Elite sport is becoming a platform to target the trans community

Elite sport is becoming a platform to target the trans community
A transgender pride flag at a protest against white supremacy and discrimination after the events in Charlottesville, Virginia. Credit: Michael Moloney/Shutterstock

Tennis champion Martina Navratilova recently called the participation of transgender women in elite female sporting competitions "insane" and "cheating."

And she's not alone. Several other prominent athletes have also used social media, mainly Twitter, to voice their concern about the eligibility of transgender women in sport, including former British swimmer Sharron Davies, double Olympic champion Dame Kelly Holmes, and former long-distance runner Paula Radcliffe.

There is an inherent contempt that lies within these statements, and it impacts more than just trans athletes. It can impact the integrity of public discourse by reducing the debate to be about whether trans women are "real women," and we need to move past this crude and destructive rhetoric.

Here, I use the term trans as an umbrella term to include all identities within the trans community, such as transgender and transitioned athletes.

What is the debate really about?

So why have we revisited this discussion in recent weeks? We are witnessing a broader movement against the trans community.

Australian gay rights activists Dennis Altman and Jonathan Symons call it the "queer wars" in their book of the same title. They explain how resistance to LGBTI issues across the globe is being used by governments and religious leaders to uphold traditional values, and increased polarisation towards LGBTI rights.

In recent years, we saw bathrooms used as a platform for division in the US. In 2016, North Carolina became the first US state to introduce a law prohibiting transgender people from using the restroom corresponding to their gender.

Then, in Australia, the Australian Christian Lobby suggested a "yes" vote for marriage equality would lead to boys wearing dresses to the detriment of society.

And the UK saw backlash against a youth trans charity, called Mermaids, where half a million pounds of funding was disputed.

It seems sport is now being used as yet another tool to incite fear and hatred towards the trans community.

Some male commentators have raised concerns that the integrity of women's sport is at risk. But where have these so-called male champions of change been in advancing women's sport in recent years?

Another commonly-cited issue is that men might identify as women to reap rewards in competition. There have been no reported cases of men transitioning to women to earn money and dominate podiums. It is simply a myth.

Do trans polices in sport work?

The introduction of the International Olympic Committee's policy on trans athletes in 2003 – amended in 2013 to remove surgical requirements and introduce a minimal level of testosterone – has led to no publicly out trans athletes competing at the Olympic games.

At the Commonwealth Games, trans weightlifter Laurel Hubbard qualified, but had to withdraw due to injury.

Therefore, the perception that trans women are, and will, dominate women's elite sport is not supported with any clear evidence.

UK research also found, after reviewing a series of trans policies in elite sport: "the majority of these policies were unfairly discriminating against transgender people, especially transgender females."

If we are to start scrutinising the ethics and integrity around cheating and enforcing a level playing field, there are many other places we could start.

Match fixing, illegal gambling markets, substance abuse, and corruption have been found to exist within local grassroots matches in Victoria. Issues around ball tampering, match fixing at various levels of tennis, doping within various sporting codes, and salary cap breaches have also been reported at the elite level.

Particularly in women's sport, there is a disproportionate allocation of funding and resources compared to men's sport, a gross lack of media coverage, and women continue to fight for equal pay.

Advancing trans and gender diverse inclusion in sport

New guidelines and policies are being introduced from various sporting codes in the coming year in Australia.

The Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission led the way with updated guidelines last year, but the most prominent policy to be released soon will be the Australian Human Rights Commission and Sport Australia's guidelines for Trans and Gender Diverse Athletes in Sport. This will likely be adopted by most sporting codes in Australia.

But as the debate continues, it is important we hear from trans athletes. No trans person has the same transition experience and there is great diversity among the trans community. We also need to understand the wider impact of negative commentary against this community.

What we have seen so far from the Olympic movement is promising in promoting trans inclusion in sport. The International Olympic Committee released mini documentaries about trans athletes in sport, and Tokyo 2020 is set to have gender neutral bathrooms.

We must remember that sport is a human right, and should be accessible to everybody, regardless of gender identity.


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Citation: Elite sport is becoming a platform to target the trans community (2019, March 15) retrieved 19 August 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2019-03-elite-sport-platform-transcommunity.html
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Mar 15, 2019
I support a person's right to identify their own gender, but even if trans person chooses gender reassignment, it cannot change the musculature of the body someone was born with or passes through adolescence with. Muscle mass in someone born biologically male is frequently denser than a biologically-born female, regardless of how someone identifies. This isn't "anti" anything - just an observation of the human body's muscle systems. And this would raise legitimate concerns about the advantage one competitor could have over another based on biological muscular differences. In the sport of professional boxing, matches are arranged between competitors of like weight class (lightweight, heavyweight, etc.) This is not to exclude participants but to make sure that competitors are equally matched with an equal chance of winning.We are living in unprecedented times. We must find ways to respect individual identity, but at the same time ensure that the playing field is equal for all.

Mar 15, 2019
One last note: the UK's Mermaids drew the brunt of criticism not because it supported trans youth, but because it was accused of 1) encouraging parents to impart trans identities on children too young to fully comprehend the total complexity of sexual identity, 2) encouraging the idea of gender reassignment surgery on underage children, and 3) silencing any viewpoints that opposed 1) and 2) as well as declaring any such viewpoints to be anti-trans.

Mar 16, 2019
Exactly. Saying that a trans woman didn't grow up in a body with completely different hormones and a distinct muscle building profile is like denying that the Earth orbits the Sun. I am completely for the freedom of people to express themselves and identify as they will (so long as it is not causing harm to others), but this I find it completely unacceptable to accuse sports establishment as "anti-trans" because they are citing this obvious fact. In general, the tactic of immediately slapping the "anti-trans" label at anyone who doubts or questions is hypocritical, coming from a group seeking to have a say. Diplomacy would likely win more allies...

Mar 16, 2019
A characteristic of sociopaths, depicting even valid criticisms as "hate". A half a million pounds missing from a foundation and the members claim that investigation is a sign of "hate" of the sex deviances.
In the end, the sex deviances are all signs of mental instability. They have clinical characteristics like depression lasting longer than a year and anxiety disorder. They all have self loathing at levels higher than other groups, caused by the fact they can't control themselves to keep from engaging in sexual practices they find foul. They take drugs in massive amounts to live with the lack of self control and they commit suicides at higher rates than other groups because they can't live with that.
Add that homosexuals are trying to have deliberately infecting another with AIDS only a misdemeanor and you have depraved indifference to human life.

Mar 16, 2019
It is unfair for a XX biological woman with two X chromosomes to have to compete with a XY trans woman who has a Y chromosome that has been instructing her body to produce male hormones and a male body since it was a fetus. This is the main rationale for women's sports and has been the main reason men have typically been banned from women's teams.

Mar 17, 2019
Is this one sided in favour of Birls

That it favours men
who compete in girls sport
by saying they are girls
if these men are being genuine
why do they not compete
against like minded men
who are saying they are girls
have you seen some of these Birls
they have all the makeup on
but their muscles and body build
puts American marines in the body wimp category
this not being unfair to Birls
As these Birls are being unfair to Girls

Mar 17, 2019
Is this one sided in favour of Birls

That it favours men
who compete in girls sport
by saying they are girls
if these men are being genuine
why do they not compete
against like minded men
who are saying they are girls
have you seen some of these Birls
they have all the makeup on
but their muscles and body build
puts American marines in the body wimp category
this not being unfair to Birls
As these Birls are being unfair to Girls

I guess this adds new meaning to birled wood....

Mar 17, 2019
Well if gender is a "fluid" as they claim there should be no woman's or man's sports. Get rid of all Title 9 laws in education. Give the SJW students the equality that they crave.

Mar 17, 2019
So, trans women are not "real women" and their masculinity must disqualify them from women's sport. Well, what about real jobs, where real women compete with men whose masculinity better qualifies them. Say, for example, the fire service where greater strength can be the difference between life and death. Does that disqualify women?

Mar 18, 2019
The point being that if a transgender woman doesn't have a uterus and ovaries within "her" body, then that "woman" is not a woman at all, but an imposter, a pretender.
The same with a transgender man who was not born with a penis and testicles, that person is not a man at all and is an imposter.
But one thing I know for certain; the vast majority of normal men have no problem with a transgender "man" using the mens' toilet as we all know that she will more than likely need to sit down to pee.
:)
It might give men the incentive to keep the mens' bathroom a tad bit cleaner and neater.

Mar 18, 2019
One last note: the UK's Mermaids drew the brunt of criticism not because it supported trans youth, but because it was accused of 1) encouraging parents to impart trans identities on children too young to fully comprehend the total complexity of sexual identity, 2) encouraging the idea of gender reassignment surgery on underage children, and 3) silencing any viewpoints that opposed 1) and 2) as well as declaring any such viewpoints to be anti-trans.


Transgenderism is the outward expression of a sick and confused mind. Instead of trying to alleviate and/or remedy this problem amongst young people, the psychiatric industry has been encouraging it - to the detriment and downfall of society at large.
The shame of it is that these trannies are looking/searching for acceptance and assurance from society and, when they don't get it, they either become depressed and sullen, or they hit out at their perceived enemies. It's a form of demonic possession that has come over them

Mar 18, 2019
Depression and suicide are a real problem among transgenders. Yet there are mothers and fathers out there that are asking doctors to give gender changing hormones to pre-teens. These actions are child abuse.

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