by Debbie Hayton
Friday, 1
October 2021

New guidance recognises biological sex in sport

The Sports Councils Equality Group came out in defence of women-only sport
by Debbie Hayton
Weightlifter Laurel Hubbard competing for New Zealand (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

Finally, some sense has been injected into the trans debate, specifically on the inclusion of transgender people in sport.

Guidance published yesterday by the Sports Councils Equality Group (SCEG) states what everyone once knew to be true: biological sex matters in sport. Policy is the responsibility of National Governing Bodies (NGBs), but the recommendations from the SCEG — a group of officers from all the UK Sports Councils — will be hard to ignore.

Crucially, the guidance states: “Competitive fairness cannot be reconciled with self-identification into the female category in gender-affected sport.” I might have preferred the word “sex”, but “gender-affected” is the language of the Equality Act. The law is clear and has been since 2010: NGBs can “restrict participation of transsexual people in such competitions if this is necessary to uphold fair or safe competition.”

That is easy to forget in 2021, the year when the International Olympic Committee’s inclusive rules allowed Laurel Hubbard — a biological male — to qualify in the women’s’ weightlifting competition in Tokyo.

Sport should be inclusive, but it must also be fair. We do not allow adults to enter events for children, so why have we been including males in female events? A competitive advantage arises in both cases. Moving forwards, the SCEG considers an approach that should be both inclusive and fair: two categories, open and female. It’s not a revolutionary idea — indeed I suggested it myself in The Post earlier this year — but the SCEB has credibility and influence over NGBs.

The open category is inclusive by definition while the female category protects the right of women to compete exclusively against their own sex. Moreover, the SCEB are clear in their definitions: “Female entries would be required to declare themselves as recorded female at birth.” That is not something anyone could “identify into.”

Governing bodies that take this approach would give everyone clarity and certainty. For transgender people it might require a change of thinking, but I believe we would be better for it. No longer would transwomen — biological males — rely on arbitrary rules to encroach on the rights of women.

Not everyone is on board with these ideas. Stonewall UK merely appealed to history: “Trans women are already participating in sports, without any evidence of unfair advantages or safety risks.” Unfortunately for them, current research suggests otherwise. Earlier this year, Hilton and Lundberg that concluded that even following testosterone suppression, “strength, lean body mass, muscle size and bone density are only trivially affected.”

With this new SCEB guidance, NGBs should now have the confidence to follow that science and develop policies that are not only inclusive, but safe and fair for everybody.

Join the discussion

  • Debbie, you make a point that seems to me to have been hiding in plain sight. That it would be preposterous from me to self identify as a child. The idea would be laughed out of the Guardian cafeteria. At least I assume it would …….

  • …I suspect the Guardianistas would fall over themselves to recognise a burly asylum seeker with heavy and white-tinged beard as being in their ealy teens as and when required…

  • If you work part-time, you earn part-time pay. It’s hardly work dodging. I’m a teacher and have had plenty of friends who thought this too about teachers. A couple of them even went into teaching assuming it’d be a walk in the park. After a year they were all too happy to return to their 9-hour a day corporate jobs.
    Teaching is tough. It’s not just the hours of managing undisciplined children, but the endless grind of grading, filling in pointless rubrics to prove you have graded properly, lesson preparation, irate parents, low status, low pay, holier-than-thou colleagues, zero advancement, and school leaders who share the same opinion of us as you.
    I’m not scolding you 🙂 I don’t think you were being all that serious, but many people believe that just because we have school holidays we’re not entitled to complain about work.
    And indeed, there are lazy teachers. I won’t deny that. Often though, it is the more conscientious teachers that get taken advantage of the most. In my last college I was teaching 33 hours a week to approximately 700 students. After a year I had to resign, because the situation was no longer feasible.

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