Radio 4's Jenni Murray criticised over trans women article


Broadcaster Dame Jenni Murray has been criticised for making "hurtful remarks" after suggesting men who have had sex-change operations should not claim to be "real women".

Writing for the Sunday Times, the Woman's Hour host said "it takes more than a sex change and make-up" to "lay claim to womanhood".

LGBTQ campaign group Stonewall called the comments "reductive".

But Dame Jenni said she was not "transphobic or anti-trans".

The Radio 4 presenter, 66, questioned whether someone who had enjoyed the privileges of growing up as a man could really be a woman.

She recounted how "the first time I felt anger when a man claimed to have become a woman" was when she met the Rev Peter Stone, the first serving Church of England priest to have a sex-change operation, in 2000.

image copyrightPA
image captionReverend Carol Stone who had a sex change operation

"Her primary concerns, she told me, were finding the most suitable dress in which to meet her parishioners in her new persona and deciding if she should wear make-up or not," she wrote.

"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 presenter 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."

image copyrightTwitter

Dame Jenni continued: "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."

Responding to the article on Twitter on Sunday, Ms Willoughby wrote: "Delighted you're still narked. If ever want a make-over (attitude & clothes) give me a shout."

'They are women'

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."

But Dame Jenni said that she "firmly" believed that transsexuals and transvestites..."should be treated with respect and protected from the bullying and violence".

Dame Jenni is not the first to cause controversy with remarks about trans woman.

In 2015, academic and writer Germaine Greer said that in her opinion, transgender women were "not women".

Her views prompted thousands to sign a petition in an attempt to prevent her lecturing at Cardiff University.

Dame Jenni called her comments "unacceptably rude".

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