Munroe Bergdorf, a British transgender model, has said she feels threatened by the attitudes of other women. Speaking at an annual London event organised to celebrate womanhood, she argued that some women are guilty of creating a hostile environment for transgender people. “I don’t feel safe because of other women,” Bergdorf said to the Women…
Munroe Bergdorf, a British transgender model, has said she feels threatened by the attitudes of other women.
Speaking at an annual London event organised to celebrate womanhood, she argued that some women are guilty of creating a hostile environment for transgender people.
“I don’t feel safe because of other women,” Bergdorf said to the Women of the World audience. “That’s really weighing heavily on me.”
The mixed-race former L’Oréal model also said she had “dreaded” attending the event due to the threat she detects from “cisgender” females – those women who were assigned their gender at birth.
Bergdorf’s comments come as the debate over the issue of gender categorisation in sport intensifies. Former sports stars including tennis champion Martina Navratilova, runner Paula Radcliffe and swimmer Sharron Davies have become embroiled in an acrimonious public argument. On the one side are those who wish to protect women-only competitions from entrants who have spent part of their lives as biological men. On the other are those who feel that transgender competitors should be widely accepted. Transgender athletes are to compete in the Tokyo Olympic Games for the first time next year.
On theTodayprogramme on BBC Radio 4 on Saturday, Paralympian Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson said the issue was “incredibly complicated”. She added: “I don’t think it’s clear for anyone what the rules are. The governing bodies need to look at this urgently. The rules are inconsistent at the moment. It becomes nasty quite quickly.”
She said the position for athletes in some American states “where anyone can self-identify makes it very challenging for anyone in sport to know where they stand”.
At London gathering, Bergdorf acknowledged her own “very privileged position” as a trans woman in the public eye, but said she still felt under threat.
“If I feel this way, what does my sister feel like?” she asked. “Unfortunately, it’s got to do with a narrative that trans people are a threat to cisgender women. There are no statistics to show this is the case.”
Bergdorf said the threatening atmosphere came from women “writing articles which are having a really negative impact on trans women”.
She added that society is in a state of “flux”, and called for the audience to examine the way language can “uphold power”.
“Words need to change to reflect the society we live in,” she said. “I want to get people to think about how this narrative is affecting the transgender members of our society.”
Women of the World founder Jude Kelly said that Bergdorf had been the recent recipient of “word hatred” in the media. Kelly toldThe Observerthat Bergdorf had been warmly welcomed at the event.
“There was huge sympathy for what she had to say and her point that we are all transitioning in our ideas as a society. Things that once looked impossible can become things we all accept,” she said.
There had been a “little bit” of criticism of her decision to invite Bergdorf, Kelly added, although the model has attended previous events.
“She wanted to talk about the way something has changed recently to produce a negative energy that is stopping some of the great work that has been going on between women.”