This Group Wants to Solve Sports’ “Transgender Problem.” There Are No Trans People in It

These women perfectly illustrate the acronym: TERF.


It’s a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist.

By Britni de la Cretaz
February 4, 2021

A group of former Olympians kicked off National Girls and Women in Sports Day by attacking trans youth who want to play sports, particularly trans girls.

On Tuesday, the new Women’s Sports Policy Working Group (WSPWG), which aims to influence policy regarding trans inclusion in girls’ sports, held its first press conference to introduce the world to what they said was a “balanced” and “science-based” proposal for “preserving girls’ and women’s sport and accommodating transgender athletes.” The language is carefully crafted to appear reasonable and unbiased but is easily recognizable as trans exclusionary to anyone who has followed attacks on trans athletes.

The group’s mission, as stated on its website, is “to protect girls’ and women’s competitive sport for biological females while accommodating trans girls and trans women through evidence-based, respectful criteria.” The coalition attempts to take a “both sides” approach by claiming that people who are advocating for what they call “unconditional” trans inclusion in sports are on one extreme end of a spectrum and are just as wrong as transphobes who believe there is no place for trans women and girls in U.S. athletics.

“We reject both the effort to exclude trans girls and trans women from girls’ and women’s sport and the effort to disadvantage biological females by forcing them to compete against athletes with male sex-linked physical advantages,” its website reads.

The group is composed of six members, all of whom are cisgender and none of whom are scientists. The most well-known of the bunch is (famously transphobic) tennis champion Martina Navratilova, who was removed as an advisory board member and athlete ambassador for Athlete Ally, an organization that promotes LGBTQ+ inclusion in sports, after publishing an op-ed in The Times of London in 2019 in which she claimed that allowing trans women to compete in women’s sports was “cheating.”

Other members include Donna de Varona, the former president of the Women’s Sports Foundation; Doriane Coleman, a co-director of the Center for Sports Law and Policy at Duke Law School; and Donna Lopiano, the former CEO of the Women’s Sports Foundation.

When asked in a Zoom press conference by The 19th’s Kate Sosin whether any trans people had been involved in this plan, the WSPWG cited that they had consulted with several trans athletes and trans advocacy groups, but failed to name any of them specifically. Former professional tennis player Renee Richards and researcher Joanna Harper, both trans women, are listed as “supporters” on the WSPWG’s website. But Richards has not been an elite athlete for nearly 40 years and Harper’s research is controversial and has been used to exclude athletes like Caster Semenya from international competition.

When them. followed up to ask which trans advocacy groups had been consulted, the WSPWG said those consultations “were off the record.” The presser and launch of the working group was co-sponsored by the Duke Center for Sports Law and Policy, and when asked about Duke University’s involvement, them. was told they had “no role” beyond initial sponsorship.

The WSPWG says it plans to ask the Biden administration to make girls’ sports exempt from enforcement of the executive order President Joe Biden signed his first day in office, which committed to enforcing its ruling regarding the rights of LGBTQ+ people in the workplace across all areas of federal policy. These include areas like housing and education, the latter of which includes the right of trans students to be affirmed by their gender in the classroom and varsity athletics. “Children should be able to learn without worrying about whether they will be denied access to the restroom, the locker room, or school sports,” the order said.

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