Sport Ireland publishes new guidance on trans and non-binary participation

According to Sport Ireland, the new guidance will provide organisations with "steps and considerations" on the inclusion of trans and non-binary athletes.

Image: Shutterstock, Sport Ireland publishes new guidance on the inclusion of trans and non-binary athletes in sport.

Sport Ireland, the authority tasked with the development of sport in the country, has published new guidance on the participation of trans and non-binary athletes. While individual sporting organisations will be allowed to accept or reject the new guidance, the document, published today, March 28, is intended to “provide information and insights” to the sector in a bid to assist organisers with decision-making and the development of new policies.

Sport Ireland penned the new guidance as “the inclusion and eligibility of transgender and non-binary people within sport has become an important issue for sports organisations around the world and is attracting increasing scrutiny at a societal level.”

While the organisation said it is “clear that exercise and sport is important to everyone” and it wants “to make sure there is a place for everyone in sport,” it also wrote: “The biomedical science tells us that there are significant differences in the determinants of sporting performance between the sexes. At this time, the evidence points to retention of some of these differences in transgender women, even after transition therapy.”

Despite what Sport Ireland affirms, certain studies examining medical findings, testosterone effects on the body, and myths about transgender athletes found that trans women have no inherent advantage over their cisgender counterparts in elite sport, and most criticism of transgender women in sport is rooted in transphobia and misinformation.

However, based on their statement, Sport Ireland claims, “This guidance is about how to include all – while making sure we understand everyone’s needs.”

Alongside publishing the document, Sport Ireland has announced that new resources for trans and non-binary athletes will be introduced, as well as additional inclusivity support for organisers.

As part of developing the new guidance, Sport Ireland invited as many as 4,000 people, including trans and non-binary athletes and their families, to participate in surveys, focus groups, and interviews in order to create new suggestions to make sport in Ireland more inclusive. 

According to the organisation, “While many from the LGBTI+ community, transgender and non-binary people and their families, are supportive of inclusion through self-identification,” this view was not shared by the “majority of people working and taking part in sport”.

“Across all groups there was modest support for entry into the female category through requirement such as testosterone suppression. When the general public was surveyed through the Irish Sports Monitor, results were more spread, with some support for inclusion, but more so for categorisation based on sex assigned at birth,” the organisation continued.

Discussing the guidance document following its publication this morning, Dr Úna May, CEO of Sport Ireland, said: “We acknowledge that this is a complex issue and by the very nature of sport there is no one-size-fits-all approach that can be applied across the board. Equally it is an area that is constantly evolving, and as such we at Sport Ireland will evolve our support to the sector through a suite of resources which are regularly updated.

“Our ambition is always to make sport as inclusive as possible so that everyone, regardless of their background, can reap the many benefits that participation in sport brings. We would encourage all NGBs to put a policy in place if they don’t already have one.”

The news of Sport Ireland’s new guidance comes after years of strain on the trans and non-binary sporting communities as global governing bodies have made it considerably more difficult for trans women to compete in professional sports such as cricket, cycling, swimming, chess and more. 

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