The Spanish Senate is the upper house of the Spanish parliament. In February 2023 they considered whether to approve a self-ID bill passed by the lower house, the Congress, in December 2022. Fair Play For Women was one of the groups invited to give evidence to the Senate. Here is the speech made by our director of sport, Fiona McAnena on 3 February.
Fair Play For Women has been campaigning to regain women’s sex-based rights in the UK for the past five years. We started with prisons, and we campaign on women’s single-sex spaces, services and sports.
We fight to make sure that crimes are recorded and reported by sex, so that people understand that most violence and almost all sex crimes are committed by men. This is important because it is one reason why sex-segregated spaces and services are needed.
Today I’m going to talk about sport. For a while, sports governing bodies thought that trans inclusion in female sport wasn’t a problem. They agreed that males who said they were women could compete in women’s categories, and this has happened even without legal self-ID. They thought there are so few transwomen that it would be ok.
This is not so. It is already affecting many women and girls, across many sports, and at all levels. In team sports like football and hockey, women are facing teams with male players who say they are women, or they’re forced to accept male players in their own team. In individual sports like cycling and running, women have lost medals and prizes to males claiming to be female.
These trans players are much faster and stronger. Women just can’t keep up. Even if the transwoman is on your own team, women know it isn’t fair, and it isn’t fun any more.
We hear from parents who worry that their daughters will get injured on the field, playing with males who are so much bigger and stronger. And we hear from females of all ages who do not want to share a changing room with males. But usually they are afraid to object, because they will be called transphobic. So they keep quiet, but some of them just leave the sport without saying anything. So you see, trans inclusion is not inclusive. It has a big negative impact.
One transwoman in a female team or a women’s event can affect many females. Let me give you a few examples.
The father of a 13 year old girl who plays football told us, ‘My daughter was told by the teacher there was a boy on the other team but not to say anything because that would be discrimination. He was much faster, and he scored two goals.’
In another part of the country, a 14 year old lost her place as the goalkeeper in her football team to a boy. That girl is now sitting at home wondering why adults are telling her to deny the reality of what she can see – a boy has taken her place in the girls’ team.
Two university students who play semi-professional football in Scotland found themselves facing a women’s team with two male players in it. One of these trans players was in goal, just huge compared to the women. Another one was a striker who could easily outrun the women. One young woman who tried to tackle him was knocked to the ground and hurt. Those students were told not to complain or they might be thrown out of university.
In cricket, talented teenage girls play in adult teams. But where there is a transwoman – an adult male – on the other team, the girls are facing someone who can bowl and bat so hard and fast that the girls could be injured by the ball. Coaches and parents have told us, they do not let their girls play those teams with a transwoman on them. So the girls miss out.
Girls on school sports days are being made to race against boys who say they are girls. Those boys always win. The girls are thinking, what’s the point?
People may think male-female differences aren’t that big but the fastest women in the world on the running track can be beaten by the best schoolboys.
It’s not relevant to look at whether males slow down or lose strength when they suppress their testosterone. They do not lose all the changes caused by male puberty.
In 2021 the UK Sports Councils published a comprehensive review of all available science, and developed new guidance. It is published online, at equalityinsport.org. You can read it all. The conclusion is clear. It is not possible to balance trans inclusion in the female category with fairness and safety for women and girls in sport. You cannot remove the male performance advantage, because you cannot undo male puberty. Testosterone suppression does not work. You can take an egg out of hot water but you cannot unboil the egg.
Some people say there are so few trans people competing and winning so what does it matter. But it does matter because it is unfair for all the females – and it’s our category. Categories in sport are how we make sport inclusive. We use objective factors like age and sex to create categories so there is a place for everyone. They work by keeping people out, not by letting people choose what category they want to be in. If we didn’t have categories in sport for females, all champions would be male.
And it’s not just competitive sport. A couple more examples. A group of teenage girls who loved judo signed up for a women-only day, and paid for it. Well, their parents paid for it. Their teacher said women only would give them all a chance to enjoy the sport without the embarrassment teenage girls might feel about physical contact with boys. But on the day, there was a six-foot tall transwoman, aged over 40. Those girls gave up judo.
In swimming, many women, including those who have had breast cancer, and Muslim women, want female-only sessions. But now they can find that there is a male “woman” in the changing room and in the pool with them.
Sports people know that trans inclusion in female sport is wrong because they know that male inclusion in female sport is wrong. But some think they have to be kind to trans people. This of course means being unkind and unfair to women and girls.
But this is not about trans. It’s not about gender identity. It’s about male and female. Sport categories are based on sex not on gender identity.
Trans inclusion means male inclusion which means female exclusion. It is not progress to allow people who have been through male puberty into female sport. We have to think about the impact on females, instead of only thinking about trans people.
There is some good news. We are starting to see sports governing bodies changing their rules now to be safe and fair for females. World Rugby and World Aquatics, which governs swimming, have now returned to sex-based rules. In the UK a few sports, like triathlon and volleyball, have gone to Female and Open categories. Many other governing bodies are reviewing their policies.
In closing, let me say, these problems have arisen because of trans demands and campaigning. We are now pushing back and making progress. Legal self-ID would make it even harder to reverse these policies and restore fair sport for females.
There’s more information on our website fairplayforwomen.com. Thank you for listening.