The transgender battle in swimming gives us hope for a fair way forward

The transgender battle in swimming gives us hope for a fair way forward

    (Night Pattern)

(Night Pattern)

Sunday’s decision by FINA, the governing body of world swimming, to bar those who have experienced male puberty from elite women’s competition is good news for justice in sport and for women’s rights. It is also, although this may seem less obvious, good news for trans people.

The backdrop for FINA’s decision, based on consultations with scientists and medical experts, is one of bitter controversy – a controversy dramatized by the sight of American trans swimmer Lia Thomas standing out over the biologically female competitors she defeated at university events. female.

The decision will prohibit such injustice in future elite swimming competitions. It also sets a potential precedent for other sporting government bodies: especially important now, given the (somewhat cowardly) International Olympic Committee’s decision in November to abandon its existing policy of trans inclusion, primarily based on testosterone levels, and delegate the subject to the global organizations responsible for individual sports.

Last week, a survey of 5,000 people by More in Common suggested that FINA’s decision is closely aligned with UK public opinion. The survey found that only 19% of respondents agreed that “trans women should be able to participate in women-only sporting events”: a common-sense stance given the advantages postpubertal trans athletes retain, even after hormone treatment, such as such as greater respiratory capacity, muscle density, larger heart and lungs, and skeletal differences.

On the controversial issue of single-sex spaces: the Most in Common survey found that support for trans women using women’s locker rooms doubled when it was specified that they had undergone sex reassignment surgery, from 24% to 48%; and from 29% to 53% in the case of bathrooms.

Crucially, the research does not support the notion that Britons are extremely transphobic, indicating instead that the weight of public opinion on gender and sex is far more relaxed and nuanced than the polarized debate on campuses and on social media suggests. .

In recent years, much of the discussion about trans rights and same-sex spaces has barely earned the name. Women who do not surrender to all the details of the trans activist agenda are persecuted – witness the absurd defamation of JK Rowling – shunned, or, as in the case of former University of Sussex scholar Kathleen Stock, thrown out of their jobs. In Manchester city center last month, we saw male-bodied bullies dressed in Squid Game balaclavas, bullying women near a statue of Emmeline Pankhurst, around which they placed a bow in trans colors. The notion that trans people’s interests are somehow furthered by such actions is laughable.

The FINA decision and the More in Common survey indicate a possible way forward. Clearly, the dignity and well-being of trans people must be respected – and supported by resources so that young people who question their gender identity have access to the compassionate exploratory therapy they need; and adults who perform medical interventions do not have to wait years to receive the treatment they have chosen.

On the problematic issue of preferred pronouns: appealing to common courtesy – the respectful practice of referring to people as they wish to be referred to – is far more likely to succeed as a civic strategy than puritanical speech codes.

The militant trans activist agenda was doomed before it began, because it has always failed to recognize the core reality of a pluralistic society: namely, that there will always be values ​​that demand arbitration and conflicts of rights that need to be addressed. The use of words like “genocidal” to describe society’s failure to deliver on every detail of this agenda is an insult to the groups that actually suffered such murderous treatment.

In any case, the Equality Act 2010 clearly provides for spaces between people of the same sex. A plan for compassionate coexistence would include: open categories in elite sports for trans athletes; unisex facilities, plus men’s and women’s changing rooms and restrooms; special provision for trans survivors of domestic violence and rape; and so on.

Grudge, ideology, and Twitter-driven polarization got us nowhere. The rights of trans people were not promoted by this nonsense. The last week has shown us that there is another way.

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