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Trans athletes have no place in women’s sport

The Australian PM has declared that trans sheilas are not sheilas. Not in sport, anyway.

The febrile transgender debate tends to unite politicians only in their quest to obfuscate the truth. But at last we have a prime minister who is willing to be honest with the public. It’s not Boris Johnson — not yet, anyway — but Scott Morrison who has thrown caution to the wind. The Australian PM has declared that trans sheilas are not sheilas. Not in sport, anyway.

Sport focuses the mind because sport concerns the body, and male and female bodies are not the same. Last year in Tokyo, the female Olympic weightlifting competition was overshadowed by the presence of Laurel Hubbard, born male. Hubbard won nothing but the transgender swimmer Lia Thomas is smashing records in the pool, leaving women to compete for second place.

The future looks bleak for women in sport. Trying harder is not an option when your rival has the advantage of male puberty. Testosterone leaves a legacy that cannot be erased: larger muscle mass and stronger bones, not to mention a skeleton that never developed to carry children.

Claire Chandler, a Tasmanian senator, has been making this point valiantly. Her private member’s bill to amend the sex discrimination law would allow sporting bodies to do something they should never have been stopped from doing: operating single-sex sport on the basis of biological sex.

When put on the spot, Morrison was unequivocal: “I think it’s a terrific bill … Claire is a champion for women’s sport and I think she’s been right to raise these issues in the way that she has. Well done, Claire.”

And well said, Morrison. The transgender thought police might not agree with me but trans rights need to be protected in the context of everyone’s rights. While we should be protected from less favourable treatment, we need to accept that nature has dealt us a more favourable hand when it comes to body strength.

So what should we do? If sport is for all then let’s maintain an open category that excludes nobody. What could be more inclusive than that? But crucially, keep a separate class for women in which they can compete as a sex. Because the problem is not about the inclusion of trans women in sport — that should be a given. What is wrong is the inclusion of male bodies in female sport. And, despite the protests from Equality Australia, this should apply to all ages: girls’ rights matter, too.

Maybe the next time the Labour MP Rosie Duffield is harassed for her views on trans women, Sir Keir Starmer might follow Morrison’s example. Female politicians standing up for the rights of women and girls should be applauded, not ignored.


Debbie Hayton is a transgender teacher and journalist

* This article was first published by The Times on 22 February 2022: Trans athletes have no place in women’s sport.

It was reviewed by Justin Webb on the Today programme on BBC Radio 4. 23 February 2022.

BBC Radio 4 Today Programme 23 February 2022 0743 h

By Debbie Hayton

Physics teacher and trade unionist.

9 replies on “Trans athletes have no place in women’s sport”

Would it be possible to measure testosterone level (or the past effect) and use this to group participants? Maybe group them by top performance previously? I’m thinking some birth women may have an elevated testosterone level and should actually be on the low end of the birth male group.

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My understanding is that no woman has been recorded with more testosterone than 1.8 nmol/L of blood, so even an “elevated level” is nowhere near the 5 nmol/L allowed for transwomen athletes by some sporting bodies. Some sporting bodies allow a higher level even than that. Any levels more elevated than 1.8 have come from intersex athletes who present as women, but actually have XY chromosomes, like Caster Semenya.

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Thank you, very informative. Hopefully sports can use empirical measurements like this and not be making subjective judgements about intersex people. Testosterone is a performance enhancing drug and should be the defining way to split competitors for sports where this matters.

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I have sent this question to the editors of a couple publications who take the posture that saying “a trans woman is not a real woman” is hate speech. I have never gotten a reply.

“When the day comes that a transgender woman breaks the four-minute mile, are you going to trumpet that record as an accomplishment on behalf of women as class? Or are you going to finally admit that trans women are not actual women?”

It still astonishes me that speaking the obvious truth gets me branded a hater — and by people who are undoubtedly more hateful than I am!

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thank you for speaking up for women and girls. i love how you explain things. its changing the word sex with gender that clouded the issue. for others, we’re scared to speak up! I really don’t understand it, i read the equality law- UK law states sex is protected characteristic (male, female) & to provide separate single sex toilets, shelters, prisons, changing rooms & sports for male & female for privacy, dignity & safety & in case of sports, for a level playing field & fairness, to protect women’s & girls sports.

0.008% have a grc in UK – a tiny number of people who are “allowed to live as a woman” but “aren’t a woman” as the law states, haven’t actually become that sex. People without a grc are legally the sex they were born as. We don’t have self ID so why is this everywhere? People play sport using biology science is basic commonsense. A male body will always beat a female just as 20 year old will beat under 10s or over 60 year olds.

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