Sex and gender identity: checking the facts

The tension between the reality of biological sex, and the concept of gender identity, is not an argument between left-wing and right-wing, liberal and conservative. AF4WR is one of the many left-wing organisations that believe women’s sex-based rights matter, and that these need protecting when they clash with the wishes of transgender identifying males.

There is also growing evidence about the dangers of puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones (known as gender affirming care), particularly for children. And same sex attracted men and women are losing their rights to gather without members of the opposite sex as ‘gender’ continues to replace sex as an identifying characteristic.

The idea that people have a separate ‘gender identity’ that can differ from their sexed body has no scientific basis. And yet it has been embedded in law and social policy, often with no public consultation or awareness, and with little to no evidence base or examination of the risks.

People or groups who raise questions about these changes are often labelled ‘transphobic’ and told that they are putting trans lives at risk or denying their existence. We’re told that ‘rights aren’t pie’ and the women, children and homosexuals aren’t at risk and are not losing anything. But are these claims correct?

AF4WR has fact-checked the key claims made by transgender activists and other interest groups, the media and politicians. Overwhelmingly, these claims just don’t stack up. On these pages you can find the facts on these claims, backed by research, along with reasons why these facts matter and links to further readings and resources.

Get the facts on key claims

Claim: sex is a spectrum and can be changed. Gender identity is innate.

The facts

  • Human beings are mammals. We have two sexes, male and female, and reproduce sexually.

  • Humans cannot change sex.

  • Male and female bodies are different.

  • There are a small number of people with DSD (Differences in Sex Development.) Estimates range from 0.2% to 1.7% of the population. They are not a different sex, and they are not transgender.

  • Gender is a social construct based on social beliefs about appropriate behaviour and appearance for men and women. Most feminists reject the concept of gender.

Read more

Claim: Children and teenagers know they are transgender and not affirming them is dangerous.

The facts

  • Human brain development is not complete until the age of 25 or perhaps later.

  • Research shows that feelings of gender dysphoria eventually disappear for the vast majority of children and many of them realise they are actually same sex attracted.

  • There has been a rapid rise in the number of minors, mostly girls, identifying as transgender in the past decade, which begs the questions: why now? And why are so many of them girls?

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Claim: Puberty blockers are harmless and reversible

The facts

  • There has been little long-term research into the physical effects of puberty blockers, but current research is uncovering significant evidence of irreversible harms.

  • The Cass Review in the United Kingdom found there was no strong evidence base for the use of puberty blockers.

  • Once prescribed, the use of puberty blockers almost always leads to cross-sex hormones which have long-term health impacts.

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Claim: There is no conflict between women’s rights and transgender rights.

The facts

  • The Federal Sex Discrimination Act places ‘sex’ and ‘gender identity’ on an equal footing in law, but it doesn’t define either term. It also doesn’t give guidance on what to do when sex-based rights and gender conflict.

  • Women have fought long and hard for things like women’s shelters, domestic violence support, and educational and career opportunities through woman-only scholarships and shortlists. We’ve fought for recognition for women’s sports and arts. We even had to fight to get our own toilets!

  • Once these spaces and services become available to anyone ‘identifying’ as a woman, they become mixed-sex spaces. We have lost our right to gather without men.

  • Women in Australia and around the world have lost their jobs, received death threats and been publicly shamed for pointing out that these conflicts exist.

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Claim: Transgender identifying males don’t have a performance advantage in sport

The facts

  • Males’ greater average physical size, greater muscle mass, greater lung capacity and greater bone length and density gives them significant advantages over women in all sports requiring strength and speed, which is most of them.

  • A study in 2017 compared the performance of elite females and male athletes, as well as boys and adult females, and found that large numbers of boys outperformed the best women’s result in a range of Olympic sports.

  • Even when males reduce their testosterone levels they still significantly out-perform women.

  • Males and females have significant physical differences – lung capacity, upper body strength, stride length etc. These differences matter in sport.

  • Males pose a significant physical risk to women in sport because of these differences, and women have already been injured by male-bodied individuals playing in women’s team sports.

  • Males competing in women’s athletics have displaced elite women sportspeople from selection for international teams and from winning prizes. Some women have decided to leave the sport as a result.

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Claim: Transgender rights are under attack. Transgender people are not safe.

The facts

  • There is no Australian or international data to support the claims by activists that transgender people are at a greater risk of physical violence than any other segment of the population.

  • One in three Australian woman has experienced physical or sexual violence – meaning safeguarding women in vulnerable situations is vital.

  • Gender identity is protected in anti-discrimination legislation and transgender people have, rightly, the same legal rights and protections as all other Australians.

Read more

We’ve also checked the facts on other key claims made about gender identity and women’s rights. Click on the links below to find out more.

  • Transgender rights are the same as LGB rights

  • Trans-identifying men are less of a risk to women than other men

  • Transgender advocacy in Australian schools

  • Males in female prisons

Read our Position Paper

AF4WR has compiled a comprehensive and research-informed paper on sex and gender identity. This paper covers the key topics above in more detail and includes links to evidence and further reading.

We’ve sent this document to politicians, journalists and policy makers in the hope that reporting and policy development on these issues will be based on the full facts. To date we have received very little engagement from any of these sources. The political and media silencing or misrepresentation of women’s concerns is gravely worrying and bodes ill for the future of women’s and children’s rights in this country.

We will continue to update our paper and provide links to new evidence and research.

Mythbusting Dossier