Anglican Diocese of Armidale

The Anglican Diocese of Armidale exists to glorify God by introducing people to Jesus and helping them home to heaven.


In Focus

Transgender and Sport

Tuesday, October 06, 2020

I am not sure that the women I know are looking forward to being unrepresented at an elite level in the sports of their choice. For all those men who are not fans of women’s sport (their loss), you may be able to rejoice that women’s sport will soon be the domain of men. That sounds confusing, and it is, because it is confusing. 

I came upon a blog by Stephen McAlpine that highlighted the inevitable confusion and disappointment for our Aussie girls, daughters, and wives. McAlpine quotes Australia’s Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins, “Participation in sport is a human right.”  The statement itself could not be more ridiculous and tragically devalues the significant nature of human rights. Sport is not a human right. A privilege maybe, but not a right. The context of the quote was in welcoming the announcement by nine elite sports bodies in Australia, that trans athletes would be included in their elite teams should they meet the standard. Those nine bodies are AFL, Hockey Australia, Rugby Australia, Tennis Australia, Touch Football Australia, UniSport Australia and Water Polo Australia. I can’t imagine how difficult it will be to assess whether certain people “meet the standard” when the very genetics of a person work against trans athletes.   

McAlpine believes that the transition will all be one-way traffic, “The movement into male elite sport by a woman who has transitioned to a man is non-existent. Something to do with height, weight, power, strength etc. built up over a puberty burst that cannot be unravelled...”  But even if we ignore such gender issues, there remains duty of care issues. Tasmanian senator, Claire Chandler, has spoken out about the statistically disturbing 30% increase in physical injury that takes place in rugby when transgender men take to the field against women.

Surprisingly, despite her concerns sounding legitimate, she was met with a complaint filed against her with the Tasmanian Sex Discrimination Commissioner. Thankfully the complaint went nowhere. However, one wonders if such complaint could be made against a parent who didn’t want their daughter playing rugby against a male athlete who has transitioned to a woman. It sounds selfish to think that a daughter would have to choose something else than a game she loves if she was fearful of being hurt by a trans athlete.  

The experience of Senator Chandler reveals the problem. What woman is likely to speak out in defence of women’s elite sport when they see the treatment dished out to Senator Chandler and historically to the likes of Martina Navratilova and J.K Rowling? The demise of Israel Folau’s rugby career indicates the power of a sporting body or sponsor to silence any opposition.  However, an intelligent, respectful speaking out is exactly what is required. Women in elite sport need to speak up. Women and men need to speak up. Parents need to speak up. The experimental “Sexular Culture” as McAlpine describes it must find its limits.

What’s the answer to the confusion? Well here’s a thought, let sporting bodies honour sexual diversity by respecting the diversity of sexes not mingling them. Here’s another thought for a world where women suffer significantly more domestic violence than men; don’t tolerate sporting abuse by trans athletes on women in the name of “human rights”. What about this for a thought, the nine elite sporting bodies find a place for wise leadership not the leadership of fools.

Respect! Respect! Respect! That’s a good word that works in all directions. Perhaps we should apply a Christian principle of considering other people more important than ourselves rather than changing ourselves with an agenda to invade a space that is not ours and never should be.

If all else fails… go surfing. You can do it on your own, the money doesn’t matter and it doesn’t discriminate. 

Rick Lewers