LGBTQ+ organisations issue open letter expressing concern over Sport Ireland's trans and non-binary guidance

The letter, signed by GCN and the National LGBT Federation among others, comes as a response to Sport Ireland's recently published guidance on trans and non-binary participation.

This article is about an open letter written to Sport Ireland. The image shows legs of athletes on a track right before the competition starts.
Image: Via Shutterstock - Stefan Schurr

Following the publication of new guidance from Sport Ireland on the participation of trans and non-binary athletes in sport, Irish LGBTQ+ organisations have signed an open letter expressing their concerns and sharing a number of asks. In the letter published on Wednesday, April 17, the groups request more input from trans and non-binary athletes, as well as an examination of the impact of Sport Ireland’s guidance, which was published and circulated last month. 

In the open letter, addressed to Sport Ireland Chief Executive, Dr Una May, TENI (Transgender Equality Network Ireland) Interim Cheif Executive Officer Tara Hewitt wrote: “We are writing to you to share our anxiety around the growing exclusionary narrative around trans people’s participation in sport, and particularly in regards to trans women and girls. 

“Sport and physical activity benefits every individual in Ireland and as a principle, our approach should be to try to ensure everyone is able to participate freely and openly as themselves without fear or prejudice. Sadly, we recognise that trans & non-binary people are often already more marginalised and less likely to participate in sport due to historic and more current barriers,” Hewitt continued. 

The recently published guidance from Sport Ireland claimed that “biomedical science tells us that there are significant differences in the determinants of sporting performance between the sexes”, adding that “At this time, the evidence points to retention of some of these differences in transgender women, even after transition therapy.” 

This claim has been debated by organisations like the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport, whose recently published decade-long study showed that trans women in sport have no inherent advantage over their cisgender counterparts. 

“While we believe that all sports at all levels should be inclusive and fair,” continued Hewitt in the open letter, “We are particularly concerned about how discussions regarding the assessment of high performance athletes, and the narrow margins of success that exist at national and international competition level, is influencing policy and guidance that excludes trans women and girls from participating in local team and club level sport and activity.

“While we recognise the need for clear and evidence based guidance around supporting sporting bodies in developing approaches to improve inclusion for all marginalised groups, it is clear that all too often the narrative of ‘trans inclusion’ policies and guidance are leading to rules and outcomes that result in less trans women and girls being able to participate in sport at all levels.”



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Hewitt went on to suggest that Sport Ireland’s recently published guidance hadn’t done enough to help combat the troubling rise of misogyny and transphobia in global sporting circles as of late.

“Sadly Sport Ireland’s recently published guidance we feel is continuing this narrative and does not substantially address the barriers and issues faced by all trans & non-binary people wishing to participate in sport and may indeed lead to further restrictions for trans women and girls within local competitive sports and thus creating barriers for participation. This key issue was not addressed within the guidance document, yet will have a very real impact on trans women and girls’ ability to be included within sport teams and clubs,” added Hewitt.

The letter further expressed disappointment regarding the guidance’s failure to recognise and include intersex people.

“We feel that much more could have been done within the report,” it stated.

The letter continued: “We wish to highlight that we did welcome Sport Ireland inviting LGBTQIA+ NGOs and stakeholders to be consulted on the development of the recently published guidance. However, we are also disappointed that the consultation while mentioning engagement with LGBTQIA+ groups failed to include involvement of Intersex Ireland and the new guidance failed to make similar recommendations around the involvement of trans and non-binary stakeholders in the task forces set up to develop policy or guidance within individual sporting bodies.”

The open letter, signed by Irish LGBTQ+ organisations such as GCN, TENI, LGBT Ireland, Belong To, the National LGBT Federation, ShoutOut, Outhouse LGBTQ+ Centre, Uplift, Migrants Rights Centre Ireland, Flaming Feather Badminton Team, Union of Students in Ireland, Mammies for Trans Rights, Outcomers LGBT Support Service, Midlands LGBT Project, and Amach! LGBT Galway, included a list of requests in regards to altering the course of Sport Ireland’s recently published guidance. 

Included in the list of requests, the signatories called for Sport Ireland to “commit to an effective impact evaluation process to measure how the new Sport Ireland guidance has impacted on trans & non-binary peoples participation in sport following its introduction, and particularly in regards to trans women and girls.”

The letter similarly called on Sport Ireland to “communicate directly with individual sporting bodies regarding the need for trans & non-binary stakeholders to be directly involved in any policy regarding development in this area,” as well as “public acknowledgement that the discussions around high performance athletes is impacting on the barriers experienced by trans women and girls participating in local grassroots sports and that every individual should feel able to participate fully in sport and competition at this level.”

Lastly, the letter urged Sport Ireland to “commit to meeting with representatives from (the signatories’) organisations to hear our concerns and to work constructively to address barriers experienced by all trans & non-binary people to participate in sport.”

Concluding the letter, Hewitt and the signing parties added: “We recognise the wide range of positive work that Sport Ireland does to support active and inclusive participation in sport across Ireland and hope that we can work together to address the communities concerns around the issues we have highlighted as we all work to build a world where sport and physical activity is truly open to all.”

Interested parties can read the full open letter to Sport Ireland here

© 2024 GCN (Gay Community News). All rights reserved.

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