality warning over her transgender comments as a TV presenter called for her to be sacked. 

Dame Jenni, the veteran host of Woman’s Hour, has been told that she must remain impartial on “controversial topics” after she claimed that a sex change can’t make a man a "real woman".

The claims, which have been fiercely criticised by equality campaigners, have resulted in Dame Jenni being reminded that she must remain neutral on the subject.

It comes as the subject of Dame Jenni’s comments, transgender presenter India Willoughby, labelled her a “dinosaur” that had misused her position for “spouting bile”.

Dame Jenni meeting the Duchess of Cornwall at a reception at Buckingham Palace in December last tear  - Credit: PA

The backlash follows claims made by the veteran broadcaster that men who become women through gender reassignment surgery still grew up with masculine privileges, and therefore cannot have the experiences shared by “real women”.

Writing in the Sunday Times, Dame Jenni criticised Willoughby for claiming she was a “woman” because she had failed to acknowledge that she had spent most of her life "enjoying the privileged position in our society generally accorded to a man".

“India held firmly to her belief that she was a "real woman". Your sex, male or female, is what you’re born with and determines whether you’ll provide the sperm or the eggs in the reproductive process,” she added.

She also criticised Willoughby's apparent willingness to accept the Dorchester hotel’s strict dress code for female staff, which requires that they always wear makeup, have manicures and shaved legs.

"There wasn’t a hint of understanding that she was simply playing into the stereotype - a man’s idea of what a woman should be."

Calling for Dame Jenni’s dismissal, Willoughby said that she had never supported the Dorchester’s staffing policies, adding that the Woman’s Hour presenter had created “fake news” in order to sell a “storyline”.

"She and Woman's Hour have subsequently tried to portray me as someone who believes all women must have perfectly shaved legs at all times, which quite frankly is ridiculous,” she added.

"I called Jenni transphobic that day - and I haven't changed my mind since. Jenni talks about trans women growing up with 'male privilege'. As if we have a great time and, then on a whim, jump ship.

"Honestly, I wouldn't wish being trans on anyone, even Jenni. 'Male privilege' was never a privilege to me and is not something I benefited from.

"The fact that she's still allowed to host Woman's Hour while spouting this bile is ridiculous and she should finally be sacked.

"The world has changed and, as a public-funded broadcaster the BBC know that more than anyone, Jenni Murray is a dinosaur and we all know what happened to them. Let's hope a similar extinction is coming for her in the not too distant future."

Whilst Murray pointed out that she “firmly” believed that transsexuals "should be treated with respect and protected from the bullying and violence", her comments have been met with fierce criticism among LGBTQ campaigners.

Rachel Cohen, executive director at Stonewall, questioned her right to question other people’s identities, adding that her comments had been “reductive” and “hurtful”.

“Whether you are trans or not, your identity is yours alone. I do not question your identity Jenni, and in return, I wouldn’t expect you to question mine - or anyone else's. What right would you have to do so?” she said.

“My experiences of being a woman are undoubtedly different to yours. However, their differences do not make them in any way less valid.

“Trans women have every right to have their identity and experiences respected too. They are women – just like you and me - and their sense of their gender is as ingrained in their identity as yours or mine.”

Commenting on the issue, a BBC spokesman said: "Jenni Murray is a freelance journalist and these were her own views, however we have reminded her that presenters should remain impartial on controversial topics covered by their BBC programmes."

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