Transgender Inclusion, Fairness and Safety Cannot Co-exist in Many Sports: UK Review

By Lily Zhou
Lily Zhou
Lily Zhou
Lily Zhou is a freelance writer mostly covering UK news for The Epoch Times.
September 30, 2021 Updated: September 30, 2021

British sport governing bodies will have to choose either transgender inclusion or fairness and safety as their priorities because they often cannot co-exist in a single competitive model, new guidance said.

The Sports Councils’ Equality Group (SCEG), which consists of relevant officers from all five Sports Councils across the UK—Sport England, Sport Scotland, Sport Northern Ireland, Sport Wales, and UK Sport—published new guidance for transgender inclusion in domestic sport (pdf) on Thursday.

The guidance is an update of the existing guidance from 2013 which is now considered “out of date and no longer fit for purpose,” the CEOs said.

Following an 18-month consultation and a review of current research, the SCEG concluded that there is no single solution that can reconcile the inclusion of transgender athletes and maintaining fairness—and in many cases, safety—in sports.

The SCEG said national governing bodies (NGBs) and Scottish governing bodies (SGBs) should choose the priorities for their sport—be it inclusion or fairness and safety—according to the framework provided.

If a government body wants to give these goals equal importance, it will need to develop a decision-making model “around the best options and opportunities,” the SCEG said.

It added that some governing bodies will need to create a mechanism whereby domestic competition can lead to an international competition pathway.

The existing transgender inclusion guidance requires a transgender woman to either have undergone surgical transition or have a suppressed level of testosterone to compete in the female categories—a requirement in line with that of the International Olympic Committee and several international sports.

While all sports councils are “committed to the inclusion of transgender people” in sports and physical activities, upon reviewing current evidence, the SCEG said that testosterone suppression is “unlikely to guarantee fairness between transgender women and natal females in gender-affected sports,” because there are retained differences in strength, stamina, and physique between natural-born females and males, “with or without testosterone suppression.”

The guidance also said that evidence indicates that it’s “fair and safe for transgender people to be included within the male category in most sports,” although the NGBs and SGBs of contact, collision, or combat sports may consider further parameters to ensure the safety of transgender people who are born female.

The SCEG said competitive fairness “cannot be reconciled with self-identification into the female category in genderaffected sport,” and that “‘case-by-case’ assessment is unlikely to be practical nor verifiable for entry into gender-affected sports due to the lack of scientifically validated standard, the susceptibility to fraud, and the potential to violate the Equality Act.

In a supporting document (pdf), the SCEG added that it found the majority of transgender people and their advocates sought opportunity for community sport rather than high performance.

To include transgender people in sports and physical activities, the SCEG encouraged the NGBs and SGBs to create new solutions such as creating an “open” category in addition to male and female, or create additional versions of the competition in which all can participate regardless of gender.

Lily Zhou
Lily Zhou is a freelance writer mostly covering UK news for The Epoch Times.