Broadcaster Dame Jenni Murray has sparked controversy after suggesting that men who have undergone sex change operations are not “real women”.
The Radio 4 Woman’s Hour host, 66, questioned whether someone who has enjoyed the privileges of growing up as a man could really be a woman.
Writing for The Sunday Times Magazine, she told how “the first time I 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 a sex change operation.
“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,” Dame Jenni said.
Discussing a more recent occasion, when she met transgender news journalist India Willoughby, she wrote: “India held firmly to her belief that she was a ‘real woman’, ignoring the fact that she had spent all of her life before her transition enjoying the privileged position in our society generally accorded to a man.
“In a discussion about the Dorchester hotel’s demands that its female staff should always wear make-up, have a manicure and wear stockings over shaved legs, she was perfectly happy to go along with such requirements.
“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.
But Dame Jenni said that she “firmly” believes that transsexuals and transvestites…”should be treated with respect and protected from the bullying and violence”.
And she criticised “crude” remarks from feminist Germaine Greer, whose views on transgender women prompted thousands to sign a petition in an attempt to prevent her lecturing at Cardiff University.
Stonewall – which campaigns for the equality of lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people across Britain – criticised Dame Jenni’s remarks.
“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 engrained in their identity as yours or mine,” it said in a statement.
“Being trans is not about ‘sex changes’ and clothes – it’s about an innate sense of self. To imply anything other than this is reductive and hurtful to many trans people who are only trying to live life as their authentic selves.”