Sport

Tens of thousands sign petition against trans athletes competing in Olympics

Patrick Kelleher July 5, 2021
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Trans athletes Laurel Hubbard

Laurel Hubbard. (Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

A petition calling for trans people to be excluded from the Olympics has racked up more than 24,000 signatures in a fresh blow to LGBT+ athletes.

The petition, launched on Change.org by somebody calling themselves “Defend Women’s Sport”, claims that trans women “are taking [cis] women’s places on sports teams”.

While the petition was launched two years ago, it has garnered significant attention since New Zealand weightlifter Laurel Hubbard became the first ever trans athlete selected to compete at the Olympics.

The petition – which offers no references to back up its plethora of questionable claims – suggests that trans athletes are breaking sporting records set by cis women.

“This is unfair to women due to incontrovertible physical advantage that trans women have,” the petition claims, suggesting without any evidence that the inclusion of trans athletes will prevent cis women from playing sports.

Anti-trans petition claims trans athletes will ‘erase’ women’s sport

The petition goes on to criticise the International Olympic Committee (IOC)‘s rules on female participation in sport, which requires women have a certain testosterone level before they are allowed to compete.

Ultimately, the petition claims that women’s sport “is in danger of being effectively erased” due to the IOC’s rules, which have been in place since 2003 and were modified in 2015.

“Women and girls are being sacrificed by the IOC as an easy fix for transgender demands for inclusion,” the petition claims, adding that women were “not consulted and did not consent to the policy”.

There was celebration and jubilation within the LGBT+ community in June when Hubbard was selected to compete at the Olympics, making her the first ever openly trans athlete to make it that far.

Following her selection, Hubbard said she was “grateful and humbled” by the kindness and support of New Zealanders, adding: “When I broke my arm at the Commonwealth games three years ago, I was advised that my sporting career had likely reached its end.

“But your support, your encouragement, and your ‘aroma’ [affection] carried me through the darkness.”

However, Hubbard has faced relentless abuse from “gender critical feminists” online for daring to compete in the Olympics.

The furore is just the latest incident in the ongoing war surrounding trans athletes’ in sport. State legislatures across America have introduced laws seeking to restrict trans people’s access to sport this year, while World Rugby issued guidance that effectively banned trans women last year.

While the debate rages on, some have sought to separate fact from fiction. In 2019, Dr James Barrett, president of the British Association of Gender Identity Specialists, told Men’s Health that the conversation around trans athletes is based on “an awful lot of opinion”.

“The assumption is that trans women are operating at some sort of advantage, and that seems to have been taken as given – but actually it’s not at all clear whether that’s true,” Barrett said at the time.

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