“Protect women’s sport,” say two British transgender professional athletes

"Protect women's sport," say two British transgender professional athletes

Two current elite female runners argue that transgender women should compete in a “open category” to “defend women’s sport.”

The question is whether trans women can participate in female categories without their biological sex giving them an unfair advantage or posing a risk of injury to other competitors. Cycling and swimming regulatory bodies are actively reconsidering their transgender rules.

The British athletes, one of whom is an Olympian, think that athletes should only participate in their biological sex group.

Many argue that transgender women should not compete in elite women’s sport because of any advantages they may retain – but others argue that sport should be more inclusive.

The athletes whospoke, have asked to remain anonymous for fear of social media backlash and losing sponsorship deals.

In recent months, the debate has transcended sport, even drawing comment from UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson who does not believe transgender women should compete in female sporting events.

They were advised against speaking out by those closest to them – but felt they needed to “stand up”.

“I believe sport needs to be kept in sex categories,” said athlete A. “That’s the only way it remains fair.

“The categories aren’t there for gender identity. The categories are there for sex and the difference between the two sexes.” Athlete B added: “Competition needs to be fair; it’s meaningful if it’s fair.

“The whole point of competition is to make a fair and level playing field and the only way to do that is to have a female category and a male open category, where trans women can compete and it’s a level playing field. “We need to protect women’s sport.”

The debate around transgender athletes has recently focused on the case of transgender cyclist Emily Bridges. In March, the 21-year-old was ruled ineligible to compete in her first elite women’s race by the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI), cycling’s world governing body. The process to rule on Bridges’ eligibility to race in international competitions is continuing, while British Cycling has suspended its transgender policy.

Last year, New Zealand weightlifter Laurel Hubbard became the first openly transgender athlete to compete at an Olympic Games in a different sex category to that in which they were born, while in March, American Lia Thomas became the first known transgender swimmer to win the highest US national college title. “I think by trying to have inclusion it actually excludes who the category is for,” said athlete A.

She said she had been “harassed and demonised” after being told she could not compete. Bridges began hormone therapy last year as part of her gender dysphoria treatment and has now become eligible to compete in women’s events because of lowered levels of testosterone.

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