Singletrack World Response to Nadine Dorries’ Comments on Trans Athletes

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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. 

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  • Singletrack World Response to Nadine Dorries’ Comments on Trans Athletes
  • Joe
    Full Member

    No kudos to STW for the click bait. Easy enough statement to make when they have no skin in the game. It’s abit like saying you for world peace – simplistic claptrap.

    When it comes to competitive sport, trans women are more like men than they are women. I don’t understand why the trans lobby can’t just accept this. If you’re trans, then lots of competitive sport is probably not going to be open to you unless you want to compete against men.

    That’s sad, but lots of sports aren’t open to a lot of people – those with disabilities, those with long term injuries etc. I can no longer run anymore, competitively or otherwise due to injury. It’s just something I’ve accepted.

    There is no way that trans women can ever compete with woman on a totally level playing field.

    At the moment it seems that there is acceptance of transwomen in women’s sport as long as they don’t win or place too highly – as someone who used to run quite alot of cross country competitively, but never really came 1st 2nd or 3rd, that would really piss me off. I used to strive to finish in the top 10 or top 20 or whatever my goal was.

    scotroutes
    Full Member

    I have realised that this is just a troll by STW to get more clicks/engagment. V clever.

    I don’t think it has yet been linked on Facebook 🙂

    benos
    Full Member

    It seems a very weak statement from STW, hinting but providing no detail on what practical position they’d support.

    At face value, comments like “…policies which allow Trans women – and men – to participate at all levels of sport” and “sport is for all” could mean anything, e.g. support of the FINA’s policy or opposition to it.

    A better and bolder statement would be whether or not they support FINA’s plan, and what exactly in Nadine Dorries’s quoted statement they take issue with.

    Joe
    Full Member

    @5plusn8 you’re right tbh. Don’t know why we’re bothering engaging.

    It’s one of the main problems with the way the media works in Britain – even most of the junior staff at the tabloids, have views so out of kilter with the majority of people in the UK.

    I find STW’s desperation to be ram the culture war down our throats really exhausting. I just enjoy reading about cycling, and have no interest in the various crusade.

    Someone will be along in a minute to tell me that my views aren’t welcome.

    ThePilot
    Free Member

    “It’s one of the main problems with the way the media works in Britain – even most of the junior staff at the tabloids, have views so out of kilter with the majority of people in the UK.”

    I’m going to let you into a little secret… journalists write what they are paid to write.
    They may or may not agree with what they write/edit but they often don’t have time to think about it. And, you know, mortgage to pay.

    theotherjonv
    Full Member

    Someone who is just about qualifying for a mens world cup could therefore be a solid podium contender in womens.

    Could they really? Post transition, being bigger and heavier than their cis-competition, but having substantially reduced their hgb capacity and thus their endurance and W/kg – I’m not absolutely convinced. Look at the Pippa York cafe ride. I’ve saved to the right point for you. It’ll take five or six minutes of your time.

    benos
    Full Member

    Would you be happy for trans men (who by the same logic are still really women) to compete in women’s events?

    It would depend on transition, wouldn’t it? Exogenous testosterone falls under doping, but other than that why would a female person not be eligible to compete in female sports categories regardless of how they identify?

    Because this is where it all falls down, you can’t have it both ways. If you don’t want trans women in ‘women’s spaces’ like female toilets, then you’re advocating having trans men in women’s loos instead.

    Not at all, as I’m sure you know already. This isn’t a symmetrical situation, so claiming that people supporting women’s right are pushing for a symmetrical solution is a deliberate straw man.

    (WTF is the obsession with toilets anyway? Can’t we just have toilets? We’re all the same when we’re having a poo.)

    Also a straw man. Toilets are the least important contested space, being rather less of a concern than changing rooms, prisons, abuse and domestic violence shelters, rape counseling services, sleeping accommodation, hospital wards, and no doubt several other things.

    Superficial
    Free Member

    When it comes to competitive sport, trans women are more like men than they are women.


    @Joe
    , I don’t think that’s true – I suspect as others have said, the drop in testosterone has a pretty big impact quite early. But it’s also not actually that important either – in most sports there’s ~10% difference in performance gap between men and women. Even if only 5% of that advantage is retained (I.e. 0.5% overall advantage) when someone transitions male to female, there’s still a problem in truly* elite sports. I’d be very surprised if the retained advantage is only 5%, too.

    So your comment wasn’t true and it wasn’t relevant to the debate. Perhaps that was the aim was to make you seem bigoted? Or at least nail your colours to the mast. But yes, it’s STW who’re determined to create a culture war 🙄

    I find STW’s desperation to be ram the culture war down our throats really exhausting.

    * I say “truly” elite sports. There’s probably a better way to describe it, but I mean sports with a packed talented field, where winning requires physical power over skill and luck.

    Superficial
    Free Member

    It would depend on transition, wouldn’t it? Exogenous testosterone falls under doping, but other than that why would a female person not be eligible to compete in female sports categories regardless of how they identify?

    You’re just picturing a girl in jeans and short hair, aren’t you?

    Joe
    Full Member

    @superficial spare me. If it’s 0.5% it’s too much. It’s not even elite sports. It’s even your local parkrun.

    Why should a woman who works hard, and races hard to place highly be forced down the ranks?

    Strange how there is no issue of trans-men in elite sport isn’t it? The problem simply doesn’t exist. Funny that.

    jonnyboi
    Full Member
    thestabiliser
    Free Member

    Athletics faced this conundrum with middle distance 800m runner Caster Semenya a few years ago – the IAF mandated she (and athletes in similar positions) had to take medication to lower their testosterone levels to compete.

    Yeah that’s he example I was thinking about. She was/is treated pretty appallingly. But even then there are people with other chromosomal differences, i guess none are elite athletes or it isn’t public though. I guess the point is that as there are more “types” of gender than gender cats in sport, sport probably needs to catch up with reality

    Superficial
    Free Member


    @superficial
    spare me. If it’s 0.5% it’s too much. It’s not even elite sports.

    Er yes. That’s actually what I was saying.

    kelvin
    Full Member

    It’s even your local parkrun.

    See, this where the sensible approaches being sought by professional sports bodies will have a negative knock on effect on the general population, not just elite athletes. In the highly unlikely scenario that someone else joining in your parkrun has transitioned, or is transitioning… why do you want to stop them, and how will you police it? Take that on to kids and it gets even more problematic. What test prior to participation in fun sports events to people want?

    theotherjonv
    Full Member

    Pippa York says her power was down by about 20%, her weight up 10%, resulting in n/n ca 30% in W/kg.

    ie a substantial DISadvantage.

    tpbiker
    Free Member

    spare me. If it’s 0.5% it’s too much. It’s not even elite sports. It’s even your local parkrun.

    Why should a woman who works hard, and races hard to place highly be forced down the ranks?

    In a Parkrun then I’d say suck it up, it’s just a bit of fun, which elite sport certainly isn’t

    I had a discussion about this with my female mate about whether she’d be pissed off if she got beaten by a trans lady in one of our county tt races. Her response was yeah she would be a little, but ultimately it wouldn’t be a big deal because she and all the other girls she competed against would know who the real winner was

    I doubt someone who missed out on an Olympic spot or funding would be so philosophical. Hence why elite sport needs to be treated differently, there are actually consequences to trans folk competing

    ebygomm
    Free Member

    I guess the point is that as there are more “types” of gender than gender cats in sport, sport probably needs to catch up with reality

    Sport is segregated on the basis of biological sex, nothing to do with gender. It’s biological sex that is the biggest predictor of sporting differences not gender so gender is irrelevant.

    Trans women aren’t banned from competing, they are still free to compete in their biological sex category. That’s already inclusive.

    Instead we have men rushing to signal their lack of prejudice and bigotry by handing over women’s rights to other men.

    And yes, I’m quite happy for transmen to compete in female events, providing they are subject to the same doping rules as the rest of the field.

    ebygomm
    Free Member

    In the highly unlikely scenario that someone else joining in your parkrun has transitioned, or is transitioning… why do you want to stop them, and how will you police it?

    Indeed, who wants that job?

    “Jeska, a trans woman, was convicted of the attempted murder of Ralph Knibbs, HR manager for UK Athletics after Knibbs investigated Jeska’s eligibility to compete as a woman.”

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lauren_Jeska

    squirrelking
    Free Member

    Instead we have men rushing to signal their lack of prejudice and bigotry by handing over women’s rights to other men.

    I see a lot of prejudice and bigotry here but it’s all coming from you.

    It was a statement like yours that drove away the only openly trans member on here several years ago. She wasn’t even a competitive cyclist but the TERFs still circled in their sad little wagons and drove her away.

    Nobody is proposing the erosion of women’s rights, in fact just about everyone (I say that as I may have missed a comment) has said any competition has to be conducted fairly. Mark clarified STW’s position which seems totally fair if not what seemed to be said first time around. The only folk that seem to be all about denying rights are the anti-trans competitor side. So sad that feminists fought for their rights then some decided to slam the door behind them. Because that’s exactly what you’re doing and at the same time completely denying people’s identity.

    scotroutes
    Full Member

    I see a lot of prejudice and bigotry here

    the TERFs

    null

    ebygomm
    Free Member

    Presumably you think Sharron Davies, Martina Navratilova, Dame Laura Kenny, Tessa Sanderson are all bigots too? All female athletes who oppose biological males in competitive sport.

    thestabiliser
    Free Member

    Sport is segregated on the basis of biological sex, nothing to do with gender. It’s biological sex that is the biggest predictor of sporting differences not gender so gender is irrelevant.

    OK there are more sexes than male /female. Not talking about trans here, biological sexes.

    ebygomm
    Free Member

    OK there are more sexes than male /female. Not talking about trans here, biological sexes.

    My biology degree must have skipped over that part…

    DSD’s – disorders of sexual development != new biological sex

    And intersex people have stated they object to being used as gotchas in any discussion about trans rights.

    thestabiliser
    Free Member

    Not a gotcha, just there’s more to the human race than the two categories chosen by sporting bodies

    RustySpanner
    Full Member

    The one voice that’s always under represented in this debate is that of trans athletes themselves.

    Good article above with Pippa, let’s hear some more voices.

    chrismac
    Full Member

    I think the real problem is that people are accidentally, or deliberately confusing 2 things. THe first is what an individual wants to identify as , the second is biological science.

    As far as I am concerned individuals can identify as whatever they like each to their own and make your own choices.  However you cant argue with the basic biology that in 99.999% of case people are either born xx or xy and that leads to different scientifically provable attributes that make a difference when you are talking elite sport.  THose who rise to the top in elite sports do, in part because they happen to have a more optimised genetics for a particular sport. I know there are lots of other factors like opportunity, training etc etc

    kelvin
    Full Member

    let’s hear some more voices

    The problem is… there are actually very few trans athletes… and only a small proportion of them want to draw attention to themselves. Because that attention is unlikely to be overwhelmingly positive and supportive, is it.

    the second is biological science

    Part of the problem is that so many people consider that closed. Where as the biological science as regards sports performance/advantage of transitioned people is a young science. A lot of people are quick to compare men and women, rather than looking at the differences between trans women and other women. In swimming, the work has been done to support the position Fina have taken (obviously this could change again in future when more is known)… but that shouldn’t be taken as meaning the same results and rules apply across all other elite sports, and definitely not across sports at all levels.

    thestabiliser
    Free Member

    98-99%

    Or 99.98%

    Dependant on definition

    RustySpanner
    Full Member

    Yeah, good point.

    I still think it would help massively though.

    Markie
    Free Member

    Instead we have men rushing to signal their lack of prejudice and bigotry by handing over women’s rights to other men.

    Absolutely. The reason I cancelled my membership (recognizing as stated above that this does no harm to STW) is that I have no desire to financially support a sexist business.

    Trans women are male. Women are adult human females. Trans women are males who feel or believe themselves to be women. This does not mean they are women. It means they are trans women.

    If the definition of woman is to include trans women it become so broad we deny the term any real meaning, and remove from females the support in fighting sexism that sex based spaces provide.

    kimura54321
    Full Member

    I am a bit conflicted to be fair, want to support people and be inclusive but have reservations based on things I have read or listened to in terms of competitive advantages.

    The More or Less podcast did a very interesting episode on this subject, would say it is worth a listen.

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p0bnmpld

    BoardinBob
    Full Member

    Someone who is just about qualifying for a mens world cup could therefore be a solid podium contender in womens.

    Could they really? Post transition, being bigger and heavier than their cis-competition, but having substantially reduced their hgb capacity and thus their endurance and W/kg

    https://www.rootsandrain.com/event9598/2022-jun-11-mercedes-benz-uci-world-cup-dh-3-leogang/results/

    Most recent DH world cup. The fastest male who did not make it out of qualifying, was still 8 seconds quicker than the winning female time on race day.

    Same at the previous race, though the gap was 20 seconds

    https://www.rootsandrain.com/event9597/2022-may-22-mercedes-benz-uci-world-cup-dh-2-fort-william/results/

    onegearnoidea
    Free Member

    With the best will in the world (and I really do mean that) the Pippa Yorke interview is one persons experience, I don’t doubt the claims she makes for herself but it’s contrary to the results of scientific studies on the effects of testosterone reduction in transwomen where significant advantages are retained in strength and power.

    https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s40279-020-01389-3

    https://bjsm.bmj.com/content/55/15/865

    Note that the second link there is led by Joanna Harper, a pro inclusion trans women which concludes that advantages are retained even after three years of testosterone reduction.

    It is a very, very difficult subject. Personally on balance I come down on the side of fairness rather than inclusion but like many on here excluding a portion of the population doesn’t sit easily.

    Richie_B
    Full Member

    Pippa York says her power was down by about 20%, her weight up 10%, resulting in n/n ca 30% in W/kg.

    I don’t dispute the figures and have to admit to not knowing the timing of her transition relative to her retirement, but I would suspect that most elite level riders regardless of sex see similar power drops and weight gains following retirement.  There are a lot of numbers being thrown about on both sides of the argument which seem to be accepted on the basis that it fits a particular argument rather than scientific rigour.

    I’m firmly on the fence on this one, as I can see the arguments on both sides.  At ‘fun’ or even club level I can’t see an issue.  At an elite level the governing bodies are caught between the devil & the deep blue sea, although having Nadine Dorries wading instinctively makes me jump he other way.  On the other hand that reflects both sides of the debate which on the whole seems to be conducted by people who are only capable of listening to their own point of view.

    I don’t think that YouGov pole helps much either.  I’m not sure that the answers I could give cold to a telephone or internet survey to those questions would even vaguely reflect my views.

    As has already been said there is a lot of grey between the two poles, unfortunately sport is binary so the governing bodies are being pushed into an impossible position.

    Cougar
    Full Member

    I find STW’s desperation to be ram the culture war down our throats really exhausting. I just enjoy reading about cycling, and have no interest in the various crusade.

    And yet, here you are, taking time not just to read posts that don’t interest you but to flap your fingers up and down telling us all about something you have no interest in.

    Weird.

    Cougar
    Full Member

    Not at all, as I’m sure you know already. This isn’t a symmetrical situation, so claiming that people supporting women’s right are pushing for a symmetrical solution is a deliberate straw man.

    Symmetry or no, one does not protect someone’s rights by crushing someone else’s. Like it or not, just like the discussions we were having around homosexuality a decade or so ago, trans people exist. And like it or not, they’re not going to cease to exist just because their mere existence makes some other people uncomfortable.

    Again: Who would you have trans male athletes compete against?

    Also a straw man. Toilets are the least important contested space,

    Correct, any that’s exactly my point. It’s always about toilets, just like fishing cropped up again and again in the brexit debates. Truth is, it’s an irrelevance, it’s something no-one gave a second thought to until the TERFs realised it could be weaponised.

    MoreCashThanDash
    Full Member

    Some YouGov figures to help inform the conversation

    I’m not sure the opinions of the British public should be considered informed or reliable.

    Cougar
    Full Member

    I don’t think that YouGov pole helps much either.

    I think it’s telling – and wholly unsurprising – as a metric for measuring intolerance against demographics. I could probably have filled in most of that chart with a good degree of accuracy without surveying anyone.

    Markie
    Free Member

    Who would you have trans male athletes compete against?

    Other females, subject to the medication they take being acceptable to the relevant sporting bodies.

    lamp
    Free Member

    Trans women do have an immediate advantage over women as they don’t have a menstrual cycle for starters….let alone the advantages of generally speaking, a stronger physique.

    No idea what the answer is in elite sports. Compete as the sex you were born? I’ve listened to Sharron Davies opinion on this as she was a competitive female (woman) and she has very valid points.

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