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The admission of transgender athletes to competition: The case of Hannah Mouncey

Tuesday, 27 March 2018 By Cassandra Heilbronn

In October 2017, the Australian Football League (AFL) decided that transgender athlete Hannah Mouncey was prevented from participating in Season 2 of the Australian Football League for Women (AFLW) in 2018 by refusing to allow her to be nominated in the pre-season draft. In doing so, the AFL relied on an exemption in the Equal Opportunity Act1 (EO Act) (explained below). However, in February 2018 the AFL confirmed that Mouncey was able to participate in any AFL-affiliated State based competitions2. What makes these decisions interesting is that the AFL's reasons for doing so relate to Mouncey's strength, stamina and physique, as she stands 190cm tall and weighs 100kg3.

This article provides a summary Mouncey's sporting career and the AFL's decision, which is the first (known public) decision, to not allow an athlete to participate, for a transgender athlete in professional sports in Australia.

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Written by

Cassandra Heilbronn

Cassandra Heilbronn

Cassandra Heilbron

Cassandra is the Sports, Entertainment and Events Regulation Legal Manager at the Royal Commission for AlUla, and prior to June 2019 was a Senior Associate in the Sports and Corporate Risk practice group at MinterEllison in Australia. Her practice areas saw her acting in commercial matters with worldwide sporting organisations, corporations and sponsors; event management; player disputes on behalf of Clubs and governing bodies; player selection appeals for international athletics competitions and managing image rights and social media disputes (defamation and discrimination). Over the past twelve years, Cassandra also acted in insurance disputes primarily in the management liability, professional indemnity, medical negligence and public liability space.

Comments (6)

  • Kirsti Miller

    • 27 March 2018 at 17:29
    • #

    The AFL first introduced their trans participation guidelines in 2010 which followed the IOC’s Stockholm Consensus recommendations, the AFL amended their policy in 2016 to follow the updated 2015 IOC recommendations.

    I first played women’s AFL in 2013 as a transitioned XY Female.

    In your article you mention the review undertaken by the IAAF as ordered by CAS into the relationship testosterone plays in sports performance, in your article you don’t specify this study was conducted on XX females not XY male or XY transitioning or transitioned females.


    • Kirsti Miller

      • 27 March 2018 at 18:01
      • #

      Under subsection 2.2 of the IOC transgender participation guidelines additional time to allow the minimisation of the advantage in women’s competition is also allowed by sports organisations.

      The IOC amended their trans participation guidelines as a hip response to lesson liability in Kristen Worley’s HR Case in the divisional court in Toronto Canada there was and has not been any scientific evidence to support this policy in 2015 or the original Stockholm Consensus Recommendations in 2003.

      The recent IAAF review into testosterone relationship to sports performance plays no part in determining if an XY athlete has an advantage over XX athletes, this study was only carried out on XX females.

      There is an abundance of proof that an XY Male holds an advantage in strength and endurance over XX females every sports record relating to strength and endurance are held by XY Males for a start.

      The length of time to minimise the advantage of experiencing a male puberty and living years with male level testosterone levels is the unknown factor in this debate and I suggest it will always require a case by case consideration.

      As a former male international athlete in two sports pre transition and now as an XY Female AFL Player I can assure you it took me many years not months to minimise my advantage. Being a high performance athlete pre, during and after transition Hannah will take many years to feminise and minimise her advantage in women’s competition as I also did.

      Transitioning XY females still have male endocrine systems which are still capable of producing male levels of testosterone production unlike transitioned XY Females who no longer have androgen receptors ie gonads or ovaries. The current IOC trans guidelines for transitioning and transitioned XY females has sent my body into a very unhealthy state of severe post menopausal symptoms with my body suffering complete androgen deprivation. An XX female requires 6 to 8 times less testosterone then an XY transitioning or transitioned female or male as their androgen receptors ovaries are super sensitive to testosterone.

      An XY individual requires at least 12 nmols
      Of testosterone to maintain basic daily health the current limit for transitioning and transitioned XY females of 10nmols was proven to be a breach of human rights in Kristen Worley’s HR victory in Toronto.

      XX females have no limit to the testosterone levels they are allowed these athletes are effectively super doping an already healthy endocrine system.

      The current trans participation guidelines are totally inadequate to ensure the advantage in women’s competition has been minimised and they also force female and male transitioning and transitioned athletes to have very unhealthy endocrine systems.


  • Kirsti Miller

    • 27 March 2018 at 19:04
    • #

    If a transitioning or transitioned athlete is subjected to a strength test how do you propose sports determine if an advantage exists?


  • Kirsti Miller

    • 27 March 2018 at 19:08
    • #

    Hannnah was not the first XY transitioned female to be banned from the AFL both myself an XY female and my XX female partner were outed from the AFL for a combined 7 years simply because I objected to being vilified in the AFL field and my female partner was outed simply because her partner was a transitioned XY Female


  • Kirsti Miller

    • 27 March 2018 at 20:19
    • #

    The IOC and WADA do not even have the right starting point in this discussion. On 18 July 17 the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario recognised that policies originating from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) had infringed the human rights of Canadian cyclist Kristen Worley. Whilst the agreement recognises that sport’s unsubstantiated policies have needlessly harmed XY female athletes, its real significance is that it could allow other athletes whose human rights have also been breached ……


  • Kirsti Miller

    • 28 March 2018 at 00:18
    • #

    XY women (fully transitioned) are the only athletes competing unhealthy in a complete androgen deprivation state and well beyond a (post menopause state). Incredibly unhealthy and spore eventually becomes impossible as the body deteriorates as it cannot respond to day-to-day functions without androgens as the bodies primary communications and regulator hormone.

    Moreover and important, the XY transitioned female is the only body that can show the health and key markers where the body turns on then off, as the body loses its ability to regulate androgens.

    Which then causes complete androgen deprivation of the human body, heavily contraindicates it as testosterone plays over 200 functions in the body every single day separate of the sex of the physiology.

    A transitioning XY Female (pre op) are hypgonatic, not feeling full effects of complete androgen deprivation and plus 2 dozen contraindications because they still have gonads. If they were a HP athlete prior and during continued transition minimising the advantage in women's competition away takes even longer years longer.

    There are still many questions to be answered in relation to the participation of transitioning and transitioned XY Females and XX Males, this is defiantly a work in progress. Not many people are aware that the IOC created the current transgender guidelines in half a day with no science or research. They did this as a hip response to lesson liability in Kristen Worley's human rights case in the divisional court in Canada. The current transgender and intersex IOC & WADA policies and guidelines are not based on any science. There were 90 people involved in the IOC Consensus Meeting in 2015 most people were sports officials with no qualifications to even be in this meeting and they defiantly are not medically qualified to write policies relating to the health and welfare of all female athletes globally.

    Kristen's victory in Toronto exposed both WADA and the IOC's policies to have breached human rights of many female athletes and their current policies continue to do so. Kristen's case also identified that both WADA & the IOC do not even have the right starting point in this conversation it is so much more then testosterone levels the full diversity of human physiology must now be fully considered when new policies are developed. There is a long way to go in this conversation.

    There are many sporting organisations considering the future direction of global sport none more so then world cycling and the Commonwealth Games Committee, they are doing a lot of work in this area. The days of just believing the IOC and WADA have all the answers has long gone the recent Russian Drug fiasco is a clear example of what the IOC don't know. Kristen's victory showed sports can't start writing these type of policies starting from a human rights focus they must have the science and research first.

    During my discussions with both Australian and international colleagues I feel the direction of global sport will involve having one gender policy for all women no matter their chromosomal makeup. Every group of females may have different criteria to compete but sport will start from the point that everyone is firstly acccepted and they are only denied the right to compete if they have a proven unnatural advantage.

    I also see the future of some sports being separated on abilities and physical attributes similar to the way the Paralympics separate sports.

    There is no doubt that XY Males on average have an advantage in strength speed and endurance. Just looking at all sports world sporting records clearly shows this to be true.

    In relation to Hannah and the AFL I would suggest the AFL completely ignore the IOC's Current guidelines because as I previously stated the IOC has admitted their policy was not based on any facts or science.

    The AFL is unlike any Olympic Sport it is a very high impact sport even more so for females I suggest. Recent studies haveshown females are more likely to suffer knee injuries and the impact and severity of concussions are more severe in female athletes.

    The greatest challenge for the trans and gender diverse communities is being accepted in female sports in particular high impact sports like Australian Rules Football. I suggest erring on the side of caution with all sports at the elite level or high impact sports like the AFL.

    Some sports like Australian Cycling have different criteria to be met at each level of their sport with local competitions having self identification as the only prerequisite to participation.

    I don't suggest this type of policy would work for the AFL because we are not just talking about winning or losing we are talking about the health and safety of all participants. On this point this is where I believe the AFL has made the biggest mistake with Hannah allowing her to play at the local level but not at the elite where the other players are stronger, fitter and more developed then the grassroots players.


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