The facts on sport

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

Trans people have the right to participate in sport, just like every other member of our society. But sport is played with our bodies, and male and female bodies are different. Women are losing places in competitions, and positions in teams, to biological males.

In Australia, most community and professional bodies follow guidelines developed by the Australian Human Rights Commission which prioritise ‘inclusion’ over safety and fairness for women and girls.

The facts

  • Males’ greater average physical size, greater muscle mass 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 by Duke University’s Centre for Sports Law and policy 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.

  • For example, in 2017 Olympic, World, and U.S. Champion Tori Bowie’s 100 metres lifetime best of 10.78 was beaten 15,000 times by men and boys. 

  • Studies have found that 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, explosiveness. These differences matter in sport.

  • A 2022 study by Edith Cowan University showed that females playing team sports such as AFLW are far more injury prone than males due to women’s physical makeup. That risk can only be exacerbated by being forced to compete against biological males.

  • Some sports bodies such as athletics, swimming and world rugby have begun to acknowledge this issue and have taken steps to ensure their professional women’s sports are for females.

Why this matters

  • Women and girls are losing out. They are losing the right to play single-sex sport in safety and comfort, and they are losing places on podiums and in teams to men.

  • We know that girls’ participation in sport declines in the teen years due to physical changes, concerns over their appearance, and peer pressure. Girls will be even more likely to stop playing sport if there are boys on the field, in the pool and in their changerooms.

  • There is already anecdotal evidence in Australia that girls are starting to self-select out of sports where boys are allowed to play against them. This is not only for reasons of physical welfare and fairness but also for cultural/religious reasons in some cases. In fact, ethno-religious minority women and groups are being largely excluded from consultation about the presence of males identifying as women in women’s spaces and women’s sports.

  • For professional sportswomen, the emphasis on inclusivity can mean losing a place in a team, a race or an event to a man, with a subsequent loss of income. This is simply not fair.

Some recent examples

  • In May 2022, former Western Australian male surfing champion Ryan Egan competed in the women’s longboard titles under the name Sasha Jane Lowerson and won. In response to protests, Surfing WA issued a statement on 4 July, reaffirming Surfing Australia’s policy allowing trans people to compete in any event without restriction.

  • In March 2022, male-bodied transgender skateboard rider Ahria Everett won the women’s title at the Yarra Ranges Downhill Festival, thus preventing a woman from competing in the international championship in Argentina.

  • In 2022 Lia Thomas, a trans-identified male swimmer, won the NCAA National Division 1 national championship in the women’s 500 yard freestyle.

  • American skateboarder Taylor Silverman has competed against different trans-identifying males three times, and come second to them twice, resulting in thousands of dollars of lost prizemoney.

  • Trans-identified male Laurel Hubbard took the place of a woman in the New Zealand weightlifting Olympics team in the Tokyo 2020 games.

  • Trans-identified male Riley Dennis reportedly injured a female player while competing in a woman’s soccer league in Sydney.

Read more

The Australian guidelines developed by Sport Australia and the Australian Human Rights Commission in 2019

Read this research paper into balancing safety, fairness and inclusion regarding transgender athletes and rugby union

Boys vs women site compares athletics results of female Olympians and schoolboy athletes

Trans-identified male AFL and handball player Hannah Mouncey ‘celebrates’ new guidelines that allow males to compete in female sport

Rugby union, aquatics and athletics are among the growing number of sporting bodies that have recognised the unfairness of allowing males to compete in female categories