December 6th 2022
MEDIA RELEASE: Sport NZ confirm fairness and safety of women and girls no longer a priority
In a cycling club in New Zealand a male cyclist now holds the 2022 season trophies for female rider of the year, the female road race, and female time trial, after identifying into the women’s category.
In roller derby, women have left a sport they love after being hurt by a male player who was allowed to join a women’s team on the basis of his self-proclaimed gender identity. When they raised concerns, they were accused of bigotry and transphobia.
In mountain biking, a male cyclist is regularly taking placings and prize money from female contenders after being allowed into the women’s competition a season after announcing they were transitioning.
Save Women’s Sport Australasia (SWSA) co-spokeswoman Candice Riley says according to Sport New Zealand, and its transgender inclusion guidelines released today, all of these examples, and many others, are to be celebrated as shining examples of transgender inclusion in community sport. “Today Sport NZ has made its position clear. The right of any male, for any reason, to self-identify as a girl or woman into the sport of their choosing without any medical or surgical transition is deemed more important than the female players and athletes to be able to compete fairly and safely.”
Riley, a former New Zealand elite rower and endurance athlete, says there are many other examples in New Zealand where Sport NZ’s inclusion policy is negatively impacting women. “There is the domestic violence victim who has quit the women’s sports team she loves after suffering panic attacks from being physically accosted by a male player, the Muslim woman who no longer swims because the ‘women’s only’ session is open to males who identify as women, the aspiring young cricket player who knows she will never be able to bowl as fast or hit as hard as the male allowed to self-identify into her team, are all invisible collateral damage.”
SWSA research conducted by Curia found only 27% of the New Zealand public supported males self-identifying as women being able to compete in women’s sport, with 55% opposed and 19% unsure.
“Sport NZ find themselves markedly out of step with the majority of New Zealanders who know that the biological and physiological differences of sex matter in sport. New Zealanders know the truth – that people play sport with their body, not their self-determined inner gender identity.
“New Zealanders know that sex separated categories in sport are required for girls and women to compete and thrive at all levels of sport. Every single female Olympian, World Cup winner, and professional athlete started and advanced her sporting aspirations in community sport. It is unbelievable that today Sport NZ is telling New Zealand girls and young women that including male bodies that possess an inner female gender identity in their sporting categories is more important than providing them with a fair playing field on which to participate, compete, and succeed.
“Sport New Zealand stated during the consultation process that they may reduce or withdraw funding from sports that do not implement their transgender inclusion guidelines. While they are claiming these are only “guidelines” we know that many sports are reliant on funding from Sport NZ to function and so the principles released today will place many sports in an insidious position,” she says.
SWSA are strong advocates for the inclusion in sport.
Co-spokewoman Ro Edge says participation in sport brings physical, mental health, and social benefits that should be accessible to all, but not at the expense of fairness and safety to female players. SWSA applauds the decision of Boxing NZ to balance inclusion with fairness and safety – by protecting the women’s and girls’ categories for females only, and progressing with open categories for those who do not identify as their biological sex.
Ro Edge says Sport NZ has shown itself to be intransigent. “Sport NZ has refused to even consider the scientific evidence that clearly sets out the differences in male and female physiology that provide indisputable male advantage in sports involving strength, stamina or speed. It has also refused to take into account the significantly increased safety risk of allowing a male body to compete against women in contact or combat sports. There is a growing body of evidence that shows that female athletes are at significantly greater risk of a traumatic brain injury event than male athletes. They also fare worse after a concussion and take longer to recover.
“We are also deeply dismayed by Sport New Zealand’s claim in the guidelines that not allowing a transgender woman (male) access to women’s sporting categories is a form of direct discrimination. This stands in direct opposition to section 49 of the Human Rights Act 1993 that specifically allows for the exclusion of persons of one sex from participation in any competitive sporting activity in which the strength, stamina, or physique of competitors is relevant.
“With the release of the guidelines today Sport NZ has confirmed its continued prioritisation of ideology over common sense solutions and how out of step it is with international sporting bodies such as rugby, swimming, and triathlon which are being led by science and evidence,” she says. “Sadly, it is female players and athletes who are losing out by no longer participating, and in lost opportunities, placings, and prizes.”