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Is it fair? Documentary explores the polarising debate around trans women in female sports ahead of 2024 Olympic Games

06 Jul 2024 3 minute read
Byd Eithafol – Maxine

Much more research is needed to determine whether it’s fair or not to allow trans women to compete in the women’s category in sporting competitions, according to a leading scientist.

In an interview with the programme’s presenter, Maxine Hughes, Dr Shane Heffernan, an expert on the physiology of elite athletes at Swansea University, says a bigger sample is needed to determine results, in current and future studies, and encourages more trans people to volunteer.

Challenges

Dr Heffernan says much greater numbers of trans people are required to take part in the research, which, he claims, presents challenges as only a small proportion of the population chooses to change their gender.

In the programme Byd Eithafol: Chwarae Teg? (Extreme World: Fair Play?) journalist and former Welsh Judo champion Maxine Hughes investigates the difficult debate dominating the world of sport and asks whether trans women should be allowed to compete in female categories.

Historical first

At this month’s Paris 2024 Olympic Games, for the first time in the games’ history, there will be equal representation of  male and female athletes.

However, the individual governing bodies for each sport still have the final say over whether to allow trans women to compete in each sport’s female categories, prompting the call, by many of the people interviewed for this programme, for the IOC Olympic Committee to give greater leadership.

Non Evans has competed for Wales in several sports – wrestling, judo, rugby, weightlifting, touch rugby and boxing. She strongly believes that trans women should not compete in women’s categories:  “I do have an issue with a man growing up with larger bones, higher levels of testosterone in the body, a larger heart, and everything else. It makes no difference to me if someone is transgender.

“I wouldn’t have had the same success in my career competing in judo, wrestling, rugby, weightlifting had I competed against a person who has changed gender after 20 years.”

“Taking our own life”

Meghan Cortez-Fields from the USA is a swimmer who is a trans woman.

She competed in the men’s team at college for three years before transitioning to a woman and started swimming for the women’s team: “A lot of people…at the forefront of this… cross that line where it comes to invalidating our identify. Claiming us to be these monsters”.

“The level of uncomfortability for some of us….means taking our own life, and that needs to be understood… I guess the gravity of that needs to be valued.”

There’s no doubt that, behind the headlines, there are people who are affected by this complex and sensitive debate, which has driven a huge division into the world of sport.

But Dr Shane Heffernan is firmly of the opinion that further research and time will be able to determine if it is fair for trans women to compete in the same category as women: “If you come back to me in ten years time and ask this question, we’ll have ten years more knowledge that we’ll be able to apply to trying to determine the correct policies.”

The programme will be shown on S4C on 7 July at 20:00 and will also be available on S4C Clic and BBC iPlayer.


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Adrian
Adrian
8 days ago

Simple. Represent your genetic gender in the Olympics.
Create a trans category in paralympics. Job done.

Another Richard
Another Richard
8 days ago

It’s really not a complex debate, though some people have a vested interest in making it look like one. Transwomen athletes – that is, people born male in sex who present as female in gender – have generally undergone male puberty, with all the implications that has for physical strength, speed and stamina. They are thus at an advantage over athletes who were born female. Take a look at the career of the American swimmer Lia Thomas if you want an example. Or Google Hannah Mouncey’s exploits on the rugby pitch. There’s about as much need of additional research on… Read more »

John Powers
John Powers
7 days ago

Segregation by gender in sport seems anachronistic when other metrics could be used to group athletes for fair competition, similar to weight class in boxing.

David
David
7 days ago

I agree with Non Evans “I wouldn’t have had the same success in my career competing in judo, wrestling, rugby, weightlifting had I competed against a person who has changed gender after 20 years.”

Ali Morris
Ali Morris
7 days ago

No, more research isn’t needed. It is quite simple. Sex categories have been used in sport for a reason. Just because all of a sudden some men want to cheat their way to the top (eg Lia Thomas), women are expected to budge up. Men will ALWAYS have a disadvantage over women physiologically, it doesn’t matter how much testosterone is in their body or whatever justification sporting bodies use. Leave women alone and let them compete fairly.

Ian
Ian
7 days ago

Men have no place in competing in women’s sport, end of.

David
David
7 days ago
Reply to  Ian

Any political party which endorses this, will go the same way as the SNP on 4/7/24.

Wiwergoch
Wiwergoch
7 days ago

There is no debate, never will be. It is unfair.

CapM
CapM
7 days ago

“If you come back to me in ten years time and ask this question, we’ll have ten years more knowledge” For Olympic sports like archery and shooting I wouldn’t have thought men never mind those who are transgender have an advantage over women. But for Track an Field, Combat sports, Swimming, Tennis etc spending ten years researching the subject would be as useful as spending that time determining what the Pope’s religion is and investigating the toilet habits of bears whilst they are in the woods. There should be a lot more empathy consideration and basic kindness shown to the… Read more »

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