The Sports Councils Equality Group came out in defence of women-only sport
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 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.