‘No magic solution’ to issue of trans people in women’s grassroots sports

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir September 30, 2021 11:39

New guidelines for transgender participation in national and grassroots sport state that trans women retain physique, stamina and strength advantages when competing against women, and there is ‘no magic solution’ to solve the issue.

This topic has been particularly prominent since Laurel Hubbard, someone who competed in professional men’s weightlifting for 14 years, participated in a women’s weightlifting event at this year’s Olympics.

It has also affected golf as, for example, Hailey Davidson, a former men’s professional golfer, this year won a women’s professional tournament.

Scientists such as Professor Ross Tucker have said this isn’t fair as males who have gone through puberty have numerous significant physical advantages over women including typically larger hearts and lungs, and a lower body fat percentage.

However, Davidson said: “During the tournament that I won, I wasn’t the longest hitter in the group. I hit the ball 270 yards and the longest LPGA player hits 291. I lost 30 yards of distance from all of the years of hormones and the lack of testosterone my body no longer creates. So, basically, what advantage do I have again?”

The new guidance, published by five UK sports councils, UK Sport, Sport England, Sport Wales, SportScotland and Sport Northern Ireland, has taken 18 months to complete and states “there is no magic solution which balances the inclusion of trans women in female sport while guaranteeing competitive fairness and safety,” according to the BBC.

It urges each sport’s national governing body to find “innovative and creative ways to ensure nobody is left out” – including coming up with new formats.

Currently most sports follow the guidelines set by the International Olympic Committee in 2015, which permit trans women to compete in female sport if they suppress their testosterone levels below 10nmol per litre.

However, in August the IOC admitted these rules were “not fit for purpose” and will be revised, and the UK sports councils state that suppressing testosterone for 12 months “cannot guarantee fairness”.

“Rather, there appears to be a retention of physical capacity in transgender people who suppress testosterone from male levels,” says the report.

“This is due to retained differences in strength, stamina and physique between the average woman compared with the average transgender woman or non-binary person recorded male at birth, with or without testosterone suppression.

“As a result of what the review found, the guidance concludes that the inclusion of transgender people into female sport cannot be balanced regarding transgender inclusion, fairness and safety in gender-affected sport where there is meaningful competition.”

In their report, the sport councils set out 10 “guiding principles” for sports to follow, including acknowledging the fact that categorisation by sex is lawful. They also state that sports should protect the female category by having open and “female-only” categories, but that the governing bodies for each sport should work out their priorities and choose whether they will focus on inclusion or “competitive fairness”.

The report concludes that it is fair and safe for transgender people to be included within the male category in most sports.

The guidance covers community sport up to national level – not international, professional or elite sport.

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir September 30, 2021 11:39
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