High street retailers are allowing men to use their female changing rooms – so long as they say they identify as women.

The Mail on Sunday conducted an investigation and found that traditional spaces for women are open to men if the shops allow it.

A 6ft-tall male reporter with a beard, who said he identified as woman, was given permission to use fitting rooms in the female sections of stores including Selfridges, Matalan, Uniqlo and even the lingerie brand Agent Provocateur’s concession in Harrods.

Max Aichison, pictured with lingerie he purchased from Agent Provocateur in Harrods, asked staff if he could use the female changing room to try out the garments

Max Aichison is pictured wearing lingerie that he bought from Agent Provocateur at Harrods. He asked staff to allow him to use the female changing area so he could try the clothes out.

Last week, Mail on Sunday reporter Charlotte Griffiths, pictured, revealed that she had been confronted by two men while in a female changing room

Charlotte Griffiths (Mail on Sunday reporter), revealed last week that two men approached her in a male changing room.

Each time, the reporter, wearing a Covid mask on his face, excused himself and left the area without ever crossing the threshold.

It comes as women’s rights campaigners embarked on a mass leafleting campaign on high streets across the country to highlight how ‘women and girls are losing their rights to single-sex spaces’. Heather Binning, of the Women’s Rights Network, who is organising the campaign, said this newspaper’s findings were ‘truly disturbing’ and showed that ‘common sense has gone out of the window’.

‘While we believe everyone can identify however they wish, shops should not be letting men who say they are women go into female changing rooms,’ she said.

‘It might be well-meaning and shops do not want to be accused of discriminating against anyone but it is utterly wrong that the wishes of a tiny minority are being allowed to trump the safety and dignity of women and young girls who are getting undressed.’

The investigation came after this newspaper’s Charlotte Griffiths wrote last week about how she was shocked to find two men in women’s changing rooms at Zara as she undressed.

She was later told by a manager that the issue was ‘sensitive’ but ‘as a general rule, if people are carrying women’s clothes to try on, they can use the changing rooms on the women’s floor’.

Many people responded to her experience, condemning the shop for not providing single-sex areas for women. Others suggested it was transphobic to question other people’s gender and that they should use the fitting room they felt most comfortable in.

MoS asked top high street shops if they had policies for changing rooms to determine how prevalent the problem was.

Many, such as Primark and Urban Outfitters only have unisex booths. This means that men and women can change in the same cubicle.

Meanwhile, Next, H&M, John Lewis and M&S said customers were free to choose a fitting room that suits their chosen identity.

For those shops that did not reply to our questions, a male reporter conducted a ‘mystery shopper’ investigation. In each case, the reporter asked if he could use a changing room in the store’s ladies section since he identified as a woman.

The default was always ‘yes’ – in line with the guidance from the sector’s trade body, the British Retail Consortium – although some assistants did check with superiors.

In the Harrods concession of Agent Provocateur, a staff member said she was ‘fairly sure’ it was OK but had to consult a colleague. While the reporter waited, another member of staff on the shop floor addressed him as ‘sir’ and asked how she could help.

Upon returning, the first staff member said: ‘We are happy to do it but we would recommend normally that you go to one of our boutiques instead, they’re just a bit more used to it and there’s a lot more privacy because our fitting rooms are just quite open here.’

A female staff member at the women’s fitting rooms in Nike Town on London’s Oxford Street was hesitant at first but then said: ‘They normally don’t allow men because women can feel disturbed if they come out wearing just a bra.’

Fair Play For Women campaigns actively against the elimination of male-only spaces such as changing rooms or toilets.

They have said service providers have relied on ‘simplistic and incomplete trans-inclusion guidance’ and ‘elevating the needs of one protected group over another’.

Dr Nicola Williams of Fair Play For Women added: ‘This is the whole problem with allowing people to self-identify their sex. It means you don’t have to look transgender or actually be transgender to be allowed in to what should be a women’s only space.

‘It means there is no way for shop assistants to distinguish between a 6ft guy with a beard and someone who is transgender.’

Miranda Yardley, 54, who was born a man but now describes herself as a post-op transsexual, said: ‘The surrendering of women’s changing rooms to anyone who claims to be a woman really is nothing other than the natural consequence of saying that anybody can be a woman.’

It is clear that shops followed the British Retail Consortium’s guidance.

Tamara Hill, its employment adviser, said: ‘Retailers strive to be inclusive and encourage their customers to choose whichever fitting rooms they feel most comfortable using.’

However, Debbie Hayton, a teacher and transgender rights campaigner, said: ‘The shop workers are left in an impossible position. Shops have a duty to produce a clear policy that they consult on and everybody understands.’

Stonewall is a lesbian, gay and bisexual rights charity that tried repeatedly to reach the MoS, but was unsuccessful.