Most sports governing bodies in the UK have developed and adopted transgender inclusion policies with advice from Stonewall and Gendered Intelligence. Whilst we believe these policies were developed with the best intentions, we are seeing that many have taken no account of the impact on fairness and meaningful competition for women and girls. There are also safeguarding concerns. A policy that focuses entirely on the dignity and privacy of transgender people, and on accepting their declared gender, means that women and girls can find themselves sharing changing rooms with male bodies, and competing against them. A typical example is the Lawn Tennis Association policy, here.
We would like help to contact national governing bodies (NGBs) to point this out to them and to ask them to review their policies to ensure that fairness and safeguarding are properly taken into account, as the law requires them to do.
Both the Equality Act 2010 and the Gender Recognition Act 2004 makes it clear that it is lawful to restrict participation to uphold fair and safe competition, and that this applies even if a trans person has changed their legal sex status.
614. This section allows separate sporting competitions to continue to be organised for men and women where physical strength, stamina or physique are major factors in determining success or failure, and in which one sex is generally at a disadvantage in comparison with the other. It also makes it lawful to restrict participation of transsexual people in such competitions if this is necessary to uphold fair or safe competition, but not otherwise.
83.The section provides that a body responsible for regulating participation in competitive sporting events may prohibit or restrict the participation in such events of a person who is recognised in the acquired gender, and is seeking to compete in the acquired gender, if this is necessary to secure fair competition or the safety of other competitors.
What you can do to help:
Choose one or more sports governing bodies. Find the names of the chair (of the board of trustees) and the chief executive (CEO) on that NGB’s website. Using the draft letter as a guide, write personally, as a concerned individual, to the chair and the chief executive of any you choose. If you can find their policy on their website before you write, then you can check and reference this in your letter. If you have a connection or are a member, whether directly or through a family member, mention that in your letter. Show in your letter that it is copied in to both of the chair and the chief executive so that they talk to each other about it. Please let us know who you’ve contacted by emailing [email protected] and then of course when you get a response.
Draft letter to NGB Chairs and Chief Executives
Request for a review of transgender eligibility policy
I am concerned that your organisation’s policy on transgender inclusion has not given sufficient consideration to the impact on other groups. Whilst I am sure the policy was developed with the best intentions, I believe there are two consequences which are potentially harmful for women and girls.
One problem is that of fairness, and whether it is right for people who have gone through male puberty to compete against women. Sex is a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010, and it is perfectly legal to provide single-sex facilities, competitions and events. While transgender people are also entitled to protection from discrimination, this does not mean that they are entitled to participate in sport as their assumed gender, if this could have a detrimental impact on females. The Act specifically mentions this as a reasonable case for exclusion.
There are also safeguarding concerns. A policy that focuses entirely on the dignity and privacy of trans people, and on accepting their declared gender, means that women and girls can find themselves sharing changing rooms with male bodies. Even where there is no safeguarding risk for children or vulnerable adults, this does not provide the privacy and dignity owing to women and girls in that situation.
Please can you let me know how and when your policy will be reviewed to take account of these issues? At a minimum, I would expect you to consult groups representing women’s interests, such as Fair Play For Women, as well as those representing trans people.
This campaign is not about wanting to stop trans people from playing sport. Everyone must be welcomed and encouraged to enjoy the benefits of physical activity and sporting competition. However, when it comes to who competes against who there has to be fair and meaningful competition otherwise the whole point of sport is undermined. And this means we have to grapple with some difficult issues and balance the rights of everyone, and this means that the impact on women and girls must not be ignored.
Women have fought hard to get female-only sporting competition noticed and valued. Female-only sport has been in the wilderness for decades. No fame, no sponsorship, no big prizes. That is now starting to change and we need our female-only sports policies to be evidence-based, fair and safe.