Singletrack World takes the position that Trans women are women, and cannot support the recent statements by the UK Culture Secretary, Nadine Dorries. In the Mail on Sunday, she wrote that ‘competitive women’s sport must be reserved for people born of the female sex. Not someone who was born male, took puberty blockers or has suppressed testosterone, but unequivocally and unarguably someone who was born female. I want all of our sporting bodies to follow that policy.’
This position has since been reiterated at a Westminster summit, from which the following statement has been released:
‘The Culture Secretary has urged leaders of the UK’s biggest sports to work to ‘raise their game’ and protect the integrity of elite and competitive women’s sport, at a Westminster summit on the inclusion of transgender athletes this afternoon (28 June).
‘Nadine Dorries met with bosses of national governing bodies, and urged them to adopt the Government’s unequivocal view that elite and competitive women’s sport must be reserved for people born of the female sex.’
We understand that British Cycling was at the meeting, but will continue its ongoing policy review and will not issue any response at this time.
Singletrack World is concerned that this message to UK sporting bodies will result in exclusionary and prejudicial policies, and would urge British Cycling to set policies which allow Trans women – and men – to participate at all levels of sport.
Singletrack World supports inclusion, equality and diversity, not just when it comes to riding bikes, but in daily life. We are concerned that difficult and sensitive discussions about ‘fairness’ in elite sport are being used to enable a wider global political agenda of anti Trans rights, and are being used to promote transphobia. We encourage all our readers to reject any such rhetoric and help make our sport a welcoming and diverse space.
We realise that this statement will likely prompt many questions, and we don’t believe we have all the answers. However, we cannot stand by and see a government minister give such direction to our national sports governing bodies without voicing our dissent. Trans women are women, Trans men are men, and sport is for all.
For reference, here is the full release from the Department of Culture, Media and Sport following yesterday’s meeting:
The Culture Secretary has urged leaders of the UK’s biggest sports to work to ‘raise their game’ and protect the integrity of elite and competitive women’s sport, at a Westminster summit on the inclusion of transgender athletes this afternoon (28 June).
Nadine Dorries met with bosses of national governing bodies, and urged them to adopt the Government’s unequivocal view that elite and competitive women’s sport must be reserved for people born of the female sex.
Having listened to the challenges that sports are facing in implementing policies on transgender participation, the Culture Secretary emphasised that clear direction is needed that protects and shows compassion to all athletes, and encouraged sports to make progress with moving towards a position where fairness takes priority in competitive sport. This includes the consideration of launching inclusive open categories where appropriate.
Governing bodies made clear that they are actively carrying out their own scientific research to establish the impact of athletes’ sex at birth and gender reassignment on athletic performance. UK Sport and Sport England will support the interpretation of the guidance published by the UK’s sports councils, and will coordinate the process of reporting back to Ministers on progress later in the summer.
The Culture Secretary also encouraged governing bodies to engage with their international federations and encourage them to have consistent policies worldwide.
Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries said:
“Sport is for everyone, no matter where you’ve come from in life. It allows people to come together and perform on a level playing field, based upon basic fairness and the integrity of competition.
“The government has the utmost compassion for people born into a body they don’t recognise. But we can’t pretend that sex doesn’t have a direct impact on a person’s athletic performance. Asking women and teenage girls to compete against someone who was biologically born a male is inherently unfair.
“I recognise that this is a complex and emotionally charged issue, so I welcome the support of our domestic governing bodies to protect and show compassion to all athletes. In the interests of sporting integrity, we must bring clarity to protect the future interests of sport around the world.”
Today’s summit follows guidance published by the UK’s sports councils in September 2021 which made clear that balancing transgender inclusion, safety and fairness where sex can have an impact on a result, is not always possible. In April 2022 British Cycling suspended their current transgender policy, pending a full review.
Beyond the UK, last week the International Swimming Federation (FINA) voted to bar transgender athletes participating in women’s events if they have gone through the process of male puberty.
This policy was reached after its scientific panel found that trans women had a “relative performance advantage over biological females, even after medication to reduce testosterone”. Later in the week International Rugby League also suspended the participation of male-born transgender players from competing in international women’s matches while they conduct more research.
Meanwhile international federations including World Athletics and FIFA have signalled they will review their transgender eligibility policies.