Include women out

Janice Turner on the theft of women’s sport:

Inclusion in sport matters but not more than the truth. In recent weeks I’ve read thousands of words justifying why the American trans swimmer Lia Thomas, 22, should compete in the women’s NCAA college games. Thomas was compared with black women or lesbian athletes who were also judged “unwomanly”. It was argued that sex categories in sport are out of step with “evolving science”. So much sophistry. The simple, inescapable fact is that as a man Thomas barely made the top 500 and never qualified for the NCAAs but as a woman came 1st, 5th and 8th.

Female swimmers were not asked for their views.

Silence was also imposed on British elite female cyclists, who in the national omnium championships tomorrow were due to race the trans woman Emily Bridges, 21, a junior champion who until just weeks ago raced as a man. British Cycling demands that members “must accept all participants in the gender they present” or face sanctions. The panel creating these rules includes the trans woman Philippa York, who in The Times accused Thomas’s female teammates of lying about their changing room distress.


No cyclist, not even Dame Laura Kenny, our greatest woman Olympian, dared speak out. Only when team rage quietly boiled into a threatened boycott did UCI, cycling’s international governing body, intervene. Bridges was dropped on a technicality from the omnium yet may still race as a woman at the Commonwealth Games. British Cycling’s statement regretted Bridges’s disappointment, noted the imperative of trans inclusion, but said not a word about female justice.

Trans women are new and interesting. Women are just yawn your sister or mother or math teacher. Or even you, but you still prefer people newer and more interesting than women. (See: Christa Peterson, Kate Mann, Rebecca Solnit, Sally Hines…)

Women’s sports are hard-won and, as Seb Coe observed, very fragile. The FA banned women’s football from its grounds from 1921 until 1971. Men’s cycling began with the modern Olympiad in 1896: women’s cycling was added in 1984. Now, after only 38 years, we must move aside, surrender our places, medals, records and glory to mediocre males or those like 44-year-old weightlifter Laurel Hubbard, who fancied a retirement plan. We must allow our races to be cherry-picked by those like Thomas who coaches say threw her second two events to dampen outcry about initial victory.

It’s our own fault for being so boring.

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