UK sports councils unveil new guidelines for transgender participation

UK sports council
National sports governing bodies are being urged to find ‘innovative and creative ways to ensure nobody is left out’. Photograph: Issei Kato/Reuters

Trans women retain physique, stamina, and strength advantages when competing in female sport, even when they reduce their testosterone levels. New guidelines for transgender participation in national and grassroots sport were published by the UK sports councils on Thursday.

  • The long-awaited report argues there is no magic solution that balances the inclusion of trans women in female sport while guaranteeing competitive fairness and safety. As well as for the first time, it tells sports across Britain that they will have to choose which to prioritize.
  • Stressing that finding new ways to encourage greater inclusion is also hugely important, the report urges national governing bodies to find “innovative and creative ways to ensure nobody is left out” including coming up with new formats, such as non-contact versions of team sports, that can be played safely and fairly by everyone.

“Sport must be a place where everyone can be themselves, where everyone can take part and where everyone is treated with kindness, dignity, and respect,”

the guidelines stated.

  • The landmark report is highly significant because it comes from UK Sport, Sport England, Sport Wales, SportScotland and Sport Northern Ireland, who between them invest hundreds of millions of pounds in sport each year.
  • While the five councils cannot enforce the guidelines, their words carry significant weight and they are likely to be welcomed and implemented by many sports bodies, who have felt in limbo while disputes over how trans athletes participate in sport have raged around them.
  • However, they may face criticism from some women’s advocacy groups, who are likely to argue the guidelines do not go far enough. Conversely, some trans rights groups are likely to voice concerns that the guidelines will lead to trans women being excluded from some sports.

Many trans groups are also skeptical of some of the evidence pointing to the advantages retained by trans women in female sport, although the councils say the work is based on exploring almost all of the most up-to-date research in the area internationally.