When the IOC announced last month its policy on transgender participation would change, Australian transgender advocate and athlete Kirsti Miller saw the new direction as an affirmation.
“It is treating us all as individuals instead of a monolithic community,” she said. “That is a number one paradigm shift. That is what I fought for from day one in this discussion.”
In an interview on this week’s edition of The Trans Sporter Room, the outspoken athlete, activist, and Twittersphere folk hero did a breakdown on the framework and focused on perhaps the most crucial change: Individual sporting world governing bodies will be empowered to create their own regulations to fit their sports with guidance from an IOC-built set of 10 principles that start from an emphasis on inclusion and non-discrimination.
Left out of the framework is the focus on direct regulation of endogenous testosterone levels for transgender women. The long-standing regulation has been a flashpoint of contention that affects transgender athletes and cisgender athletes with what the IOC has termed “differences in sexual development”.
In its place, the new policy would focus on evidence-based, sport-specific solutions that use sport results and lab results as the measuring stick. “The arbitrary T (testosterone) level made no sense,” Miller said. “There was no assessment of speed, no assessment of endurance, no assessment of strength or physique.”
The new IOC framework, effective March 2022, suggests that restrictions for participation should be based on, “data collected from a demographic group consistent in gender and athletic engagement”. Miller hopes the IOC would consider adopting the approach used by Australian Football League Women’s. A transgender woman seeking to play in the elite division of the league would have to submit data on a set of strength, endurance and speed parameters, which would be compared to an aggregate of all league players over a two-year period to assess of level of advantage if one exists.
Miller notes such a system would not only be a better barometer for trans women athletes, and would also aid in cases such as that of South African middle-distance champion Caster Semenya, who has fought World Athletics in court for years over its regulations.
“This is the type of study that sports moving forward will have to do,” Miller said. “All these other sports could refuse and not implement the IOC policy and leave themselves open to litigation. These sports will refuse to heed the IOC at their own peril.”
She also noted the legal precedents involved, led by the case of Canadian cyclist Kristen Worley, who first took the Union Cycliste Internationale to court after being the first trans athlete to submit to gender testing after the initial Stockholm Consensus in 2003. Worley won a settlement from both the UCI and Canada’s national governing body for cycling in the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal in 2017 after it was determined that the policy calling for forced reduction of testosterone was detrimental to her overall health.
“The science proved beyond any doubt that androgen deprivation is a serious illness and that is what they have forced athletes like me and athletes like Caster and we’ve all become unwell,” Miller said. “Kristen choose to lose her career to fight for the better cause because this isn’t just a trans or intersex issue. This is a women in sports issue and we wouldn’t be here without Kristen Worley.”
Miller seeks to continue to make her voice heard as the IOC moves ahead with its new policy. From representing her state and her country at highest level in three sports as a teenager, to being a prison warden as an adult and during her transition, to her return to competitive sport as the first trans woman to do so in the mining town she calls home, Kirsti Miller has always stood out. She vows to continue to speak out as this new future comes into view.
“We have to be centered in this and the IOC has said they want survivors and we are all survivors who have to centered in this,” she said. “We’re all women and I believe that this is going to stop the gender stereotypes and body stereotypes and this is a massive step for all women in sport.”
Kristi Miller had a great deal of knowledge, history and opinions to share in this interview and not just on the IOC framework. She also touched on her involvement with the Women’s Sports Policy Working Group and talked about issues in Australia that has her thinking about a run for her nation’s parliament in 2022. Hear the complete interview n this week’s edition of The Trans Sporter Room. Check it out on Megaphone, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Apple podcasts, and many other platforms for Outsports podcasts as well.