Sport is divided into male and female categories for very good reason. Men are taller, faster and stronger. They have bigger bones, longer limbs, wider hand spans, wider shoulders and a narrower pelvis than women. They have larger and denser muscles, with a higher proportion of fast twitch fibres, and larger hearts and lungs. These are the result of being born with a male body and going through male puberty.
Even from a very young age, boys perform better in tests of speed, power and strength. Each year, thousands of boys and men outperform elite females.
Female excellence, participation and safety in sport depends on sex-segregation. Female athletes at every level will lose if they have to compete with and against males.
What is the problem?
In recent years the female category has been opened up to male athletes who identify as women, on the basis of weak evidence and guidance to prioritise inclusion based on gender identity ahead of fairness and inclusion for female athletes.
National and international sport governing bodies, schools, colleges, local sport clubs and the International Olympic Committee all permit males to play in female sport. At school level, males need only declare a female gender identity to be included. For adults, policies are based on a requirement to reduce testosterone levels for 12 months.
Any male advantage carried through to the female category undermines the protections that category intends to provide, and that female athletes are losing medals and opportunities to those with such male advantage.
Dozens of studies of physical changes in males suppressing testosterone (either because of transgender identity or as part of therapeutic treatment for testosterone-related illness) show that muscle mass, strength and skeletal differences between males and females remain large. Furthermore, the small negative effect of testosterone suppression on muscle loss can be entirely mitigated by the type of moderate resistance training we would expect athletes to participate in.
World Rugby has taken this evidence on board, but other sports authorities are continuing to support male athletes playing in women’s sports.
Cathy Devine’s article ‘Female Sports Participation, Gender Identity and the British 2010 Equality Act’ was published in the journal Sport, Ethics and Philosophy (open access version). In this guest post, Cathy Devine explains her findings on the impact of “self-identification eligibility criteria” on women in sport. If the criteria...
11th November 2021
Baroness Falkner, Chairwoman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission has told ministers that the body is acting on a request by MPs to issue hospitals, schools, prisons and private firms with “worked examples and guidance” that will “provide clarity … on the provision of single-sex services.” It is...
18th October 2021
Sex Matters response to the Sports Council Equality Group Guidance on Transgender Inclusion. On September 30, the Sports Council Equality Group (SCEG), which is composed of members of the five major sports councils within the United Kingdom, published new guidance for UK National Governing Bodies and Sports Governing Bodies....
30th September 2021
How should the public sector leave the Stonewall Champions Scheme?
6th June 2021
This is the letter we have sent to the CEOs of the 850 organisations that are members of the Stonewall Diversity Champions Scheme. Re: Leaving the Stonewall Diversity Champions Scheme We are writing to call on you to withdraw from the scheme, both for the sake of your own...
29th May 2021
British Cycling is the national governing body for recreational and competitive cycle sports in Great Britain. In March 2021, they announced a new policy to address the participation of transgender and non-binary athletes in cycling events, and opened it for consultation. Their policy is that in order to provide...
14th May 2021
The debate around inclusion of transgender athletes – and in particular whether biological males who identify as women should play in female sporting competitions and teams – is a fraught one. On one hand are those who advocate for fairness, and protection for the female category in sport; on...
7th March 2021
Martina Navratilova and other sportswomen have launched a campaign to amend US President Biden’s Executive Order which demands sports participation based on gender identity. The Women’s Sports Policy Working Group is proposing a carve out at the “higher level” of High School, College and elite sport. “There have been...
3rd February 2021
September 2021 report from the Sports Councils’ Equality Group
Cathy Devine’s manuscript copy of her paper in Sport, Ethics and Philosophy, which investigates the impact on the inclusion of girls and women, of eligibility policies adopting ‘self-identification of gender’ guidelines for the inclusion of transgender people in sport, at participation rather than elite levels.
Transgender Women in the Female Category of Sport: Perspectives on Testosterone Suppression and Performance Advantage
This paper reviews how differences between males and females affect sporting performance and assess the evidence on testosterone suppression in removing the male performance advantage.
Our response to British Cycling’s new transgender and non-binary participation policy, which fails to protect fairness for female riders.
30th April 2021
We draw on expertise from scientists, sports philosophers and female athletes in this response to the proposed new policy.
1st April 2021
We answer the Women and Equalities Select Committee‘s questions and make six recommendations.
27th November 2020