Yet another storm has been whipped up by supposed liberals over alleged ‘transphobic’ comments made by the broadcaster Jenni Murray in an article for the The Sunday Times.
Murray, the presenter of BBC Radio 4’s Women’s Hour, wrote in her piece – which was entitled “Be trans, be proud — but don’t call yourself a real woman” – that transgender women who have previously lived as men “with all the privilege that entails”, have not experienced growing up female and are therefore not “real women”.
This piece isn’t about the ins and outs of what she wrote, nor does it intend to delve into transgender issues. However, the hysteria that has arisen is a little over the top. Murray’s lengthy article delved into the subject of transgenderism quite extensively, and she was at pains to denounce the likes of Germaine Greer for her abrasive comments on the same subject.
Yet, as is increasingly the case in this climate of illiberal intolerance, Murray’s view was seized on by other parts of the media, with India Willoughby, a news presenter and transgender woman, calling for Murray – who had referred to Willoughby in her piece – to be sacked from her role as the presenter of Women’s Hour.
Quoted in The Telegraph, Willoughby said, “honestly, I wouldn’t wish being trans on anyone, even Jenni. ‘Male privilege’ was never a privilege to me and is not something I benefited from.
“The fact that she’s still allowed to host Woman’s Hour while spouting this bile is ridiculous and she should finally be sacked”.
Indeed, the BBC has since said that it has reminded Murray of her responsibility to maintain an impartial view on controversial topics, despite the fact that Murray aired her views in an entirely separate publication and medium.
Further, students at Oxford, playing up to the now well-worn stereotype of intolerance that has become a common feature of student politics, have called for Murray to be uninvited from speaking about feminism and women’s history at the Oxford literary festival.
Their bizarre logic seems to be that Murray’s views on transgender issues invalidate her opinion on any other subject, and so she should be cast out into the imagined wilderness into which all deplorables who do not hold a certain set of opinions would ideally be sent.
“Whether you are trans or not, your identity is yours alone. I do not question your identity Jenni, and in return, I wouldn’t expect you to question mine – or anyone else’s. What right would you have to do so?”
Here, Cohen seems to forget that Murray and everyone else has a right to question whatever they like.
Similarly, Murray’s view wasn’t that people such as Willoughby do not have ‘the right’ to call themselves women, but that just because they say that they identify as a woman, or ‘feel like’ a woman, it doesn’t mean that they are a woman.
You could of course fire back that if you genuinely feel like a woman (or a man), then you are a woman, and you would be perfectly free to express that view, but it wouldn’t make you indisputably correct.
There is a distinct danger here that the sphere of tolerance, which I have written about in previous posts, will be further narrowed if people like Murray are silenced.
Bigotry is a disease suffered by all ideologies, but increasingly it is tsupposed liberals which suffer from it most acutely.
We need to re-discover tolerance in its genuine form, Murray has the right to say whatever she likes, and if people don’t like it, they should explain why with facts and reason, instead of resorting to shutting down the debate in order to be protected from offence.