by Debbie Hayton
Tuesday, 30
August 2022
Debate
10:15

Trans player wins women’s billiards championship

Why was Jamie Hunter allowed to compete against biological women?
by Debbie Hayton
Jamie Hunter. Credit: Facebook

Jamie Hunter is currently pocketing the prizes in women’s billiards and snooker. In the last two weeks, the 25 year-old has won both the World Women’s Billiards Championship and the US Women’s Snooker Open.

Hunter only joined the World Women’s Snooker Tour in 2021, after “coming out as transgender in 2019 and going through the process in 2020”. In an interview with SnookerZone, Hunter explained:

I think because I have played in the Widnes amateur league for 5 years as a male, and very rarely gone outside of Halton/Merseyside, I know most of the people in the clubs, and so when I came out as trans, I was already part of that snooker world so I was still Jamie, I just looked and acted different, so nothing really changed in terms of being welcome.
- Jamie Hunter

Surely, that is something to celebrate? It is certainly testament to the widespread acceptance and goodwill that we transgender people now enjoy in the UK. Indeed, since snooker and billiards are open to both men and women, gender transition should not stop anyone competing in the Widnes amateur league. But neither should it be a passport into the women’s game.

Because while women are welcome to enter open competitions, they are clearly at a disadvantage. England’s Reanne Evans — described as “the most successful female snooker player of all-time” — is currently top of the women’s rankings but is simultaneously placed 115 in the list with men. Ronnie O’Sullivan is unlikely to lose his crown to a woman any time soon.

The ability to pot balls, assemble breaks and snooker an opponent might not depend on speed or strength, but people with male bodies evidently have the edge over people with female bodies. For that reason alone, a separate women’s tour means that the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association can properly recognise and reward half the population.

This might sound like the “open plus female” solution that has been proposed by Sharron Davies and others: one competition that anyone can enter — what could be more inclusive than that? — and a second that women can hope to win. But it is only a fair solution if access to women’s sports is limited to people with female biology.

Let’s be clear, Hunter has played by the rules. But that does not make it right. If those rules remain, it may only be a matter of time before Hunter — already ranked 12th in women’s snooker — or another transgender competitor reaches the top spot, leaving women to compete for second place, or perhaps third, fourth or fifth.

The WPBSA needs to take urgent action. Partly to protect their transgender players from taking the brunt of possible push-back, but mainly to protect the integrity of the women’s tour. Being a woman is far more than a feeling in anyone’s head, and the WPBSA owes it to their female competitors to recognise that fact.

Join the discussion


To join the discussion, get the free daily email and read more articles like this, sign up.

It's simple, quick and free.

Sign me up
Subscribe
Notify of
guest
69 Comments
Most Voted
Newest Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
1 month ago

I must confess that I’m not sure why a male body should give an edge in billiards or snooker. Perhaps men are just better at the game, but then again – why? More practice? But women, I presume, practise just as much. Better spatial awareness? It has been shown in some studies that men do indeed have a better spatial awareness than women. This latter proposition would throw the cat among the pigeons, though, because this is more than body difference it is difference in mental ability in a particular field, which would indicate that even changing his body would not make him female, he would have to loose certain abilities that come with being a man and gain those that come with being a woman. This is all speculation on my behalf, using some studies that seem to show differences over and above physical ones, but it’s worth considering , even just to throw it out.

William Shaw
William Shaw
1 month ago

Indeed. Debbie just inadvertently suggested the existence of the male brain… something that feminists have been disavowing vigorously since, if real, it would fundamentally undermine their most cherished beliefs.

Last edited 1 month ago by William Shaw
Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
1 month ago
Reply to  William Shaw

This possibly because every time there is a suggestion that male and female brains may be different there is a barrage of people (usually men) saying that this just proves that one sex is better/cleverer than the other, and low and behold this is usually men who are superior. This happens mostly because male traits are privileged over female one, even by many women, especially feminists.

Aaron James
Aaron James
1 month ago

”there is a suggestion that male and female brains may be different”

That is because there is a big difference, a huge one. It is ‘sex linked’ (on the chromosomes where X and Y act differently)

IQ is on the X chromosomes. Women get two XX, they average out.

Man get one XY, they are what it is.

This means men vastly out number women in the very low IQ – but also in the very top – their exceptional X is not averaged down to mere normal genius because there is just the one X. This is why men are the top in science, and CEO.s and so on – they are stupider and smarter on the ends of the bell curve. Or so is the theory.

(Then is all the propensity for violence, and competition, and mating and so on,,,)

Aaron James
Aaron James
1 month ago

”a barrage of people (usually men) saying that this just proves that one sex is better/cleverer”

haha, I guess I fell into that role here… But it also is why women are outnumbering men at University so much – women are more numerous in the university range of IQ by this mechanism. Not that this was really true back in the days when it took 120 IQ to handle University at all – let alone the hard stuff – but now days when 110 can do the trick, or 100 at a pinch, Women outnumber the men because so many men are down in the 80s and half of the people go to University….

It is the same X’es handed back and forth across the sexes and generations – but it is how they act in each sex that is different.

how long will this comment last?…..my guess is not long….
(see my ‘sex linked’ XX and XY reasoning below)

Last edited 1 month ago by Aaron James
Andy O'Gorman
Andy O'Gorman
1 month ago

We’re just wired differently – period.

Penny Adrian
Penny Adrian
1 month ago
Reply to  William Shaw

Real “feminists” NEVER disavow the existence of the male brain. We just happen to believe the male brain is more primitive and less evolved.
Sports, war, fart jokes, porn – all result from the inferior male brain.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
1 month ago
Reply to  Penny Adrian

I hope you don’t have any sons

Last edited 1 month ago by Julian Farrows
William Shaw
William Shaw
1 month ago
Reply to  Penny Adrian

“Real feminists”
Oh, right.
ROTFLMAO

Max Price
Max Price
1 month ago
Reply to  Penny Adrian

Your simplistic argument suggests you may be well in touch with your male side (primitive brain). Unless it was a sophisticated (female) attempt at humour that went over my head.

Andy O'Gorman
Andy O'Gorman
1 month ago
Reply to  Penny Adrian

Obviously you hang out with the wrong men.

Matthew Powell
Matthew Powell
1 month ago

It could just be the effect of a smaller talent pool due to lower levels of participation. Lower participation means less chance of discovering the most talented individuals in a population so gives the impression of inferior inherent talent in a group even if that is not the case. That could be all we are currently witnessing in snooker.

Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
1 month ago
Reply to  Matthew Powell

It could well be the case. I was just throwing out an idea here.

Dominic S
Dominic S
1 month ago
Reply to  Matthew Powell

This is a theory, but unlikely. The same effect is seen in vast numbers of sports, all of which one would have thought would have been an equal challenge no matter what sex the individual is.

It is certainly true that less women are interested in playing these sports, which will inevitably produce a smaller pool. But to say that there is therefore going to be no-one in that pool capable of competing at the top level with men at such sports as billiards, snooker, motor racing, and so on, seems rather patronising to those who do compete.

The fact is that men and women are different, and not only in body but in mind too. This will inevitably have an effect when they enter into some ‘competition’ with one another. Women are better at some things (ultra marathons), men at others (snooker). End of. Why can’t we live with this, instead of trying to explain it away?

Andy O'Gorman
Andy O'Gorman
1 month ago
Reply to  Dominic S

Some of those sports do need strength. Ultra marathons times between men and women are not even comparable.
We have just had the Comrades Marathon between Durban and Pietermaritzburg.
Men’s time: 5h30m
Women’s time: 6h17m
3/4 of a hour difference.

Last edited 1 month ago by Andy O'Gorman
Su Mac
Su Mac
1 month ago
Reply to  Matthew Powell

That would also be my suggestion Matthew

Andy O'Gorman
Andy O'Gorman
1 month ago
Reply to  Matthew Powell

I’ve met many great women players and I suspect you are correct with you summation.
Walk into any bar on any given day and the men will outnumber the ladies 2/3 to 1.
And it really takes practice not only eye ball coordination. Strength is not necessary at all. Most the best player use finesse.

Last edited 1 month ago by Andy O'Gorman
Josef Švejk
Josef Švejk
1 month ago

The main advantage males have over females at snooker and billiards is the carrying angle at the elbow. This provides a better angle for the shot and aligns better with the sight and occipital cortex of the brain and it’s attendant connections to the hippocampus, the store of all previous shots. This is not changed by gender reassignment surgery. It is a ludricous advantage given to transgender women to be allowed compete against women.

Su Mac
Su Mac
1 month ago
Reply to  Josef Švejk

Fancy that!

D. Bell
D. Bell
27 days ago

The physical differences between men and women are categorical, not ones of degree. Our skeletons are different; longer bones affect reach and leverage; larger hands change the way the cue is controlled; and yes, there may be spatial perception issues as well. Snooker and billiards are traditionally male pastimes that not many girls grow up playing, so there’s also the comfort and familiarity level. Women’s competitions are designed to allow for those differences and still give women a chance to reach the top spots. Everyone gets to play on a level field if there’s an open competition and a women’s competition.

Last edited 27 days ago by D. Bell
Andrew D
Andrew D
1 month ago

If being good at snooker doesn’t depend on speed or strength, why is it that women should be disadvantaged in any competition with men? Is it that men are genetically more focussed on, er, putting things in holes?

Debbie Hayton
Debbie Hayton
1 month ago
Reply to  Andrew D

The opportunity for innuendo is enormous, isn’t it? But if women are not disadvantaged, why hold spearate competitions for them?

Robert Hochbaum
Robert Hochbaum
1 month ago
Reply to  Debbie Hayton

Regarding the advantage men may have, considering billiards and snooker were probably created and developed over centuries by men, maybe it makes sense that men would be better even though it seems like physical strength or size is not necessary to be good at it. In other words, the games ‘evolved’ at the direction of men/male players (primarily). It would make sense that men would be better at them because the evolution of the game was directed by men. Similarly, I wonder if there are activities that were primarily invented and developed over a long time by women that were we to drop men into today we would find that they could not ‘compete’ well. It doesn’t have to be a sport. It could be something that favors traits that even a physically smaller man would not necessarily possess, traits that are inherent in women/female players or participants and that are not so obvious. A game or sport or activity that ‘evolved’ at the direction of women.

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
1 month ago
Reply to  Andrew D

Yes that’s what I was wondering. Surely snooker is one of those things (like darts) that men and women (and therefore trans-men & trans-women) can reasonably go head-to-head in (also no innuendo intended)?

Last edited 1 month ago by Katharine Eyre
Lennon Ó Náraigh
Lennon Ó Náraigh
1 month ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

There is also the Greater Male Variability hypothesis, which says that that the distribution of certain traits in males has greater variance compared to the distribution of the same traits for females. So two distributions can have the same average but different variances – illustrated nicely by the fact that more men than women are geniusus, but also, more men than women are idiots. If this is true, then there would be some rationale for sex-segregation in Snooker, Chess, etc.

William Shaw
William Shaw
1 month ago

It’s well known that men outnumber women significantly at the extremes of the normal distribution.

michael stanwick
michael stanwick
1 month ago

I was thinking of hypothesised visual cortex differences and also eye-hand co-ordination for example.

N Forster
N Forster
1 month ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

Perhaps testosterone has many effects, not only to do with strength?

michael stanwick
michael stanwick
1 month ago
Reply to  N Forster

Yes. In the anatomy of the visual cortex for example. One area of ongoing research IIRC is the differences in various brain structures and also in differences in skeletal anatomy (shoulder anatomy for example). Would be interesting and relevant as to whether these differences scale and therefore might play a significant role in comparative performance.

Andrew Dalton
Andrew Dalton
1 month ago

Could be. Although generally you wouldn’t use your shoulder in snooker as it throws the arm off line but it may give a more stable base for the elbow to pivot off.
There are a few players who do occasionally use their shoulder in their cue action to generate more power if needed.

Andrew Dalton
Andrew Dalton
1 month ago
Reply to  N Forster

Testosterone is a driver for status. This has a lot of down stream effects, both positive and negative.

Last edited 1 month ago by Andrew Dalton
Steve Elliott
Steve Elliott
1 month ago
Reply to  N Forster

Carole Hooven’s book Testosterone describes how there are three peaks of testosterone in male humans. The first occurs in the womb, the second soon after birth and the third at puberty. The first peak affects, among other things, the development of the babies brain. This is probably when men develop their fondness for fart jokes. So I don’t think it’s surprising that male and female brains are different in some ways and I’m sure it follows that it affects other things too.

Last edited 1 month ago by Steve Elliott
Andrew Dalton
Andrew Dalton
1 month ago
Reply to  Andrew D

The main points I can think:

  • Male tendency to obsession – snooker and darts are often regarded as sports of a misused youth.
  • Spatial awareness
  • Wider pool of interest

The first two points I’m talking about are population level trends. Obviously, individuals may be at a different point of the bell curve.
The final point exacerbates the first two.
There may be a minor advantage in snooker to having superior cue power. It would give a bigger range of available shots, but I don’t think it’s that much of an advantage – Jimmy White never managed a world championship, Judd Trump and Neil Robertson one each.

Arkadian X
Arkadian X
1 month ago

Exactly like chess or bridge. Even in non suspect times I often wondered why they had segregated competitions. Probably because, for whatever reason, women are just not that good. For example, if you look at bridge rankings the further up you go the fewer women there are. Clearly it is not strength or speed, but something relating to the psyche.
At club level it doesn’t matter as all competitions are mixed, but once you get into higher level tournaments the segregation begins.

Vanya Body
Vanya Body
1 month ago

Men’s arms are usually longer than a woman’s. Men’s legs are on average longer… Even women’s elbows work slightly differently. I am not sure how that particularly affects snooker playing, but I bet it does! Interesting detail can be found: https://fairplayforwomen.com/biological-sex-differences/

Nikki Hayes
Nikki Hayes
1 month ago
Reply to  Vanya Body

On the few occasions I have played snooker I found it almost impossible, mainly because I am only 5’3″ which means I need to use the rests far far more than a man would. Just one possible explanation of why men are better.

Spencer Andrew
Spencer Andrew
1 month ago

A fair amount of shots require power, such as deep screw or splitting the pack, which will disadvantage women.

There are a couple of professional male players who lack cue power, and it’s a handicap to their game because they can’t play certain shots.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
1 month ago
Reply to  Spencer Andrew

Amazed that you’re the only commenter to have identified this. Rather shows the non-working class nature of the Unherd readership!

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
1 month ago

Oh, and that’s a bad miss.

John Riordan
John Riordan
1 month ago

I’m a bit surprised that billiards is a gender-segregated sport in the first place, to be honest.

Dominic S
Dominic S
1 month ago
Reply to  John Riordan

It isn’t. It is segragated by sex. This gives women the chance to win something, because, as we read above, there is, like it or not, a difference between the abilities of men and women.

Tom Watson
Tom Watson
1 month ago

“A separate women’s tour means that the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association can properly recognise and reward that tiny fraction at the top of half the population who aren’t good enough to be competitive with the tiny fraction at the top of the other half, but nonetheless deserve recognition and reward in excess of what their equally-uncompetitive peers in that other half receive.”
Fixed it for you.

Martin Johnson
Martin Johnson
1 month ago

I notice that several commenters have placed the burden of proof on those arguing for a separate women’s division. Why should not the burden of proof be on those arguing against separate men and women divisions?
Getting everryone to place that burden where YOU want it placed is halfway to winning the war without the other side even knowing it–it lets you win every battle that is at all ambiguous, even if only a tiny bit.
It is a very insidious strategy.

Last edited 1 month ago by Martin Johnson
Dominic S
Dominic S
1 month ago
Reply to  Martin Johnson

Good point, well made.

Arkadian X
Arkadian X
1 month ago
Reply to  Martin Johnson

Because in this case it is not obvious at all why there should be sex categories. I am not saying that there shouldn’t be, but, unlike, say, athletics, the case to be made is not clear cut.

Alphonse Pfarti
Alphonse Pfarti
1 month ago
Reply to  Arkadian X

Isn’t it obvious? Plenty of evidence of better male performance and reasons why have been proposed here. Surely the point of the post above is that the case for change should be made by showing that there is no need for sex based categories, rather than those in favour of the status quo having to justify the current position. Change then becomes the default. It is an insidious way of proceeding.

Andrew Dalton
Andrew Dalton
1 month ago

Reanne played Ronnie in the first round of an open tournament (forget which one) she qualified for. She missed a long red and Ronnie got a 147.
On the other hand, snooker is a stupid game; Reanne could have won that because any pro is capable of clearing up. I’d give Reanne a chance of beating Ronnie (especially in shorter matches) but would never give Serena Williams a hope against Federer or Djockovic for instance.

Debbie Hayton
Debbie Hayton
1 month ago
Reply to  Andrew Dalton

Agreed. Which is why women do play on the open snooker tour, but not on the men’s tennis tour.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
1 month ago

People on Unherd seem to be rather unfamiliar with this sport. Snooker requires accuracy and a fair bit of arm strength, as well as spatial awareness.
Having bigger levers (arms and legs) to position yourself most comfortably on the table to deliver accuracy and strength from the optimum position means you have a far wider range of shots you can play as a man from any layout of b***s; and the best shots are more likely to arise for a man to play because of that capability. Add training, or conditioning, on spatial awareness for boys from childhood (apart from brain differences discussed by others), and the result is that women are at a significant disadvantage in this sport.

The arguments put here in other comments about brain differences would seem to be more relevant to darts however.

Last edited 1 month ago by Ian Stewart
Alphonse Pfarti
Alphonse Pfarti
1 month ago
Reply to  Ian Stewart

I imagine that both hand/eye co-ordination and body size would apply to both snooker and darts. The ability to see very fine angles, judge the effects of spin and then bring this together in a very precise action requires the realisation of cognitive abilities through physical ones. Longer limbs will confer a distinct advantage in the same way that a boxer’s reach makes a difference.

John Murray
John Murray
1 month ago

I’m usually firmly on the “no transwomen in women’s sport” view, but this seems like a case of a sport where gender-neutral contests would be fine. It may not be in the interests of the sport to have such contests because they want to encourage women to take up and enjoy it (more spectators, more money, etc). However, that is a different issue to sporting competitiveness.
Judit Polgar famously competed at the highest level in chess, intrinsically there does not seem to be any reason you couldn’t have a Polgar type in billiards/snooker. My guess would be that there are simply a lot more men than women playing billiards/snooker, so when it comes to the distribution of ability amongst competitors you are more likely to find greater ability in the males who play. Thus, an individual male from the amateur leagues can shoot up the women’s professional rankings, even though off-hand I can’t see any particular reason to believe male puberty confers inherent advantages in billiards/snooker.
.

Dominic S
Dominic S
1 month ago
Reply to  John Murray

Women have been allowed to enter snooker and pool competitions. They don’t do terribly well.

Alphonse Pfarti
Alphonse Pfarti
1 month ago

My suggestion for inclusion in professional sport is to revive the TV show Superstars, which will be familiar to those who grew up in the UK in the 70s and 80s. For the benefit of those who did not, prominent athletes competed in a smorgasbord of events, to be crowned a sort of all round champion. It was usually won by Brian Jacks from the UK Judo team.

So, contentious athletes to date:

1x road cyclist
1x track cyclist
1x weightlifter
1x golfer
1x swimmer
1x snooker player

All should compete against each other in each other’s discipline. You can also pick one event other than your own as a trump where you score double. The one who places highest overall is the winner. A veritable triumph of diversity and inclusion!

R Wright
R Wright
1 month ago

Why are men supposedly better at a game like snooker? Is it a spatial awareness issue?

Michael Askew
Michael Askew
1 month ago

Is it possible that the “advantage” that male snooker and billiards players have is simply a numerical one? If men playing snooker at club level outnumber women by 50 to 1 (a guess), the probability that the best player will be male is statistically much higher.

Laura Burns
Laura Burns
1 month ago
Reply to  Michael Askew

50 to 1 is a massive underestimation I would think. Also there have been many clubs that simply did not allow women to play. Snooker halls have in the past been lets say ‘spit and sawdust ‘ type places. As others have mentioned strength is definitely a factor as is stamina. Anyone who plays snooker knows this. There are certain shots the top women struggle with that Jamie can play seemingly with ease. Also a womens event can involve playing from 10am until 1-2 am sometimes with many matches in one day and hardly any breaks in between so stamina really is an issue. A transgender player is dominating womens 8ball pool currently too. Biological males have won 2 womens world titles in cuesports already this year.

Last edited 1 month ago by Laura Burns
Martin Smith
Martin Smith
1 month ago

“The ability to pot b***s, assemble breaks and snooker an opponent might not depend on speed or strength, but people with male bodies evidently have the edge over people with female bodies.” While not disputing this conclusion, does anyone understand why this is the case?

Penny Adrian
Penny Adrian
1 month ago

Hi, Debbie!
I’m just not convinced that male bodied people are at an advantage when it comes to billiards (I have no idea what snooker is).
I don’t want to make the same mistake that trans activists do by replacing facts with politics.

Arkadian X
Arkadian X
1 month ago
Reply to  Penny Adrian

Indeed, in which case abolish women’s competitions altogether which is perfectly legitimate thing to do (I talked about it in another comment). If you have a “women only” category that should be for… women only.

Debbie Hayton
Debbie Hayton
1 month ago
Reply to  Penny Adrian

Hi Penny,
Snooker is a pool-type game but on a 12-foot table.
I don’t know why men outerform women in equal competion. Could be hips, could be the size of hands, could be spatial awareness. Men tend to do better when asked to mentally visualising 3-D rotations, for example.
But whatever the reason, if a separate women’s competition is held alongside the open competition, we need to decide how someone qualifies to enter it.

Fauxen Greyn
Fauxen Greyn
1 month ago

It is certainly testament to the widespread acceptance and goodwill that we transgender people now enjoy in the UK” is gaslighting.
I hope the bootlicking is going well, Debs. Don’t miss any spots!

Steven Carr
Steven Carr
1 month ago

Jamie Hunter should get equal pay with the men’s world snooker champion.
The competitor got just 2000 dollars for winning the snooker open.
Disgusting. Women should get the same pay as men.

Last edited 1 month ago by Steven Carr
William Shaw
William Shaw
1 month ago
Reply to  Steven Carr

Renumeration should be based on advertising revenue and the number of people attending events.
If the women’s game generates the same level of interest as the men’s then the pay should be the same. Otherwise not. Don’t humiliate women by having the men’s game financially subsidise their sport as has been suggested in football.

Last edited 1 month ago by William Shaw
Dominic S
Dominic S
1 month ago
Reply to  William Shaw

Agreed. Advertisers will point out that the men’s final at WImbledon gets far more interest than the women’s game – for whatever reason. Just as the men’s football gets far more interest than women’s. This is probably about the relative speed and power of the two games, mostly.

The recent women’s football managed to fill a smallish ground by selling cheap tickets. The Hundred cricket gets people to watch the women’s game by putting it on before the men’s game – and it’s noticeable that the ground is significantly less full or excited during that.

If women’s sport is to be worthwhile it needs to stand on it’s own two feet, financially. Anything else is deeply patronising.

Andrew D
Andrew D
1 month ago
Reply to  Dominic S

Agreed, but I don’t think Wembley can be described as smallish. Don’t know what the tickets cost for the final though.

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
1 month ago
Reply to  Andrew D

True – but maybe every other game ever played had a “smallish” crowd.

Tom Watson
Tom Watson
1 month ago
Reply to  Steven Carr

The world snooker champion probably has to beat the player ranked #1 in the world, will almost certainly have to beat a decent proportion of the top 10 and is unlikely to face anyone outside the top 100 in the tournament.

Per this article, the very best player the women’s world snooker champion has to beat is ranked #115 – barely in the pros.

By what possible argument does the latter have a claim to be paid as much as the former?

N Forster
N Forster
1 month ago
Reply to  Steven Carr

He’s a bloke.

Alphonse Pfarti
Alphonse Pfarti
1 month ago
Reply to  Steven Carr

When enough people will pay to watch Hunter as do O’Sullivan, you might have a point. Until then, what do suggest?