The transgender rights row in sport is coming rapidly to the boil

Mick Hartley quotes from a piece behind the Times paywall, about a male-who-identifies-as-female cricketer, who is doing very well for him(her)self, in (hitherto) women’s cricket:

There is a new star in the Kent women’s cricket team – its first transgender player is opening after one season.

Maxine Blythin, who is more than 6ft tall and under England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) rules can self-identify as a woman, has a batting average of 124 this season and has hit four centuries already. …

Fair Play for Women has said the policy is unfair, especially at a time when the game is improving opportunities for female players. A £20m semi-professional competition for women starts next year.

“Letting males who self-ID as women play in women’s competitions is demonstrably unfair,” the campaign group tweeted last week. “The ECB knows males have a performance advantage over females. This is [why] it lets women use lighter & smaller cricket balls & why boundaries are set closer.”

The ECB is very proud that it has created an “inclusive environment for all participants”. Says Hartley:

Well, all participants apart from the women, who have to compete against a biologically male athlete. But who cares about them?

Plenty will, when women’s sports teams stop having just a sprinkling of such persons in among all the biological women, and are instead dominated by male-identifying-as-female players. Note Hartley’s singular “a” in front of “biologically male athlete”. That singular is going to turn plural very soon, unless this foolishness is ended now. It will end, quite soon. But not before there has been a big fight that, as of now, the mostly-men in charge of sport are reluctant to have.

This would appear to be the relevant page of the Fair Play For Women website.

At the top, it says:

During the summer of 2018 the government launched a public consultation about changes to the Gender Recognition Act 2004. Powerful transgender interest groups lobbied hard for full deregulation of the legal transition process, demanding a move to a simplified approach known as Sex Self-ID, that would allow any man to change his birth certificate on demand to say he was born female.

There is nothing remotely “simplified” about Sex Self-ID. When biological men feel female, it cannot not get complicated.

3 thoughts on “The transgender rights row in sport is coming rapidly to the boil”

  1. It seems Maxine, in the face of this attention, has locked down her social media. Luckily it’s cached.
    She looks like a quite conventional trans woman to me, very obviously on HRT for several years. If she’s on the standard NHS track she’ll be on GnRH agonist injections (‘chemical castration’, in old money) and her testosterone will be minimal. She appears according to match reports to have been playing women’s cricket for years.
    These articles appear with some regularity about different people, they skilfully imply falsehoods without actually saying them. They imply that Maxine is some bloke who entirely on his own say-so has recently sneaked into women’s cricket as an easier proposition, and found quick success. Note that article doesn’t actually say that, it just mentions that someone could do that, in their opinion.

    From what I know I believe that the advantage a trans woman has in sport, on HRT, is minimal. Muscle mass quickly diminishes in the absence of male levels of testosterone. Furthermore, could you imagine many sporting men deciding to fake transition just to get into ‘easier’ leagues?

    As a reader of your blog for a decade or more I wanted to share my opinion with you and I am concerned about you falling into what in my opinion is a mire of disinformation. I have direct experience of these issues and would welcome any questions you have on the subject.

  2. FNS

    Thanks for this. I will definitely give this more thought, and keep alert for arguments like the ones you have just put.

    I know a lot less about this than you, it would seem. But I also know a lot less, I’m guessing, than the people who run Fair Play For Women. Do you disagree with their take on the facts of this issue? That’s a real question, not a statement that they are right. Have you spoken with any of them? I have been assuming that their arguments have been factually right, and that they fear something bad and real. Are they basically making a fuss about extremely little?

    Meanwhile, I agree that very few “blokes” would self identify as women to win sporting prizes. But, percentage-wise very few “blokes” win men’s sports prizes, and very few women win women’s sports prizes. Percentage=wise, it surely wouldn’t take very many “blokes to self-identify as women”, just on their own say-so, to destroy women’s sport.

    If, as you say, this is not happening now, then good. But, the change in the rules seems to say that in the future, this would be allowed. That can’t be right. Like I say, it would only take a very few, er, extreme eccentrics to exploit such a rule change.

    I have always been interested in different kinds of political arguments, one of which is the “slippery slope” argument. Slippery slope arguments can be reasonable, if you actually are arguing about whether or not to step onto a slippery slope. (Similarly “conspiracy theories” can be true, if there really is an actual conspiracy going on, as there sometimes really is. Conspiracy theories are often regarded as, by definition, false, which I think is a bad way to define “conspiracy theory”.)

    The argument in my posting is a classic slippery slope argument, as are the articles you refer to and criticise, a few of which I have indeed been reading. And interestingly, those who use slippery slope arguments often, shall we say, “imagine”, or “predict” facts which are not now true, but which might become true in the future. Would it be fair to describe your counter-argument as the claim that, in this matter, no such slippery slope exists?

    The heart of the matter would appear to be that a “real” transgender ex-man now-woman has no clear advantage in women’s sport, and is fairly easily distinguishable from a “fake” transgender … bloke who merely says he’s a woman, and who clearly does have an advantage? And, that this distinction will continue to be insisted upon.

    (Forgive me if I don’t use the proper wording for these things.)

  3. Brian,
    Thank you for your reply. I appreciate your obvious good faith, and please do not worry about terminology.
    You are far more of an authority on cricket than I am, but I believe that the current system for dealing with these matters has been in existence for several years at least now. I note that the original article does not actually state that it is new or upcoming, but that it is already in existence. In most walks of life, the procedures for dealing with transgender people stem from the Equality Act 2010, and have been implemented in the years since then. In summary, the act provides that people be treated for most purposes as whichever gender they say they are, unless there is a good reason otherwise. There are mechanisms to exclude people from segregated places or situations (including a trans woman from women’s sport) but it must be justified, individually. If, as I believe (and please check) the current system for has already existed for some time and is not about to imminently change, then the predicted ill effects have not happened.
    A clue to the subtext of the quoted and other articles is the phrase “self-id”. These articles form part of a campaign by Fair Play For Women and closely associated organisations such as Woman’s Place UK to oppose proposed reform to the earlier Gender Recognition Act 2003. The 2003 act provides for transgender people to apply to a panel of judges for a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC), which allows them to change their legal sex in every way, including on their birth certificate. This has been rendered almost completely obsolete by the 2010 act; currently one can already change almost every bit of paperwork, including passports, with a doctor’s letter at most and immediately upon transitioning. One still requires a GRC to change the aforementioned birth certificate, one’s sex as recorded by their pension provider, and on marriage certificates. In every other respect ‘self-id’ is already in effect.
    Many transgender people are eager for reform of the 2003 act because they see it as unnecessarily bureaucratic. It requires one to have transitioned several years earlier, various official reports to be completed in the required form by registered gender specialists, and to be sent off for judgement along with a £140 fee. Many of them do not bother, they change all documentation relevant to everyday life under the easier 2010 act and then bump up against being recorded wrongly if they take out a private pension or wish to marry.
    The last Cameron government had a consultation about reforming the 2003 act so that GRCs would become unnecessary and the last few pieces of documentation could be changed in the same way that passports and so on already are. It was then that various organisations sprang up to oppose such an idea as dangerous, by implying that women’s changing rooms, toilets and sports teams would suddenly be swarming with men with sinister intentions. The simple truth of the matter is that birth certificates are essentially never checked for these things (mine certainly hasn’t been). People firstly go by appearance and action, and only if one of those things raises a flag is paperwork checked, most of which is readily changeable already.
    To go back to sport, I know several trans women who play women’s sport at an amateur level, they are all glad of the opportunity and seem to have the support of their team-mates. None appear to have any particular advantage. I think few sportspeople would tolerate a team-mate or competitor who was obviously seeking an unfair advantage. There are mechanisms in place to deal with such a person and they are unlikely to change, even if the broader laws were reformed. If this is a slippery slope then we are already at the bottom of it and have been here for some time, and disaster seems not to have happened.

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