In a wide-ranging review, the U.K.’s Sports Council Equality Group (SCEG) concluded that in order to ensure safety and fairness, some sports should consider creating different categories of competition for trans athletes.
“For many sports, the inclusion of transgender people, fairness and safety cannot co-exist in a single competitive model,” the group, which is composed of officers from all the Sports Councils and publishes recommendations for achieving athletic equality, said in its review.
Published in September, the guidance is for all sports up to the national level but does not cover professional or elite sports. As potential remedies for the unsafe and unfair inclusion of men in women’s sports, the SCEG’s suggestions included creating separate “open” and “female” categories or adding additional versions of competitions. SCEG urged governing groups to “think in innovative and creative ways to ensure nobody is left out,” however, when making decisions about trans athletes.
Dr. Nicola Williams, a spokeswoman for Fair Play for Women, found the guidance very telling. “This comprehensive review confirms what we all know: sex matters in sport. That’s why we have always needed a separate protected category for females and still do,” Williams said. “It’s good to see all the UK’s sports councils confirming that reserving a sport category for biological females is both lawful and necessary to guarantee the fair and safe inclusion of women in sport.”
Most sports in the U.K. follow the International Olympic Committee guidelines from 2015, which allow men purporting to be women to compete in the female category if they suppress their testosterone to below 10 nanomoles per liter for 12 months. The guidelines note that this approach is no longer considered fair due to research showing that males purporting to be females have a “retained advantage.”
The findings come after an 18-month consultation and review of the existing research by Sport England, Sport Scotland, Sport Northern Ireland, Sport Wales, and U.K. Sport.
“Our work exploring the latest research, evidence and studies made clear that there are retained differences in strength, stamina and physique between the average woman compared with the average transgender woman or non-binary person registered male at birth, with or without testosterone suppression,” the review said.
The guidance also noted that evidence suggests it is “fair and safe” in most sports for transgender-identifying people to be included within the male category, but decisions must be made on a case-by-case basis.
SCEG’s review mirrors the findings of Abigail Shrier’s book, “Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters,” which investigates the sudden spike in transgender identification and the social and physical dangers that accompany it. The book has come under criticism, but SCEG’s report reinforces many of Shrier’s conclusions.
In response to the review, the trans charity and advocacy group Mermaids said in a press release, “We are disappointed to read this review, which rather than focussing on bettering its existing guidance for trans people in sport, yet again ignores the lived experiences of trans people, and misinterprets the Equality Act and academic literature.”
Reagan Reese is an intern at The Federalist and a student at Hillsdale College studying rhetoric and public address and journalism. She plays on the varsity softball team and you can follow her on Twitter @reaganreese_.