The NSPCC has cancelled a debate about transgender children after public criticism for inviting an alleged anti-trans figure to take part.

The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children announced earlier this week that it is holding a ‘Dare to Debate’ session on October 25, with the subject ‘Is society letting transgender children down?’.

No actual expert on transgender children was set to be part of the event, with the panel consisting of former boxing promoter Kellie Maloney, who came out as trans last year aged 61, and Sarah Ditum, a feminist writer who opponents say has a history of extreme comments about trans people.

A petition calling on Ms Ditum to be dropped from the event cited her as a person “who actively campaigns against supporting trans children with anything but conversion therapy”.

Ms Ditum denies she is an “anti-trans campaigner”, suggesting she aims to assess the “conflicted state of scientific evidence for gender identity”.

She has previously described reporting on the high rates of suicide among young trans people as “bullshit”, suggesting that trans suicides are caused by “telling people they can become meaningful by killing themselves” rather than bullying and discrimination.

On another occasion she wrote: “Some women would like to have spaces without dick, same as a gunshot victim should have rifle-free spaces.”

Yesterday the NSPCC defended the debate to PinkNews, claiming it would focus on “asking what society should be doing for trans children and young people” despite the lack of experts on trans children.

But in a statement today, it confirmed the event would be axed, after it became clear the trans community would shun the debate.

It said: “Our Dare to Debate seminars are designed to provoke debate about serious issues facing children today – child protection issues that might not otherwise get the focus that they deserve.

“The next debate in the series was intended to shine a light on the difficulties and problems that trans children face in the UK, to ask whether society is doing enough to help them and discuss what more can and should be done.

“Children and young people are increasingly raising concerns about trans issues and gender dysphoria.

“Many trans children have felt that they aren’t getting the support that they need and we wanted to explore how these young people could be more supported within our communities.

“However, the trans community have raised concerns and told us that they don’t support the NSPCC hosting this discussion.

“We have listened, and following the withdrawal of a keynote speaker, we are no longer hosting this event.”