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Final consultation on Sport NZ's Guiding Principles for the
Inclusion of Transgender Participants in Community Sport


The Purpose


Sport NZ is in their final stage of consultation on the Guiding Principles for the Inclusion of Transgender Participants In Community Sport. The purpose of these guidelines is to help sports develop policies for their own codes at grassroots community level. 

It is clear that if these guidelines are finalised in their current form, transgender inclusion will be prioritised over the fairness, safety and opportunities for girls and women in sport. 


The Sport NZ Draft Guiding Principles state: An Inclusive transgender policy allows individuals to take part in their self-determined gender and not the sex they were assigned at birth. It does not ask people to prove or otherwise justify their gender, sex or gender identity.


What this means for the female category at community sport:


If a male declares a female identity, they will be entitled to play with and against females at community level sport, no questions asked. If sporting organisations have not been able to facilitate private bathrooms, they will also be entitled to use the facilities that they are most comfortable in, such as female bathrooms, changing rooms and female dormitories on sports trips. Sport NZ’s guiding principles also imply that community sport isn’t competitive and female athletes don’t play to win. The draft principles say that girls are involved in sport primarily as a social activity, and so requiring them to accept males that identify as girls or women into the female category is inclusive.


Our concerns


  • No research has been undertaken to gain an understanding of the potential impacts on girls and women should these guidelines be implemented into sporting policies. 

  • There is a risk that female participation levels will be impacted, if they are not comfortable playing with, or against, males that identify as women. 

  • There will be less opportunity for females to win, place on podiums, or make a team. The ability for females to win will be under threat due to the biological advantage of male transgender athletes. 

  • Females will not be given the opportunity to give consent, especially in a contact or collision sport, for participating against a male-bodied opponent. Females currently give consent to play sport against other females, and should not have to accept the increased risk of playing against male bodies. 

  • There may be mental health consequences for females, especially in their teenage years should even more girls and women choose not to participate in sport. Research shows that the overall rates of mental health disorders tend to be around 20-40% higher in females than males. Females are more likely to suffer from psychological problems, to self-harm, and to experience suicidal thoughts and attempt suicide. Research also shows that both depression and high instances of self-harm decline through physical activity, hence the importance of continuing to invest in increasing female participation rates in sport, and not to implement policies that threaten the current levels. 

  • How can officials ensure the safety of female athletes should a male transgender athlete be competing, especially in contact sports? 

  • How will volunteers ensure the safety of female athletes in their changing rooms, and in female dormitories on sports trips, if male bodies are allowed in those spaces?

  • How will sports clubs and associations deal with female transgender athletes taking testosterone if they wish to continue participating in the female category, given it is performance enhancing? 

  • When female athletes are beaten, or miss out on opportunities – as they already have – due to male transgender participation in the female category, how they will deal with the inevitable backlash from the athletes, parents, or spectators?


If you share our concerns about the implications of the guiding principles, what can you do?


Sport NZ is seeking written feedback on the guiding principles from National Sporting organisations, and those involved in the previous rounds of consultation, by Friday, 15 July 2022.  


However, Save Women's Sport believes it is important for all stakeholders who will be required to implement and oversee, or be impacted by these guidelines, to have input into them. This includes officials, volunteers, and most especially female athletes and/or the parents, caregivers or whānau of girls in sport.  You can find a copy of the guidelines here.

Please send any feedback or concerns you have to your national sporting association, and/or:

Here is some information you may find useful for your submission:

  • Why do we need to protect the female sporting category?
    The reason we have male/female sporting categories is that we recognise that males have a significant sporting advantage over females. The effect of testosterone makes males (on average) stronger, taller and heavier than females. They have greater lung capacity and muscle mass, longer arms and greater reach. They can run faster, jump longer, throw further and lift more. The differences in performance for elite male and female athletes is so marked across a wide range of sports that female athletes simply cannot bridge the gap. It is not hard to see the performance gap – thousands of teenage boys and adult males outperform the very best biological females every year. Safety and fairness are crucial in sports. The current movement to include trans-identifying males will compromise both. If we do not act to protect the female category, female competitors will be at greater risk of injury in any sports involving contact. Further, the impact on women and girls of competing against males who have an unbeatable advantage that no amount of training will overcome is likely to be far-reaching. We have heard from elite athletes who have missed out on opportunities and prizes that they deserved, these women are demoralised and angry, yet they are afraid to speak out for fear of repercussions. The wider effects on women and girls’ reduced participation in sports is likely to be seen in years to come. We highly recommend watching the following video with Dr. Ross Tucker, PhD, who was involved in the development of World Rugby's Transgender Guidelines. as he presents biological perspectives on transgender athletes in sport.
  • How is the female sports category under threat?
    After many years of progress for women’s participation in sports, a new challenge has appeared: male-born athletes who identify as women are being allowed to compete against females. This is unfair to women. Female athletes who want to protest this clear injustice often face barriers: they risk a media backlash, jeopardising contracts with commercial sponsors, and being disciplined by their sporting bodies.
  • How did we get to this situation?
    In 2003 the International Olympic Committee (IOC) issued a set of regulations that permitted transwomen to compete if they met the following criteria: · Testes removed two years prior to competition · Legal female identity · Hormone levels similar to female profiles. In 2015 new guidelines loosened the qualifying criteria for transwomen. · “Sex reassignment surgery” was no longer required. Athletes could retain their testicles · A “sworn declaration” of female identity was sufficient, and there was no longer a requirement to be legally female · Testosterone must be maintained at less than 10 nmol for a minimum of 12 months (this is much higher than female ranges). Many sporting bodies embraced the IOC guidelines. A few, including the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), have set lower testosterone limits (though often higher than typical female ranges). The testosterone-centered policies used at the Olympics aren’t just about elite sports. They trickle down to even the recreational and youth levels, and end up undermining fairness, safety and opportunities for females in sport. In 2022 the IOC updated their policy yet again, this time placing the responsibility of establishing guidelines for trans inclusion on each individual sport. It also concludes that sporting bodies should not assume that transgender women have an inherent advantage over cisgender women, nor should transgender women have to reduce their testosterone levels to compete. Scientists have warned that the IOC’s new guidance – which states there is no need for trans women to lower their testosterone to compete against natal women – ignores the science on sex, gender and performance and focuses mostly on inclusion. While many of our sporting leaders are currently prioritising inclusion, we believe safety and fairness, with universal currency in every discipline of sport and recreation, deserve priority. Fostering an environment of disregard for physical or mental wellbeing, or displaying disrespect for fair play, is unwelcoming and potentially damaging to all participants - but most especially females.
  • When males transition to transwomen, don’t they lose the advantages they once had?"
    First of all, unless the sporting body expressly requires and monitors testosterone levels, “transition” does not require a trans-identifying male to undergo any physical changes to identify as a woman and to join the female sporting category. If a trans-identifying male elects to remove his testes or to use hormones (most commonly oestrogen) this will suppress testosterone production. Although this will reduce the performance advantage to some extent it does not undo all the advantages of testosterone on greater muscle mass, skeletal muscle, stiffer connective tissue, fat distribution, longer, larger and denser skeletal structure and cardiovascular and respiratory function.[1] Research shows that even following testosterone reduction males retain significant performance advantages, even after 3 years of hormone treatment[2]. We recommend watching this excellent analysis by Prof. Ross Tucker, of Science of Sport:
  • If this was a significant issue, surely we would have seen lots of transgender Olympic gold medallists before now?"
    Historically there have been restrictions on trans-identifying males competing in female sports at community and elite levels. In 2003 the International Olympic Committee (IOC) issued a set of regulations that only allowed trans-identified males to compete in the female category if they met the following criteria: Testes removed two years prior to competition; Legal female identity; and Hormone levels similar to female profiles. In 2015 new guidelines loosened the qualifying criteria for transwomen. “Sex reassignment surgery” was no longer required; A “sworn declaration” of female identity was sufficient; Testosterone must be maintained at less than 10 nmol for a minimum of 12 months (this is much higher than female ranges). The latest guidelines do away with even these restrictions. In November 2021 the IOC’s guidelines made a mockery of the female sporting category. All that a male needs to do to compete in the female category is to say that he is one. Despite the research, and common sense, that says otherwise, the Guidelines state that there should be no presumption of performance advantage on the basis of an athlete’s sex.[1] Although national and community sporting organisations are not required to follow the IOC’s guidelines, a number of organisations are doing so. The numbers of trans-identifying males in female sports is on the rise and we are increasingly hearing from athletes as well as parents of young girls who are very concerned but feel powerless.
  • Don’t trans athletes deserve to participate in sport?
    Yes. We believe in the power of sport and we believe that everyone should be encouraged to participate in sport. BUT we do not believe that everyone should be able to play in the female category. We have age-restrictions and weight-restrictions in certain sports for good reason, likewise sex-categories exist for good reason. Where sports categories are split by sex, in recognition of the physical advantages that males have over females, male-born athletes should be restricted from competing in the female category but they should have an equal opportunity to compete in the men’s or open categories.
  • Are females just being sore losers?
    No. Female athletes are not able to mitigate the biological advantages that are retained by male bodies. No amount of will power or training can override the powerful impact of testosterone.
  • Where can I find out more?
    World Rugby undertook an extensive research-based review of their transgender policy. Their findings and research can be found here: And the UK Sports Council undertook a review of international literature in their review and draft of the Guidance for Transgender Inclusion in Domestic Sport which you can read here. Fair Play for Women in the UK, and US-based campaign group Save Women’s Sports have lots of information on their websites. There are informative videos of the speakers at the UK Women’s Place/Fair Play event available on Youtube.
  • How can I take action in support of women’s sport?
    There are a few ways to take action: Speak up! Share information on social media, tell your friends, contact your local MP as well as your local, regional and national sporting associations to let them know why we need to protect the female category. If you have a story to share, we would love to hear from you. We would appreciate your financial support as we continue our fight to #Savewomenssport!

Save Womens Sport Australasia is part of an international coalition of women's organisations, athletes, and supporters
of women in sport who assert that male athletes should not compete in female sports.

Subscribe to keep up to date on our campaigns.


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