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Most female athletes support categorization by biological sex, research shows

Majority of female athletes (58%) support categorization by biological sex, rather than gender identity, but views differ according to sporting context.

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Majority of female athletes (58%) support categorization by biological sex, rather than gender identity, but views differ according to sporting context.

This is according to a study – “The perspective of current and retired world class, elite and national athletes on the inclusion and eligibility of transgender athletes in elite sport” by A.L. Shaw, A.G. Williams, G.K. Stebbings, M Chollier, A. Harvey and S.M. Heffernan – that appeared in the Journal of Sports Sciences.

The study reports the opinions of 175 national, elite and world-class female athletes from a range of sports and countries regarding the eligibility and inclusion of transgender athletes. Respondents included 26 World champions, 22 Olympians (including two gold, two silver and three bronze medal winners), and six Paralympians.

Overall, categorization was favored according to sex assigned at birth, although opinion differed according to sporting context. For example, questions related to “precision sports” such as archery, sports “heavily reliant on physical capacity” such as 100m sprinting, and “contact sports” such as rugby union.

“There was least support for trans women eligibility in the female category of contact sports and those heavily reliant on performance-related biological factors that differ between sexes,” said Williams.

Importantly, the present data demonstrates that, “to the best of our current understanding, high level competitive athletes do not show evidence of negative opinions towards gender transition in general, with 94.2% being supportive,” Williams added.

A large majority (81%) of female athletes, in fact, believe sporting bodies should improve inclusivity for transgender athletes.

According to Heffernan, “nuance must be applied when policy decisions are being made that affect the lives and sometimes livelihoods of athletes. Importantly, high-level athletes’ opinions show that transgender inclusion is valued, but fairness must take priority for athletes at the highest competitive level.”

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