The Women’s Institute (WI) must get over, and get used to, welcoming transgender women, former Conservative leader Lord William Hague has said.
His comments come as the largest voluntary women’s membership organisation in the UK has faced calls to stop admitting transgender women.
A group within the WI calling itself the Women’s Institute Declaration claimed the National Federation of Women’s Institutes’ (NFWI) current equality, diversity and inclusion policy is damaging the organisation’s reputation and ability to campaign on women’s issues.
The Women’s Institute Declaration group said it supports the rights of trans people “to live safely and to be treated fairly” but called for the WI to “focus on women as a biological sex class, rather than as an individual expression of gender, which may not correspond with natal sex” and to actively campaign for single sex spaces.
Asked about the issue, Lord Hague said organisations such as the WI must accept that people changing gender is “part of our society now” and that new people should be welcomed as members.
“I’m not sure that applies to the Women’s Institute though, you know there are transgender people, they have changed their gender. This is part of our society now, and I think large national organisations like the WI have to get over that and get used to that, and welcome new people.
“So that would be the side of the argument I’m on. I’ll probably get a lot of angry letters now from WI members but I would be on that side of the argument.”
The NFWI has been contacted for comment.
No 10 has said it is up to specific groups “to decide what’s right for them”, but stressed that the starting point must be treating transgender people with compassion.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “On membership of any particular group, that is for the group. The Prime Minister has said it’s vitally important that transgender people are treated with compassion at all times, as a starting point.
“Obviously it’s right that Government provides the necessary guidance and guidelines, and when necessary, laws, on this issue. But it will be for specific groups to decide what’s right for them.”