Guidelines to get more people involved in sport have sparked a war of words between transgender Tasmanians and a Liberal Senator.
To encourage the inclusion of trans and gender diverse people in sport, Australia’s Human Rights Commission and Sports Australia released a set of guidelines last year.
Senator Claire Chandler says the guidelines imply sports clubs can’t operate women’s sport on the basis of sex and don’t include analysis of the biological differences between men and women.
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Her views have been described as damaging and ill-informed by transgender Tasmanians.
According to Senator Chandler many Tasmanians and Australians she spoke to were concerned because the guidelines allowed anyone who identified as a woman to play women’s sport.
“Sport Australia should scrap their guidelines and start again by looking at the medical evidence and backing sporting clubs in to offer single-sex sport for women and men,” Senator Chandler said.
“Women and girls sport is designed for people of the female sex so they can compete safely and on a level playing field. Allowing people of the male sex to compete against women undermines that.”
Senator Chandler claimed women and girls would miss out on the opportunity to play sport if transgender women were allowed to participate in women’s sport.
“Sport is open to everyone – almost every sport offers men’s competition, women’s competition and a whole range of social options including mixed-competition,” she said.
When asked if she’d spoken to any transgender Tasmanians about the guidelines, Senator Chandler said “I don’t ask people if they are transgender when they contact me”.
“I’ve certainly spoken to some people who do think trans women should be allowed to play women’s sport with no limitations, but the vast majority think women and girls are entitled to their own sporting competition,” Senator Chandler said.
“Everything I’ve said about women’s sport is simply about supporting women’s and girls’ rights to compete fairly and safely, and I’d challenge anyone to produce evidence otherwise.”
Equality Tasmania spokesperson Charlie Burton said if Senator Chandler was concerned about women’s safety she should spend more time focusing on other issues.
“One woman a week is murdered at the hands of her current or former partner… if women’s safety is her primary concern she should focus on getting on board with gender equality and family and domestic violence supports,” Dr Burton said.
“Senator Chandler’s preoccupation with biological sex over gender is an attempt to deny the existence of trans and gender diverse people.”
Dr Burton, who identifies as a trans man, said Senator Chandler should meet with trans and gender diverse people to get an understanding of why inclusion guidelines were important.
“She [Senator Chandler] has not troubled herself to understand anything about the reality of trans people’s lives,” Dr Burton said.
“We do not go to great lengths and expense and heartache to live the gender that we know we are in order to prey on other people.”
Trans woman Martine Delaney said she spent 25 years playing men’s football and then several years playing in a women’s competition after she transitioned.
“Trans women have been playing sport for years and years,” Ms Delaney said.
“I lost count of the number of times I got run through by bigger, stronger, tougher women who hurt me badly.
“There were plenty of girls who could kick a ball further and go harder than I could.”
Ms Delaney said apart from only a small number of parents and one male coach of an opposing team who referred to her as “him” repeatedly – there were no issues for her as a trans women playing sport.
“I never had those problems from other players, they were really accepting,” she said.
Ms Delaney said she felt Senator Chandler’s views were bigoted.
“Senator Chandler is welcome to hold those views … but she was elected to represent all Tasmanians and trans Tasmanians are apart of this place, basically saying that I should be playing men’s sport if I want to play sport because that’s what I was born and therefore that’s what I am says that I don’t actually exist as a trans woman,” she said.
“Senator Chandler has no right to do that and the message she gives by doing that is an incredibly damaging message to young trans people.”
Senator Chandler has dismissed suggestions her views are transphobic or ignorant.
“That’s just a slur you get from people who don’t accept that women are entitled to play sport against people of their own sex,” she said.
“There is a concerted effort particularly on social media to attack women who speak out in defence of sex-based rights – look at the abuse and threats J.K. Rowling has received.
“If people aren’t free to say that women and men are entitled to sex-based sports, toilets and change rooms, health services and legal services then ultimately those things will be lost.”