by Debbie Hayton
Friday, 1
October 2021
Reaction
10:35

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.

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James Joyce
James Joyce
7 months ago

This reminds me of a BBC interview some years ago. A Dutch guy wanted to change his age on official documents so he could “honestly” say on dating apps that he was 45 instead of 65 or whatever the ages were. He “certified” that he felt 45, and had documents from physicians attesting to the “fact” that he had the body of a 45 year old, and had seen psychologists attesting to his mental fitness. He also seemed to be living as a 45 year old…. OK, ha ha, good for him! Good joke!
But he was good! He compared all of the above to a trans person: he had a doctor’s certification, he was of sound mind, and had “lived” as a 45 year old. The interviewer, a person who menstruates, just could not accept any of this, and was (seemingly) completely oblivious to his argument, repeating over and over again something like “But you’re not 45….” She just didn’t get it, and it was hilarious to listen to her protestations while not seeing the direct correlation to the arguments that are put forward by trans people, which must be accepted or one risks cancellation.
Monty Python would have such fun….

Debbie Hayton
Debbie Hayton
7 months ago
Reply to  James Joyce

Monty python was prophetic on this. Never has that line from The Life of Brian – “his struggle against reality” – been so meaningful.

Wilfred Davis
Wilfred Davis
7 months ago
Reply to  James Joyce

“But you’re not 45….”

But was the interviewer wrong to insist on fact?

Anyone interested might like to go to YouTube and search for this: ‘Gender Identity: Can a 5’9, White Guy Be a 6’5, Chinese Woman?’ [https://wwwDOTyoutubeDOTcom/watch?v=xfO1veFs6Ho&t=103s]
The interviews, conducted on a US university campus (over five years ago) seem to suggest that he can. All he has to do is say that he is, and he is.

There are other clips on the same lines.

Angie Beverley
Angie Beverley
7 months ago
Reply to  Wilfred Davis

I’ve had a look at the YouTube video you suggested and found it quite bizarre that youngsters are able to be brainwashed to such an extent. It’s clear to see that they’re not comfortable as they deny what they really think and feel in their attempt to demonstrate how inclusive they are. That video led me to another with Piers Morgan- Gender neutral family are raising their child as a Theyby. Wow these people have too much time on their hands. If they were working in minimum wage jobs, they wouldn’t have the time or energy to be so attention seeking! Thankfully working class people aren’t falling for this nonsense.

Mike Bell
Mike Bell
7 months ago
Reply to  James Joyce

person who menstruates“!? You are clearly a radical Post-Menopausist!

Diana Durham
Diana Durham
7 months ago

Thank God, at last a gleam of common sense.

Adrian Maxwell
Adrian Maxwell
7 months ago

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 …….

Wilfred Davis
Wilfred Davis
7 months ago
Reply to  Adrian Maxwell

… not safe to assume that I’m afraid.

If you’d care to look at the YouTube clip I referenced in reply to James Joyce, you’ll see why.

A white chap, 5 foot 9, finds many people on a US campus happily accept that he is a 6 foot 5 Chinese woman, if he says he is.

He also asks whether he can be a seven-year old child. Nobody says an outright No.

So, over at the Guardian cafeteria … will they laugh at your preposterous idea, or just giggle nervously because they daren’t contradict you? (It would be unkind to hurt a child’s feelings, after all, wouldn’t it?)

R S Foster
R S Foster
7 months ago
Reply to  Adrian Maxwell

…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…

Niobe Hunter
Niobe Hunter
7 months ago
Reply to  R S Foster

Sweden puts them in primary schools

Dennis Boylon
Dennis Boylon
7 months ago

We are supposedly making great intellectual advances with the improvements in computers and data science… and here we are just acknowledging that there are differences in the sexes. Clown world.

Jon Hawksley
Jon Hawksley
7 months ago

Another senible article from Debbie Hayton. You compete in sport to challenge yourself and to win. A level playing field is essential if winning is to be both attainable and mean anything. An open category enables you to compete to be the best of all participants. Restricted categories enable you to compete with an achievable chance of winning against comparable participants and can be based on factors that limit performance such as age, weight, biological sex or other factors such as disabilities. It also makes it clear that someone who won medals before transitioning is entitled to keep them after transitioning.

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
7 months ago

Great news that common sense appears to prevail in at least one Sports official body. We’re bodies with penises and vaginas involved or men and women?

Niobe Hunter
Niobe Hunter
7 months ago

Laurel Hubbard has just been given a SPORTSWOMAN of the Year award in New Zealand.

Julia H
Julia H
7 months ago
Reply to  Niobe Hunter

Thereby denying it to a woman.

Peter LR
Peter LR
7 months ago

This sounds encouraging so let’s see if people are prepared to accept and act on “The Science”!
So, Debbie, how do you manage to fit in both journalism AND lesson preparation and marking?

Debbie Hayton
Debbie Hayton
7 months ago
Reply to  Peter LR

I’m now a part-time teacher. I would not be able to pursue other interests if I worked in school full-time.

Allan Dawson
Allan Dawson
7 months ago
Reply to  Debbie Hayton

Bahhhh…. [Airily waving away such a poor excuse]… I reckon, can’t be arsed is more likely…honestly, teachers and their excuses for dodging work. 🙂

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
7 months ago
Reply to  Allan Dawson

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.

Allan Dawson
Allan Dawson
7 months ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

Clearly my attempt at humour was seen as a dud.

David Morley
David Morley
7 months ago
Reply to  Allan Dawson

I got it

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
7 months ago
Reply to  Allan Dawson

Leave Debbie alone. Thankfully she spends time writing articles that are informed, logical and reasonable. This is a phenomenon that is as rare as a dodo in respect of this topic.

Graeme Laws
Graeme Laws
7 months ago

Are there really enough trans women and trans men to make an ‘open’ category workable in any mainstream competitive sport? And wouldn’t the trans women – biologically male -have an unfair advantage over the trans men – biologically female? This all gets more complicated by the day.

Niobe Hunter
Niobe Hunter
7 months ago
Reply to  Graeme Laws

No one is obliged to enter

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
7 months ago
Reply to  Graeme Laws

I thought it would simply be two categories, a female one for biological women, and an open one for everybody else, so male and trans.

Scott Norman Rosenthal
Scott Norman Rosenthal
7 months ago

I’ve heard reports that in the U.S. transwomen have had their Birth Certificates altered.

Andrea Re
Andrea Re
7 months ago

I wonder, we could have “open” and “ladies” toilets too.

The idea that women are ever SO useless that they need categories reserved to them, as opposed to the grown ups who play in the “open”, makes me feel rather uneasy. Personally I would find it rather degrading. If you have men’s and women’s event you don’t have this feeling of belonging to a B category.

Are there cases, in sport or elsewhere, where men are the protected category? There must be.

Allan Dawson
Allan Dawson
7 months ago
Reply to  Andrea Re

It isn’t Men’s and Women’s as such, it is events where people who were formally men can compete against big and bulky gentic females who chose to compete against the men who were formally women or for trans players to play against other trains players.

If women’s sport is to survive, trans and genetic men need to kept out of it or genetic women get crushed…look at the boys hammering the girls at netball..

https://www.news.com.au/sport/netball/boys-netball-team-hits-back-after-title-win-over-girls-sparks-uproar/news-story/11a96e05f6481ac113191c9aabdc7e72

…the crowd being spot on in their reaction to the idea of young men (with all their physical advantages over young women) being allowed to play against young women.

And more seriously, when former men are allowed to play against women in a contact sport…the gentic females are in real danger of getting hurt…
https://www.rugbypass.com/news/thats-ideology-not-science-renowned-sports-scientist-steps-in-on-transwomen-in-rugby-debate/

Last edited 7 months ago by Allan Dawson
Samir Iker
Samir Iker
7 months ago
Reply to  Allan Dawson

The problem here is, some of those same feeble bodied women for whose benefit we have these weird, artificial, women only events….would turn around and abuse you and accuse you of being a sexist monster, if you suggest that women are not physically as strong. Case in point, McEnroe being under attack for claiming the Williams were not the greatest ever and stating (accurately) that they would struggle to beat rank 700 in the men’s circuit.

Allan Dawson
Allan Dawson
7 months ago
Reply to  Samir Iker

Sometimes, stating the facts, makes people ever so cross.

Andrea Re
Andrea Re
7 months ago
Reply to  Allan Dawson

I understand all that, but I would think that sportswomen would find this kind of categorization demeaning.
In the end what you do in order to get the trans brigade out of women’s sports is to create a b-class event. I think from such a premise you can forget about things like equal prize money and such trivialities as you have enshrined that women are not as good. Mind you, that could well be true, but if that is the case you should be open about it.
I don’t think the solution is nearly as simple as Debbie thinks.

Allan Dawson
Allan Dawson
7 months ago
Reply to  Andrea Re

No, I never said not as good, just not able to compete with women who were once men, especially in contact sports.
Think about, say Martin Johnson, a former professional rugby union player..even if he transitioned during his playing days, he’d still be a Big F56kin’ Unit, way more powerful than any female he would have been likely to play against and his female opponent would run the risk of serious injury.

That risk of a bigger player injuring a smaller player is the reason we have age groups in sport (and in NZ, they segregate by weight to try and reduce the chance of a player vs player mismatch causing an injury…recognising the laws of physics as they apply in the real world, not how progressive Loons wished how the laws of physics operated).

Al M
Al M
7 months ago
Reply to  Andrea Re

I have to agree with you and was going to post much the same. It does make women’s sport into ‘b’ grade, rather than a level competitive field for half of the population.

The question of inclusion is difficult also. People have a right to take exercise, but competitive sport requires the consent of all participants to function. The current situation attempts to use equality law to place an obligation on some athletes to compete against those who they view as having an unfair advantage. This is not sustainable.

Julia H
Julia H
7 months ago
Reply to  Andrea Re

I’m afraid this is just nonsense. Why do you think that women’s sport is B class? That sounds like straightforward prejudice against women. There are sports where single sex events really don’t matter, for example the equestrian sports which often have mixed teams. Ditto tennis with mixed doubles. But you’d have to be insane to think that, for example, Emma Raducanu could beat Novak Djokovic in a singles match. The physical disparity is striking.

Andrea Re
Andrea Re
7 months ago
Reply to  Allan Dawson

Just read the article about netball. That is different situation, though. It wasn’t boys posing as girls, but boys play against girls.
I wonder what got into the mind of whatever regulator decided that.
Also, that boys’ team must have been crap too, and yet.
I think that is an interesting case study.

One of the comments nailed it: we should have open competitions only, everyone included (boys, men, trans, girls, disabled… you name it), then boxing would become interesting.

Last edited 7 months ago by Andrea Re
Julia H
Julia H
7 months ago
Reply to  Andrea Re

Women would disappear from sport.

Niobe Hunter
Niobe Hunter
7 months ago
Reply to  Andrea Re

Well, we could. The problem is that currently people with male chromosomes, and all that that entails, are able to ignore the signposts and use the inappropriate space, or compete in the inappropriate sport.
The idea that an open category would somehow reduce the prestige of women’s sport is rather analogous to saying that if a bantam weight fighter didn’t compete in an open event against heavyweights, their prowess would be diminished.

Andrea Re
Andrea Re
7 months ago
Reply to  Niobe Hunter

Their prowess *would* be diminished if there was a protected category event and an open event.

I have seen it in Bridge. There are ladies events, which are notoriously weaker, and the open, which is where you want to do well, and where women are very rarely indeed at the top (hence the protected event).

Last edited 7 months ago by Andrea Re
Julia H
Julia H
7 months ago
Reply to  Andrea Re

Bantam weight is a protected category. That’s how boxing works.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
7 months ago
Reply to  Andrea Re

I’m a man and much prefer separate toilets. In all this talk of ‘sharing spaces’, actual men were never consulted on what they thought. It was just naturally assumed we would have no problem seeing women going to the toilet. Not only that, but I can’t imagine it’s all that pleasant either for women to have sit on a lavatory bowl that many men have used.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
7 months ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

It is effing disgusting. I would rather use a stadium buddy.

Al M
Al M
7 months ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

The ghastly shared toilet was fashionable in nightclubs in the noughties, especially hip London ones. Banks of urinals and cubicles in the same room. It was a truly dreadful experience for all concerned.

David Morley
David Morley
7 months ago
Reply to  Andrea Re

I guess women could enter events in the open category if they want to.