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Transgender women’s participation in sport

All university, Public
Event type
Open seminar
Bioethics Centre

How should we respond when an elite athlete wishes to move from the male division to the female division or vice versa? While trans-male athletes (those who have transitioned from female-to-male) are perceived to pose little threat to men's sport, trans-women's impact on women's sport is more contentious. Evidence suggests trans-women retain some physiological benefits of a life with male testosterone levels prior to transitioning.

In 2016, Olympic guidelines were updated so that trans-women's testosterone levels need only be below 10 nmol/L – three times that of cis-women. Herein lies the dilemma: the principle of inclusion suggests that trans-women should compete in line with their gender identity, but this is inconsistent with the principle of fairness. Sport however is rife with inequities, including those arising from the genetic lottery that results in some of us being very short and others very tall. This gives weight to the argument that we should allow trans-women with high levels of testosterone to compete with cis women. We challenge the traditional male/female binary in sport, and suggest a new approach.

Presenters: Lynley Anderson, Alison Heather and Taryn Knox.

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