Munroe Bergdorf challenges anti-trans activists over women’s rights and self-identification

Model and campaigner Munroe Bergdorf has challenged prominent anti-trans activists over the rights of trans women during a recent Channel 4 documentary.

What Makes a Woman, which aired on Wednesday, discussed what it means to be a woman, and explored several prominent issues including Bergdorf’s steps to undergo facial feminisation surgery as part of her transition.

One of the most contentious parts of the feature-length documentary was the discussion of the ongoing debate surrounding proposed changes to the Gender Recognition Act.

Proposed changes to the 2004 legislation would streamline the process for trans people to change their legal gender, adopting a simpler ‘self-declaration’ system that operates in Ireland and other countries across Europe.

During the documentary, Bergdorf attended a meeting of radical feminist group We Need to Talk UK, a group dedicated to preventing these reforms to the Act.

(Channel 4)

Before the meeting, which was heavily protested by pro-trans activists, Bergdorf said that she felt “quite apprehensive” about attending given the group’s history of comments about trans women, who are frequently referred to as “trans-identified men.”

During the event, the model and activist rebutted a speaker who insisted that transgender children do not actually exist – but was quickly shut down by other attendees.

Other speakers, including former LGBT Labour officer Miranda Yardley, criticised proposals to allow trans people to self-identify stating that self-identification, “reduces what it is to be a woman to a feeling in a man’s head.”

(Channel 4)

Bergdorf then met with prominent anti-trans activist Venice Allan, the organiser of many We Need To Talk events.

Allan gained notoriety after organing a highly criticised event in Parliament where transgender women were repeatedly compared to parasites.

Prior to the suspension of her main Twitter account in March, Allan had also regularly used her Twitter handle, @DrRadFem, to share anti-trans rhetoric and hit out at multiple transgender people and their allies.

(Creative Commons)

Related: Exclusive – Genderquake audience were allegedly ‘encouraged to heckle’ trans panellists during Channel 4 debate

Bergdorf challenged Allan on the topic of trans women’s rights in female-only spaces such as sexed changing rooms and her idea that transgender women “infiltrate” these spaces in order to be predatory.

Allan stated: “By saying ‘trans identifying males’ are women we are losing our legal rights.”

(Channel 4)

The 43-year-old went on to say that self-identification would prevent women from complaining about predators, before once again stating women’s rights were at risk  – without elaborating on the specifics of these rights.

She said: “If any man can legally identify as a woman, women’s rights are erased.

“Feminism is about women!”

Bergdorf rebutted Allan’s points, highlighting that transgender women are also discriminated against by men, and are far more likely to experience violence or be killed than cisgender women.

The model said: “Your strand of feminism seems to me like a last-ditch attempt to keep things the way they are.

“The reality is society is moving forward, people are getting browner, people are getting queerer, people are getting more fluid with their identity, feminism isn’t inclusive at all.”

(Channel 4)

“You’re perpetuating a narrative that doesn’t exist,” Bergdorf continued.

“It’s a fear that trans people are going to, in some way, harm cisgender women.”

She added: “We’re already in the bathrooms, we’re already in the changing rooms, we’re already in the schools.

“None of this violence is happening. There are no statistics to suggest that transgender women are of any threat to anybody.”

Munroe Bergdorf at Genderquake: The Debate (Channel 4)

Many European countries, including Ireland, have instituted policies that allow transgender people to self-define their gender.

Since the removal of the prohibitive medical or legal requirements there have been no recorded uses of the policy in order to commit crime.

What Makes a Woman was filmed as part of Channel 4’s Genderquake, a series of programmes by Channel 4 exploring the changes in how gender is seen in modern society.

This series has included a widely criticised live debate, which has since been described as a “transphobic shouting match.”

Prior to the broadcast of Genderquake: The Debate, several prominent trans activists confirmed they were approached by Channel 4 but declined to take part, including broadcaster India Willoughby and writer Shon Faye.

Watch a clip from What Makes a Woman below