The 31-year-old delivered a speech at the Women of the World (WOW) festival – an event that celebrates the power and potential of girls and women and confronts the causes of inequality – at the Southbank Centre in London over the weekend.
During her speech, Bergdorf discussed the British press claiming that it is making transgender people, including herself, feel unsafe in public spaces.
“It is really sad, this is my third year speaking at WOW and it’s always been a really sacred space for me and unfortunately this is the first year that I’ve felt a sense of dread coming,” Bergdorf told the WOW audience.
“It isn’t anything to do with the organisation, unfortunately it’s got to do with the increasingly hateful narrative that trans women are a threat to cisgender women and there’s absolutely no statistics to show this is the case.”
Bergdorf added that the threatening atmosphere came from women in the media “writing articles which are having a real affect on the lives of trans women especially, and trans people period”.
The model acknowledged her own “very privileged position” as a transgender woman in the public eye, but said even she still feels under threat.
“If I feel this way, what does my sister that is not in any way privileged feel?” she asked.
“I don’t feel safe because of other women. That’s really weighing heavily on me and that’s no way any woman should feel.
“I want to get people thinking about how this narrative is affecting even the strongest members of our community.”
The model, who underwent gender transition treatment at the age of 24, expanded on her comments on Instagram after it was widely reported that she claimed she felt threatened by other women.
Alongside a series of clips of her talk at the WOW event, Bergdorf wrote a lengthy caption in which she insisted that while the majority of trans-exclusionary radical feminists (TERFS) – a group of feminists that claim trans women aren’t really women – are cis women, many are also allies.
“Anyone that attended my talk at @wowglobal would have heard me speak about the toxic media climate in the British press, largely perpetuated by TERFs, that is making trans people feel unsafe in public spaces, myself included,” she explained.
“What I didn’t say was that I feel threatened by other women.
“Yes the vast majority of TERFs are cis women but many cis women are also allies to the trans community.”
The findings, released in association with the University of Connecticut, found that less than 25 percent of trans youth feel they can be themselves at home and are twice as likely to be sexually assaulted because of their identities than their cis peers.
Bergdorf’s comments come amid the ongoing debate about whether transgender athletes should be allowed to compete in women’s sport.
A number of sports stars, including tennis champion Martina Navratilova, runner Paula Radcliffe and swimmer Sharron Davies have spoken about the topic, agreeing that athletes who were born male have “certain advantages that women will not ever get”, in terms of physical traits such as their height and strength.
“I don’t think it’s clear for anyone what the rules are,” she said.
“The governing bodies need to look at this urgently. The rules are inconsistent at the moment. It becomes nasty quite quickly.”
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies