UK Athletics, Britain’s national governing body for track and field, put forth an updated position paper on transgender inclusion Friday calling for a restructuring of the current categories involving male and female athletes.
The statement proposes that efforts be made towards “fairly and safely include transgender women in an ‘open’ category, which would replace the current male category and be open to athletes of all sexes and reserve the women’s category for competitors who were female at birth, so that they can continue to compete fairly.”
At the center of their contentions are conclusions, disputed in some corners, from the UK Sports Council Equality Group Guidance published in September 2021. UK Athletics endorse the UK SCEG’s view on testosterone limits for transgender women.
UK Athletics chair Ian Beattie claims that a change in regulations would depend on a change in two key pieces of British human rights law, the 2004 Gender Recognition Act, and the 2010 Equalities Act. In tandem, both pertain directly to access of transgender Britons to all due rights and accommodations, and would need changes for these new policy to avoid legal challenges and lawsuits.
“The GRA states that people with gender recognition certificates have to be treated as female for all purposes. And there’s not an exemption for that for sporting purposes, Beattie stated to the Guardian. “If we didn’t get a legal change, it would be very difficult for us to go ahead with this policy. I think the risks to the organization we would see as too high.”
Britain’s Equality and Human Rights Commission said the Beattie’s view of the legal questions was “inaccurate” and noted that advice this pending policy would not violate the 2010 Equality Act.
A prominent piece of that government, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, showed his general support in an interview with British-based Talk TV’s Piers Morgan Thursday. “It doesn’t strike most people as being fair,” Sunak answered when asked about transgender women in sports. “That’s why when it comes to these questions biological sex matters.”
Anti-trans organizations within the UK such as Sex Matters laud the British proposal saying “female-only sports are essential to provide safe and fair competition for women. But female-only competition is already lawful under the Equality Act.”
A statement from the LGBTQ rights organization Stonewall UK was critical, noting that much of the data the policy based on ignores or never considers experience of trans people in sport. “The trans population may be small, but they have every right to participate in sports and enjoy the many physical, mental and community benefits of sports,” Stonewall said. “It is vital that sports use robust evidence from the actual practice and experience of their sports, when seeking to update inclusion and participation policies.”
The issue comes amid a worldwide debate over regulations concerning transgender inclusion that has raged since a transgender woman, New Zealand weightlifter Laurel Hubbard, qualified for and competed in the 2021 Summer Olympics.
On Jan. 21, World Athletics announced a proposals for more stringent testosterone requirements for both transgender women and cisgender women with difference in sexual development. but still allows transgender women to compete in a women’s category.
British Triathlon put forth a policy last summer for 2023 where the men’s category becomes the “open” classification for all except cisgender women. Cisgender women would be the only athletes eligible to compete in a women’s classification.
Swimming’s world governing body, FINA, had stated that they were considering a similar policy after announcing the total ban on transgender women competing in the women category in their sport. Some speculate that the policy change was a reaction to the success of American college swimmer Lia Thomas at the NCAA championships three months earlier.