An open letter to Mark Drakeford from Fair Play for Women

Roviel Detanamo, Tania Edwards and Angie Marino all lost their places in the 2021 Olympics to male athletes.

Dear Mark Drakeford

You propose dialogue and understanding to answer the questions about trans gender inclusion in female sport. We would welcome a dialogue with you. Like you, we favour inclusion. That is made possible in sport by creating categories for different bodies. Children compete in age groups because otherwise they would be disadvantaged. Older athletes find meaningful competition through masters events with their own age group. In combat sports, weight classes are used too. But the category most commonly used in sport, the one with its own section in the UK Equality Act, is sex. Male puberty confers so great an advantage in gender-affected sport that it is not fair – and in some sports not safe – to have male and female bodies in the same events. There is an average sex performance gap of at least 10%, and in some sports up to 50%, while races are won by fractions of one percent. Without sex categories, all sport would be male sport. There would be no female Olympians or World Champions. The few exceptions like equestrian and shooting only prove the rule.

We are making no judgement on anyone’s identity, but it’s a simple fact that all transwomen were born male and retain a male performance advantage in most sports. Categories in sport are concerned with sex not gender identity. No one says transgender people should be banned from sport, simply that they should compete in a category that it appropriate for their sex. We don’t say transwomen should be excluded from female sport because they are “trans”. It’s because their sex is male and they have an advantage because of that.

The whole purpose of sport categories is so everyone can have access to a form of safe and fair sport. Inclusion means everyone should have a place in sport. It does not mean having the right to enter any category you choose. It must be based on objective factors like sex and age.

One transwoman in a sport impacts many women. Not just the one who loses her place in a team or on the podium, but others who get pushed down the rankings, others who stop playing because it’s not fun or not fair or even not safe. Others who are put off because they know they can’t win.

Women in some cultures and religions can’t play in women’s teams anymore because they can’t be sure there won’t be a male there. We hear from parents saying they can’t let their daughters play rugby, football, hockey or cricket now because if they come up against a trans player in the opposition it would not be safe. This is not inclusion, is it?

Mark, your own sports council, Sport Wales, endorsed the independent report commissioned by the Sports Council Equality Group. They concluded,
“the inclusion of transgender people into female sport cannot be balanced regarding transgender inclusion, fairness and safety in gender-affected sport where there is meaningful competition.

This is due to retained differences in strength, stamina and physique between the average woman compared with the average transgender woman or non-binary person assigned male at birth, with or without testosterone suppression.

Sport is important in people’s lives. That’s why sport must be a welcoming and inclusive place for everyone. This must include solutions for trans people but this cannot be at the expense of another unrepresented group that also matters. Sports Councils recognised this when they made suggestions for new ways to ensure there is a place in sport for everyone – transwomen, transmen, people who have a non-binary identity. Everyone should have a place in sport. But the answer can’t be that they all go into the female category.

Anyone who respects women will see that is neither fair nor inclusive.

Let’s talk about more inclusive solutions.

Fair Play for Women