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Major review into transgender sport in UK details findings

September 30, 2021

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Major review into transgender sport in UK details findings

A major review into non-elite transgender sport in the UK has concluded that current policies are outdated and require amending.

New guidance has been developed by Sport England, Sport Scotland, Sport Northern Ireland, Sport Wales and UK Sport following an 18-month long review and covers all sport other than international, professional or elite. The Sports Councils Equality Group said “for many sports, the inclusion of transgender people, fairness and safety cannot co-exist in a single competitive model.” The Group said governing bodies have to decide if they are going to focus on inclusion for all or competitive fairness.

The Group added “testosterone suppression is unlikely to guarantee fairness between transgender women and natal females in gender-affected sports.” 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. In order to survive and thrive in the future, sport must adapt to reflect modern society, and that often, it is too slow to do so.”

Those leading the review said it was “a challenging and emotive piece of work” which consisted of interviews and surveys across 54 sports and 175 organisations. “We want this guidance to open up, rather than close down opportunities for everyone, recognising that many other people already feel excluded from sport and physical activity. While our consultation found that there was widespread support for ensuring that sport was a welcoming place for everyone in society, including for transgender people, it also highlighted that there were concerns relating to safety and fairness in relation to transgender inclusion, particularly in female sport, and that there was no consensus on a single solution as to how this should be addressed.”

Some further key points from the review and guidance:

  • There is no one solution to suit everyone. The guidance recognises there needs to be different solutions for different sports, so it is about acknowledging the needs of different groups.
  • If a sport governing body considers transgender inclusion, fairness, and safety are all priorities, then a model for decision-making around the best options and opportunities should be developed.
  • In most sports, transgender men will be able to compete without restriction in the male (or open) category. However, those sports which include collision or combat may wish to institute safety guidance for the sake of the transgender competitor.
  • Competitive fairness cannot be reconciled with self-identification into the female category in gender-affected sport.
  • 'Case-by-case' assessment is unlikely to be practical nor verifiable for entry into gender-affected sports.
  • Some governing bodies will need to create a mechanism where domestic competition can lead to an international competition pathway.

The guidance states “In keeping with the findings of this review, the goals of acceptance, social inclusion and physical activity may be best achieved outside of the sex binary in grassroots and domestic sport. The introduction of new and different models within sport offers an alternative option to meet the needs of people across all the strands of the Equality Act.”

You can access the guidance here.

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