Where sex matters | Sport
Policies that allow males to play in women’s sport are not supported by evidence. They are unfair and unsafe.
Sport is divided into male and female categories for very good reason. Men are taller, faster and stronger than women. They have bigger bones, longer limbs, wider hand spans, wider shoulders and a narrower pelvis. 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 women.
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 is intended to provide. 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.
Fairness matters in sport
Philosopher Dr Jon Pike has written a guest blog post for Sex Matters, based on his recent article published in the Journal of the Philosophy of Sport: ‘Why “Meaningful Competition” is not fair competition’. In that article, he sets out case for a two-category model for sport, female and...
24th March 2023
How UK Athletics was misled
UK Athletics has put out a statement saying – with regret – that it cannot lawfully exclude trans-identifying men who have GRCs from participation in women’s events. The material part of the statement says: “10. There is a duty in s.9(1) of the Gender Recognition Act 2004 to treat...
3rd February 2023
Why are lawyers giving faulty advice about women-only sports?
The governing body for the sport of athletics in the United Kingdom, UK Athletics, has called for the government to amend the Equality Act in order to guarantee the legality of female-only sports. While Sex Matters agrees with UKA that female-only sports are essential to provide safe and fair...
3rd February 2023
Risks in the final rush to legislate self-ID in Scotland
The Scottish government’s plans to allow anyone from age 16 upwards who is ordinarily resident in Scotland to obtain a gender recognition certificate (GRC) without any medical assessment are due to be voted on by the Scottish Parliament tomorrow, 21st December. The vote comes barely a week after the...
20th December 2022
Clarify the Equality Act: sign the petition
The Equality Act 2010 protects everyone’s rights and covers everything from schools to hospitals, pubs to sports, and everybody’s workplace. It includes protection against sex-discrimination, and allows single-sex services. But on 13th December a judge in Scotland pronounced that Equality Act does not recognise biological sex as a protected...
16th December 2022
Trans rights are human rights!
Sex Matters is a human-rights organisation. We believe that universal human rights form a powerful framework for thinking about how a diversity of freedoms can be respected, while protecting against harm and maintaining an open and prosperous society. It is sometimes argued that those who call for clarity on...
9th November 2022
After just three days we were over a quarter of the way to the 100,000 signatures needed to prompt a parliamentary debate. We’ve now got more than 40,000 signatures. Thank you to everyone who has already signed the Make the Equality Act Clear Petition. Every signature helps! If everyone...
5th November 2022
Sex and the law – share our short guide
What does intersex mean? Are you allowed to mention someone’s sex if they don’t want you to? Has someone with a gender recognition certificate changed their sex? Do you have the right to privacy when you’re taking your clothes off? Is it discrimination to keep male people out of...
4th August 2022
Why do single-sex services matter?
In February 2022 Sex Matters undertook a survey to find out why single-sex services matter to people. The response was astonishing. In a little over a week we received over 7,000 replies, nine out of ten of them from women. Many included details about how the loss of everyday...
19th July 2022
Sex Matters response to “More in Common”
More in Common is an organisation that seeks to “build societies and communities that are “stronger, more united, and more resilient to the increasing threats of polarisation and social division”. Perhaps as a response to this challenge from Maya Forstater, it has applied its approach to the gender wars....
16th June 2022
Women’s cycling race saved after campaigns raise public support
UPDATE : Saturday 16th April
Sex Matters and Fair Play For Women welcome the announcement that the Women’s CiCLE Classic has been saved, with an offer of a three-year sponsorship deal being finalised by the race organiser.
13th April 2022
British Cycling and Emily Bridges
Sex Matters welcomes the statement from British Cycling that Emily Bridges is not eligible to participate in the British National Omnium Championship on Saturday 2nd April 2022, following the application of Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) guidelines. British Cycling has chosen to recognise Emily’s disappointment, but not the distress, anger, and...
30th March 2022
Women in sport, gender identity and the Equality Act
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
EHRC to issue guidance on single-sex and separate-sex services
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
Inclusion or Fairness: New Guidance for Sport in the UK
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
Truth and reconciliation
How should the public sector leave the Stonewall Champions Scheme?
6th June 2021
Time to #LeaveStonewall
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
Our response to British Cycling
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
Two new scientific reviews agree that transwomen athletes retain male advantage
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 seeks fair rules over women’s sport
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
Why ‘Meaningful Competition’ is not fair competition
Jon Pike discusses a new conception in the context of the debate over the inclusion of transwomen in female sport: ‘Meaningful Competition’, arguing that it is is not fair; that it is an attempt to substitute for the perfectly serviceable concept of fair competition, and an attempt at conceptual...
UK Athletics claims law change needed to ban trans women from female events
Sean Ingle for The Guardian
Sex Matters is quoted.
UKA wants to have female-born and open categories; Ian Beattie says equality laws prevent change at present
Women’s Rights Network
Combined grassroots groups of women who oppose sex self-ID. Supports local, in-person networking. Has topic-related groups (such as sports, prisons, schools) that create resources, including videos and podcasts and social-media posts, and coordinate national campaigns. Was a core member of the “Respect My Sex” campaign before the local elections...
Fair Play For Women
Campaigning and consultancy group which raises awareness, provides evidence and analysis, and supports policy-makers to protect the rights of women and girls in the UK. Opposes sex self-ID, and also played a large part in the government’s decision to abandon plans to introduce it in England and Wales in...
Fair Game: biology, fairness and transgender athletes in women’s sports
Jon Pike, Emma Hilton, and Leslie A. Howe lay out the physical advantages of athletes who are born male, and reject gender-based criteria for competition, proposing instead a solution that will allow all athletes to compete fairly.
On the issue of female athletics, the IOC has shirked its duty to lead
Doriane Coleman and Martina Navratilova analyse the recent IOC Framework on Fairness, Inclusion, and Non-Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity and Sex Variations
Guidance for transgender inclusion in domestic sport
September 2021 report based on the latest research, evidence and studies from the Sports Councils’ Equality Group, made up of the five Sports Councils responsible for supporting and investing in sport across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Female Sports Participation, Gender Identity and the British 2010 Equality Act
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.
A victory for female athletes everywhere
Doriane Lambelet Coleman explains the regulations about eligibility for the women’s category in international elite athletics competition; why they matter, and why there are so many athletes with a 46, XY DSD.
Why Sex Matters is calling for clarification of the Equality Act 2010
Sex Matters has launched a petition calling on the government to clarify that in the Equality Act 2010, “sex” means biological sex, and is not modified by the Gender Recognition Act 2004. This would protect the rights of people of both sexes, as well as people who identify as...
Why sex matters for human rights – our organisational framework
Sex Matters’ mission is to promote clarity on sex in law and policy in order to protect everybody’s human rights. This document sets out the key human rights that are relevant, and why and how our work is guided by the promotion of human rights. (Also see our short guide...
Groups defending sex-based rights
Overview of groups opposing sex self-ID in the UK, set up by individuals and collectives concerned by the failure of established third-sector organisations to defend women’s sex-based rights, child safeguarding and evidence-based policymaking. Also listed on our website.
Submission to British Cycling
Our response to British Cycling’s new transgender and non-binary participation policy, which fails to protect fairness for female riders.
Submission to Rugby England
We draw on expertise from scientists, sports philosophers and female athletes in this response to the proposed new policy.
Gender Recognition Act reform – evidence submission
We answer the Women and Equalities Select Committee‘s questions and make six recommendations.