Women’s Institute ‘proud’ to accept trans members as bigoted petition calls for ban

Women's Institute

The Women’s Institute (WI) has said it is “proud” to accept transgender members, after a petition was circulated demanding the organisation place a “moratorium” on trans women joining. 

The WI, which has officially admitted trans women since 2015, has been asked to hold a vote on trans women’s inclusion in a petition by a group called Women’s Institute Declaration.

The Women’s Institute was formed in 1915 and is the UK’s largest voluntary women’s group, with more than 180,000 members.

In 2015, its policy changed to officially welcome trans women in its groups, although its CEO explained that trans women have been welcomed for decades. It has rejected the petition and its calls to exclude new trans members.

“We are very proud of this policy, and how inclusive and supportive WI members are,” Melissa Green, CEO of the National Federation of Women’s Institutes, told PinkNews in a statement. 

“This is not a new policy; we know transgender women have been welcomed to WIs for many years, some sources say as far back as the 1970s, and our national policy reflects what was happening already.”

You may like to watch

The petition claims that the WI “cannot legitimately campaign for women-specific issues” due to its pro-LGBTQ+ policy.

It is calling for “a membership vote to decide whether Women’s Institutes revert to being a sex-based membership organisation” or “embrace gender ideology”. 

The petition also demands that a halt be placed on new trans members joining, although current trans members would be allowed to remain part of the WI. 

The WI’s official policy states that trans women are welcome to participate “in the same way as other women”, and that it hoped the policy would “ensure we are a place for all women to celebrate who they are and influence positive change in their communities”. 

Caroline Nokes, chair of the Women and Equalities Committee, addressed the anti-trans petition in a Times Radio interview, saying: “Trans people are among the most marginalised and the most abused in our communities, and we can do better than try to paint them all as dangerous predators”. 

The Women’s Institute petition comes as the UK government appears to be moving towards banning trans people from more single-sex spaces, with prime minister Rishi Sunak claiming that “biological sex is fundamentally important”

In an interview with ConservativeHome on 14 April, Sunak claimed that we should have “compassion and understanding and tolerance” for trans people, but vowed to protect same-sex spaces on the basis of biology.

“We need to make sure – particularly when it comes to women’s health, women’s sports or indeed spaces – that we’re protecting those rights and places,” he said.

Please login or register to comment on this story.