Common sense prevails

Friday 24th June 2022 1:30 pm
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Has a step forward for fairness in women’s sport happened this week? FINA, the organisation that governs swimming at an elite level, has ruled that trans-women cannot take part in women’s matches if they have gone through full male puberty. This effectively means that trans-women cannot compete in women’s swimming at all.

The former Olympic swimmer Sharon Davies MBE has been campaigning for some time for this decision. She tweeted: ‘I can’t tell you how proud I am of my sport, Fina and Fina president for doing the science, asking the athletes/coaches and standing up for fair sport for females. Swimming will always welcome everyone no matter how you identify but fairness is the cornerstone of sport.’

How does FINA’s announcement impact women and transwomen? Sport at an elite level is about money and livelihoods as much as it is about competing. It’s about the sports scholarships that can see women from all backgrounds through colleges and universities.  Sport is a passport to future security for many young people across the world. Transwomen have an inherent advantage physically in having reached physical maturity in a male body and this is why the FINA decision has been made. Women are not men with lowered testosterone levels and women deserve their own opportunity to compete on a fair footing with other women.

Not all sports of course have an in-built sex advantage. ‘Boggle’ for example and ‘Scrabble’ ought to be Olympic sports in my view and if they ever are, there is clearly no male sex advantage where intelligence is concerned. Snooker carries no strength component. Croquet, while an extremely vicious game, does not I think advantage the male bodied.

However, in so many other sports where strength, speed and endurance are required, a female body is at a conspicuous and usually visible disadvantage. At last, some common sense, you might say on the swimming front. But how on earth did we end up in a situation where saying you can’t change sex is frowned upon in some quarters and viewed as heresy in others?

Somewhere along the line, in an effort to spare feelings, society has bought into a post-modernist fantasy that you are what you say you are. Mixed into that pot for some is a belief that you can have been meant to be a boy but were born a girl and vice versa. Meant by whom? Well, unless you believe in predestination or a God that can make mistakes, that’s a belief system certainly but it’s not evidenced fact.

Throughout my early teenage years, I felt ‘other’ than the girls in my form (especially the petite blondes for some reason!) I didn’t feel like I was the same species.  After various boyfriends and encounters with helpful members of the general public suggested otherwise, I had to accept the evidence that I was most certainly female but I still didn’t feel like I belonged. When a gynaecologist told me I had high levels of testosterone and a diagnosis of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, I wondered if having more ‘male’ ingredients than other women could explain the feeling of difference.

If aged 12 feeling as I did and on the cusp of puberty, I had got interested in the idea I might actually be a boy in the ‘wrong body’ the affirmation model which is required today where healthcare professionals accept and affirm the ‘patient’s reality’ might have sent me down a path of no return and irreversible surgery.

For the sake of girls and the women they become, we must address what is a dangerous current conflation of physical identity (sex) with how a person wants to live and look (gender).

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