A guide to the regulation of transgender athlete participation in sport
As our understanding of the human body and mind advances, society has begun to question and debate more the distinction between sex and gender and the traditional binary classification of each: i.e. male or female (sex) and man or woman (gender). As an important and very visible part of society, sport has been fertile ground for this debate.
This article will highlight the different approaches taken by international and national sports governing bodies (together SGBs) with respect to trans athletes and consider some of the issues which will inform the process of producing or reviewing such a policy.
This article is not intended to be, and does not attempt to, analyse the evidential basis of any such policies, or any position taken regarding trans participation in sport more generally.
The subsections of this article are as follows:
- Framing the conversation – why are sports regulating trans athletes?
- An introduction to trans athlete policies in sport – how are SGBs approaching the issue and what is the relationship with human rights law?
- The five broad approaches to trans athlete policies in sport
The following terminology will be referred to throughout:
- Gender: often expressed in binary terms of masculinity (man) and femininity (woman), gender is largely culturally determined and is assumed from the sex assigned at birth. A person who is ‘non-binary’ does not identify as either ‘man’ or ‘woman’.
- Sex: generally expressed in binary terms (male / female) and assigned to a person on the basis of primary sex characteristics (genitalia) and reproductive functions.
- Trans: an umbrella term to describe people who do not identify with the gender they were assigned at birth.
- Trans male: a term used to describe someone who was assigned the female sex at birth but identifies and lives as a man and/or male.
- Trans female: a term used to describe someone who was assigned the male sex at birth but identifies and lives as a woman and/or female.
Where the author refers to “male” or “female” without further qualification, she refers to a cis male or cis female, meaning someone whose gender identity is the same as the sex they were assigned at birth.
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