Timeline of trans inclusion in women’s sport

2003

Olympics transgender policy approved

The International Olympic Committee approves a policy for post-operative transsexuals to compete in women’s events, expecting this to be extremely rare, as Dr Emma Hilton explains in this talk.

2013

UK guidance for transgender inclusion

The UK Sports Council Equality Group publishes its first-ever guidance for transgender inclusion in female events based on testosterone suppression. This is widely adopted by UK sports bodies despite no processes for monitoring compliance – hence in practice largely a self-ID policy.

2015

Trans runner advises amends

The International Olympic Committee consults a trans-identifying male runner, Joanna Harper, and amends its policy to require only 12 months of testosterone suppression below 10nmol (the typical female range is around 1nmol). Listen to Joanna Harper talk about being involved in changing the policy.

2018

Fair Play For Women

UK women raise the alarm

Fair Play For Women starts raising concerns with UK and international sports federations.

2019

Policy review requested

Sharron Davies MBE and Fair Play For Women send a letter to the International Olympic Committee signed by 60 Olympians asking for a review of the 2015 testosterone suppression policy, to restore fairness for female competitors. There is no reply.

February 2020

World Rugby transgender policy workshop

World Rugby holds a workshop to determine its transgender policy, with full transparency and speakers from all sides including Dr Nicola Williams and Dr Emma Hilton.

March 2020

New UK guidance commissioned

The UK Sports Council Equality Group commissions new guidance on transgender inclusion in female sport.

October 2020

World Rugby’s new policy

World Rugby announces its new policy: for female safety, no males will be permitted to play women’s international matches. National federations do not adopt the policy.

April 2021

Cycling and rugby unions consult

British Cycling and the Rugby Football Union run consultations on transgender policy, but no results are published. The RFU’s approach is a case-by-case assessment, but there is no detail on how this will work.

July 2021

Tokyo 2020

Males in women’s Olympic teams from New Zealand, Canada and USA

There are three male-born competitors in women’s teams at the Tokyo Olympics, including weightlifter Laurel Hubbard, who featured in the medalists’ press conference despite not winning a medal. Trans-identifying and “non-binary” females also compete in women’s teams.

September 2021

“Inclusion” or fairness – not both

New Sports Council Equality Group guidance is published: trans (male) inclusion in female category is incompatible with fairness and in some cases safety for females. Sport governing bodies must choose.

November 2021

IOC abdicates responsibility

Widely mocked new IOC guidance abandons testosterone suppression, says there should be “no presumed advantage” and tells sports to make their own rules.

February 2022

Male swimmer in women’s races

Trans-identifying male swimmer Lia Thomas wins and sets new records in women’s events at the Ivy League Championship and the NCAA championship in the USA. A trans-identifying female swims in the same event, in the women’s competition. Listen to the crowd in this race, dominated by Thomas.

March 2022

Opposition to male cyclist in women’s event

Trans-identifying male cyclist Emily Bridges is stopped from racing to qualify for the Commonwealth Games in the Wales women’s team by opposition from female cyclists.

April 2022

Cycling changes track

British Cycling withdraws its transgender inclusion policy, consults with its international federation, Union Cycliste Internationale, and declares Bridges ineligible.

June 2022

Women only in swimming and GB triathlon

The international swimming federation, FINA, also known as World Aquatics, announces a new policy excluding anyone who has been through male puberty from female competition.

British Triathlon announces a new policy re-establishing the female category for those born female.

The UK government minister responsible for sport hosts a round-table meeting of sport chief executives asking for policies that restore the female category.

July 2022

English women’s rugby for women

Rugby Football Union (governing rugby union in England) and Rugby Football League (governing rugby league in England) adopt a revised policy following their international federations, restricting female full-contact rugby to those born female. A trans-identifying male player threatens a legal challenge.

August 2022

Triathlon fudges the issue;
boxing stays strong

World Triathlon announces a revised policy based on two years of testosterone suppression and a requirement not to have competed in men’s events for four years.

World Boxing announces that its policy will remain sex-based for safety.

After lengthy review processes, the Irish RFU and Welsh Rugby Union adopt sex-based policies to match the Rugby Football Union and Rugby Football League.

2023

Call for clarity in UK

In response to proposals from World Athletics, UK Athletics states that testosterone suppression does not work and calls for clarity in UK law. The Equality and Human Rights Commission responds with a statement that it is lawful to exclude all males, even those with a gender-recognition certificate, from female sport.

March 2023

World Athletics: women only

In a surprise announcement, World Athletics announces that female events will be open only to those born female, with effect from 31st March.

UK Athletics announces that it will adopt the World Athletics policy with immediate effect.

April 2023

Swim England

Open and female categories in British swimming

Swim England adopts a sex-based policy for all licensed competitions. Other UK swimming federations adopt the same policy.

May 2023

British Cycling compromises

British Cycling adopts open and female categories for all competitions from the end of 2023. But “women-only” Breeze rides – designed to encourage more women to cycle for fun – will still include “transgender women and non-binary people”.

July 2023

World cycling (UCI) gets in line

The world cycling federation, Union Cycliste Internationale, adopts open and female categories, coming into line with the other big Olympic sports – athletics and swimming.

August 2023

Rowing and badminton in England

British Rowing announces that its female category will be restricted to those “assigned female at birth”, alongside an open category, from 11th September 2023.

Badminton England announces its new policy with immediate effect.

November 2023

Angling is fair, football is not, pool is sued

England’s Angling Trust announces that the women’s shore-angling team will in future have only women in it. The story of how the women of the England team took a stand unfolded in the Mail on Sunday, starting in June with more in September and then a policy change at the international governing body.

A row breaks out in a Sheffield women’s football league after a female player is seriously injured, prompting much media coverage but no action from the Football Association.

A group of female pool players in the UK launch a legal action against pool authorities to reinstate the protected female category in women’s pool tournaments.

December 2023

British Judo

British Judo adopts a revised policy in which only those born female are eligible for women’s events, without publicity.

A report from think-tank Policy Exchange makes the case for a protected female category in sport.

January 2024

“Inclusion” harms women

A new report from Fair Play For Women shows how “inclusion” in sport is harming women and girls in the UK, with personal testimonies from 25 sports. 

March 2024

American Football in Britain sees sense

The British American Football quietly introduces a revised policy to protect female players.

A new paper by 26 academics, The International Olympic Committee framework on fairness, inclusion and nondiscrimination on the basis of gender identity and sex variations does not protect fairness for female athletes, points out the flaws in the IOC’s November 2021 statement.

February 2024

Human rights?

Male-born rider Emily Bridges threatens to take British Cycling to the European Court of Human Rights. Watch Sex Matters’ Fiona McAnena discussing the case on Free Speech Nation.

April 2024

World Netball protects women

After a years-long review process, World Netball announces it will restrict women’s teams to those born female, regardless of identity. But the policy is instantly rejected by Netball Australia, the biggest netball country.

May 2024

World Sailing protects women

A new policy restricts participation in women’s events to those who have not gone through male puberty.