Kellie Maloney hits back at Jenni Murray's trans women comments

Nadia Khomami and agency
Kellie Maloney: ‘I see myself as a woman.’ Photograph: Ken McKay/ITV/Rex/Shutterstock

Kellie Maloney has said she was shocked by broadcaster Dame Jenni Murray’s suggestion that people who have undergone “sex change” operations from male to female are not “real women”.

Maloney, a fight promoter who announced in 2014 she was beginning gender reassignment, said she sees herself as a woman and would love to debate the issue with Murray.

There was a mixture of disapproval and support after Murray said in an article in the Sunday Times magazine that she was “not transphobic or anti-trans” and called for respect and protection from bullying and violence equally for “transsexuals, transvestites, gays, lesbians and those of us who hold to the sex and sexual preference assumed at birth”.

But the piece appeared under the heading: “Jenni Murray: Be trans, be proud – but don’t call yourself a ‘real woman’. Can someone who has lived as a man, with all the privilege that entails, really lay claim to womanhood? It takes more than a sex change and makeup.”

In response, Maloney told the Press Association on Monday: “We have lived in a male-privileged world, but not by our choice. Nobody has lived in a more male-dominated world than me, but I was fighting with me, I was battling with me. This wasn’t how I wanted to live.

“You can’t choose but you can correct it if you’re wrong. That’s what a trans male or female does. I see myself as a woman and I believe I’m a woman.

“I may not have gone through everything a woman has, like childbirth, but I’ve gone through other anxiety. I would have given anything to be born a woman.”

Murray, who is presenter of BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour, also recalled in the article that “the first time [she] felt anger when a man claimed to have become a woman” was when she met the Rev Peter Stone in 2000, the first serving Church of England priest to undergo gender reassignment surgery.

“I remember asking ... what she owed those women who had struggled for so long to have their calling to the priesthood acted upon. His calling, as a man, had never been questioned. I had nothing but a blank look and more concerns about clothing.”

But Maloney said Murray was making the basic mistake that you cannot change your sex. “You are correcting a gender. I’m shocked someone of her intelligence makes a mistake like that,” she said.

She said her experiences in the boxing world had given her a sharp understanding of the different ways men and women are treated.

“I don’t have the same privilege now. I’m not treated the same within the boxing world, but I’m the same person. I haven’t had a brain transplant.

“When I talk, I’m dismissed. I know women are put down. Women and trans women have to fight for our rights and this is unhelpful for someone in her position.

“As Frank, I was protecting a hidden identity. I would cry myself to sleep, I would drink myself to oblivion because I didn’t know how to deal with what was going on inside myself, so to read that someone dismisses me with the stroke of a pen, it doesn’t help when an established broadcaster does this.

“In the boxing world, I hear people sniggering, I hear the whispers behind people’s hands. I just think I’m in a happier place now so I don’t care what they think. If I wanted to go back into boxing, I would, but I don’t need to and I don’t want to.

“Frank hid from the world, but I’m not hiding. I would love to sit down with Jenni for a debate and discussion.”

The response to Murray’s article was swift, with Rachel Cohen, campaigns director of Stonewall, condemning her views as hurtful and saying she had no right to question anyone’s identity. But on Twitter, Debbie Hayton was among many who supported Murray, writing: “I’m transwoman and I get this.”

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