Flawed sport policies keep female athletes in the dark

Last week Save Women’s Sport Australasia shared the story of a female football (soccer) player in NSW. She spoke about getting tackled by the goalie on the opposing team and it was then she realised that individual was a transgender male. This male was playing in the women’s football league in a community level competition.

The woman who shared her story recounted how she hadn’t experienced being hit that hard since being subjected to male violence in a domestic situation sometime in the past. The soccer incident had not only injured her due to the force of the tackle, but it had also re-traumatised her as it triggered memories of her abuse at the hands of a male.

This domestic abuse survivor went to the football association to make a formal complaint and for her trouble she has been ostracised from her team and her club, as well as encouraged not to play anymore games due to the apparently problematic and no doubt bigoted views she holds around men in women’s sport. The President of her football club even had the temerity to state that the presence of the transgender male is “not up for debate” as “she has a right to be there”. Meanwhile the team the transgender male plays for have denied this matter entirely saying the player registered as “female” and so they are a female.

The reason transgender males (or any male who says he “identifies as a woman”) have been permitted and indeed encouraged to play in women’s competitions is due to Sport Australia and the Australian Human Rights Commission 2019 guidelines. The “Guidelines for the inclusion of transgender and gender diverse people in sport”(1) (The Guidelines) prioritise “gender identity” above sex in the name of “inclusion”. The Guidelines state: “Sporting organisations should consider incorporating the following elements into their inclusion policies:

  • a statement that participation in sport should be based on a person’s affirmed gender identity and not the sex they were assigned at birth (2) to the fullest extent possible”.

Football Federation Australia is one of the first 8 sporting organisations in The Coalition of Major Professional and Participation Sports (COMPPS) to sign up to the Sport Australia guidelines.

If the use of this ideological language by Australia’s peak sporting body isn’t bad enough, then consider that the presence of a male in a women’s sport competition is not considered the business of the female athletes or those athletes’ parents in the case of younger participants.

As per The Guidelines Section 5.6:

“Sporting organisations can ensure that their processes are inclusive, minimise potential discrimination and protect the privacy of transgender and gender diverse people by:

  • not disclosing the transgender or gender diverse status of a player without their express permission”.

This may be news to many readers, and this is exactly what has occurred in this instance. The football club with the transgender player has refused to acknowledge this (despite another Club President confirming it). Instead, they have said that the player registered as “female” and therefore they are female. This is where these “inclusion” policies lead us. To a place where fairness and safety

for girls and women has been completely disregarded. To a place where a female survivor of male violence has been re-traumatised after colliding with a male on the field in a women’s sports competition. The privacy and confidentiality of the transgender player is considered more important than fairness and safety for the rest of the players.

Save Women’s Sport Australasia raised concerns regarding these controversial policies back in 2020 and again in 2021 at International Women’s Day rallies in Brisbane (the only capital city women’s day march in Australia which doesn’t centre males and their special identities).

Considering what we already know as fact regarding the biological and physiological advantages males have over females(3) (regardless of testosterone suppression) and the considerable safety risks to females as a result - why should the truth be withheld from women? As an example - on average, men are physically stronger than women; men have 66% more upper-body muscle than women, and 50% more lower body muscle(4). Why should the fact there is a male in a women’s sporting competition be kept from the female players and their parents? Don’t these girls and women have a right to know they are taking the field against a male?

Why is the chosen “identity” of a male and the acceptance and validation of that identity considered more important than the actual reality of women? Why are we being forced to not only pretend that these males are women and accept they may be in our sports, but also being denied the truth when it may impact on female player welfare and wellbeing?

Many sections of the media have continually portrayed the inclusion of “transwomen” in women’s sport as a non-issue and have misrepresented the science and the facts. Just this week the ABC was found to have breached their code of conduct with regards to impartiality and was forced to correct a sports story and headline about transgender athletes after an internal review found the story was “materially misleading”(5). I’m proud to say I was the complainant in that matter. I hope it is the start of the end of the biased reporting we have seen from the ABC on this issue.

Finally, the heart of the issue (and something which will have to be the topic of another article) is the fact that the ABC is signed up to the ACON Australian Workplace Equality Index(7). (AWEI) which promotes “inclusion initiatives” and is the Australian equivalent to lobby group Stonewall(8) in the UK. Meantime, the Australian Human Rights Commission and the Australian Sports Commission (which includes Sport Australia) are both “Foundation Partners” of ACON’s “Pride in Sport”(9) program, a “sporting inclusion program specifically designed to assist sporting organisations at all levels with the inclusion of employees, athletes, volunteers and spectators with diverse genders and sexualities” (10)


Why is Australia’s national public broadcaster, government agencies and peak sporting body taking instruction from an unelected lobby group who do not represent the Australian public but who are instead working to entrench gender ideology into Australian sport, culture and society as a whole?


Nerissa Scott

Representative, Save Women’s Sport Australasia

www.savewomenssport.com

 

1 Guidelines for the inclusion of transgender and gender diverse people in sport (2019) | Australian Human Rights Commission 2 Emphasis my own – sex is not “assigned at birth”, it is observed, even in utero, and recorded at birth

3 “Transgender Women in the Female Category of Sport: Perspectives on Testosterone Suppression and Performance Advantage” Emma N. Hilton, Tommy R. Lundberg, Sports Medicine (2021) 51:199–214 4 NPRGFullDocumentPrintV17.pdf (genderresourceguide.com) 5 ABC transgender sport story ‘misleading’, review finds (archive.ph) 6 Pride in Sport Index (https://www.prideinsport.com.au/psi/)

7 Australian Workplace Equality Index (pid-awei.com.au) 8 Department of Health becomes latest public body to DITCH Stonewall | Daily Mail Online

9 Current Members - Pride in Sport Pride in Sport 10 About Pride in Sport - Pride in Sport

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