A trans woman has been appointed as the boss of a womb health charity in a move described as “worrying and insulting”.
Endometriosis South Coast faced backlash on Monday after appointing 71-year-old trans-rights activist Steph Richards, who has repeatedly clashed with feminist campaigners, as its chief executive.
The charity announced the appointment on social media with a picture of Ms Richards and a banner saying “Meet our new CEO” alongside a quote which stated: “Isn’t it ridiculous that I’ve got to my 40s before any medical professionals even mentioned endometriosis?”
The announcement was met with criticism as users pointed out that it was impossible for someone who was born male to suffer from endometriosis, a painful condition in which tissue similar to the lining of the womb grows elsewhere inside the body.
The organisation, which runs support groups for women who suffer from the debilitating condition, later apologised for the “misunderstanding”.
“This quote is from a person that our charity supports. Not from Steph herself,” the organisation wrote on X, formerly Twitter. “Steph is a huge advocate for what people in the endo community go through. This is why they were appointed, not because they have their own endo journey.”
But they continued to face backlash, with one person writing: ‘You have failed every single woman who is currently using your services.’
Another posted: “As a woman who suffered with endometriosis for decades, I simply cannot fathom why you’d think this appointment is appropriate.”
Ms Richards has repeatedly clashed with women’s rights advocates, some of whom she has described as “terfs”, and was previously involved in a protest outside the FiLiA feminist conference.
They have faced criticism for stating that men, women and children are “social constructs” and for telling a survivor of child sexual assault that “no one groomed you”.
On LinkedIn, the activist, who is also a Women’s Officer at Portsmouth Labour Party, lists their professions as journalist and publisher, having started the website and blog Steph’s Place UK.
Steph’s Place UK was one of the trans rights organisations which unsuccessfully attempted to have the Equality and Human Rights Commission stripped of its international accreditation after it warned about changes to legal gender recognition and conversion therapy.
The new chief executive described the questions over their appointment as “transmisogyny” and said that they did not apply for the role but were asked to take it on.
They said on X that they had begun “researching issues around pregnancy and women’s health well over two decades ago”.
One in ten women suffer from endometriosis but research into the condition is under-funded. A number of experts have suggested that the reason that it is under-researched is that it only affects women.
Endometriosis South Coast says it “is an inclusive charity set up to support people who haven’t started their diagnosis journey, are going through the diagnosis stages, or have been diagnosed with Endometriosis and/or Adenomyosis”.
On their website, they feature a quote which states that it has “not been possible to agree upon a categorical definition of sex” and state that “focussing research and treatment plans on gendered constructs is not progressing either research or treatment”.
‘Women deserve better’
Milli Hill, an author on women’s health, said that the appointment had to be considered “against the backdrop of the current situation”.
She told The Telegraph: “This is not a ‘one-off’, we are increasingly seeing trans women - men - being appointed to such roles, being nominated for best actress, being encouraged to apply for a BBC programme to encourage more female camera operators, taking women’s places on sporting teams and podiums etc.
“Women see all of this as both worrying and insulting and we have to see the outcry about Steph’s appointment in that context.”
Helen Joyce, director of advocacy at Sex Matters, which campaigns for clarity on sex in law and everyday life, said that “the appointment of a trans-identified male to this position would be outrageous under any circumstances” but is particularly so in the case of an individual who has repeatedly clashed with women’s rights campaigners.
Ms Joyce pointed out the involvement in the Filia protests and their clashes with gender-critical women, and added: “No matter how small the organisation, appointments like these matter and women who have suffered the pain of endometriosis, which is an under-recognised women’s health issue, deserve better.”