Gendered Intelligence – Written evidence (NPS0120)

 

Authors:

Dr Jay Stewart MBE, CEO

Mr Simon Croft, Director of Professional and Education Services

 

SUMMARY

 

Contents

 

  1. ABOUT GENDERED INTELLIGENCE
  2. BACKGROUND / SUPPORTING INFORMATION FOR ALL QUESTIONS
  3. Q3: “How can adults of all ages and backgrounds, particularly those from under-represented groups, including women and girls, ethnic minorities, disabled people, older people, and those from less affluent backgrounds, be encouraged to lead more active lifestyles? If possible, share examples of success stories and good practice, and challenges faced.”
  4. Q6: “How can racism, homophobia, transphobia, misogyny and ableism in sport be tackled?”

 

 

 

ABOUT GENDERED INTELLIGENCE

  1. Gendered Intelligence

1.1.                      Gendered Intelligence, established in 2008, is a registered charity that works to increase understandings of gender diversity and improve the lives of trans people.

1.2.                      We are a trans-led and trans-involving grass roots organisation with a wealth of lived experience, community connections of many kinds, and a depth and breadth of trans community knowledge that is second to none, backed with academic thinking and knowledge to PhD level.

1.3.                      Through our Professional and Educational Services, we work throughout the UK, offering a broad spectrum of non-judgmental, practical services to the public, private and not-for-profit sectors, including: staff training (incl. sport-specific trans inclusion training), speakers and panelists for events and conferences, and wide-ranging consultancy. Overall, we have delivered over 1,100 training sessions to over 22,000 people.

1.4.                      We’ve worked with diverse sporting NGBs, including the FA, writing their first Guidance on Trans Inclusion in the grassroots game; have presented to World Rugby on trans inclusion; worked with local provision such as Hampstead Ponds; trained leisure centres; and have carried out qualitative research into trans people’s grassroots experiences in sport and physical activity.  We are significant contributors to the (as yet unpublished) Sport England Trans Inclusion in Facilities Guidance.

1.5.                      We also provide services through our Youth and Communities Services for trans and other gender diverse people. We specialize in supporting young trans and gender questioning people and those who support them, especially within educational settings.  We have wide experience of involving young people in physical activity, including a range of activities at our yearly camps and trans-only swimming.

1.6.                      Our Public Engagement work centres around working with a range of media, influencing public policy and engaging in research.

 

  1. Organisational purpose / vision for sport

2.1.                      Gendered Intelligence imagines a world where people are no longer constrained by narrow perceptions and expectations of gender, and where diverse gender expressions are visible and valued.  We believe everyone can be intelligent about gender!

2.2.                      As part of this, we want to see fully inclusive sport and physical activity provision across the UK.  We want to see spaces and activities where everyone is welcomed; where everyone’s talent is celebrated; where everyone can be themselves; where trans people can enjoy themselves and thrive.

2.3.                      Our work in the sports and recreation field centres around grassroots participation, but outside this, we also welcome conversations around elite and international level competition.

2.4.                      Trans experiences provide a valuable lens through which we can examine our cultural perspective on gender, and we believe it enhances everyone’s life to open up more possibilities and options and remove unnecessary gender-based constraints.

 

BACKGROUND / SUPPORTING INFORMATION FOR ALL QUESTIONS

  1. About trans people

3.1.                      Around 1% of the population[1] are thought to fall somewhere under the broad trans umbrella. Anyone who feels that the sex they were assigned at birth does not match or sit comfortably with their sense of self may describe themselves as ‘trans’ and therefore ‘trans’ is a broad term covering diverse experiences, including:

3.2.                      People who identify with the ‘opposite’ gender to the one they were assigned i.e. either someone assigned female at birth who recognises themselves to be a man (‘trans man’, ‘a man with a trans history’ or simply ‘a man’), or someone assigned male at birth who recognises themselves to be a woman (‘trans woman’, ‘a woman with a trans history’ or simply ‘a woman’).

3.3.                      People with genders between or beyond the common options of man or woman.  There is a wide range of identities which may involve being both male and female, or neither male nor female or which take other approaches to gender that don’t align with traditional binary ideas.  People with these experiences of gender sometimes use terms such as ‘non-binary’ or ‘genderqueer’ or one of the many culturally specific terms found across the globe such as ‘fa’fafine’, ‘feminello’, ‘brotherboy’ or ‘leiti’.  There is growing evidence[2] that non-binary identities may be a majority identity under the wider trans umbrella – certainly far more young people are regarding themselves that way[3].

3.4.                      People who have a fluid gender identity and may move between different genders.  They may use terms such as ‘gender fluid’.

3.5.                      People who don’t experience a sense of gender.  They may use terms such as ‘agender’

 

It is vital that any consideration of trans inclusion in sport and recreation addresses and is inclusive of all these different experiences.

 

  1. Intersectionality

4.1.       It is important to recognise that no-one’s experience of gender is independent of other aspects of their lives. How we experience and/or express our gender is influenced by our ethnicity, ability, culture, faith, age, sexual orientation, class and many other factors, and this can become particularly apparent when someone is also trans.

4.2.       For example, black women’s bodies are policed in ways that white women’s are not (e.g. Serena Williams being criticised for being too muscular / masculine).  This is often termed misogynoir (the compounded effects of misogyny and racism); and those effects are further compounded when someone is also trans (transmisogynoir).

4.3.       People are not black and trans separately, or trans and disabled separately, rather they are a black trans person, or a trans disabled person, or a trans, brown, lesbian person and those combined experiences interact to create specific and often highly disadvantaged life circumstances.

4.4.       Despite the huge diversity of life experiences, those of white, middle class, middle aged, university educated trans people without impairments are often foregrounded, whilst the experiences and contributions of others are often not heard or recognised.  Although trans women of colour were, and are, at the forefront of the movements to forward LGBT rights, women’s rights and black rights, their voices are often not heard.  Indigenous gender diverse identities and expressions have been erased or suppressed by colonialism in places across the world.

4.5.       This has ongoing impact on people’s experiences.  Trans people who are also people of colour, and / or people of faith, and / or people with disabilities, and / or LGBQI, and / or refugees / asylum seekers for example, regularly find their needs are not met in many services.  For example:

4.5.1.  A trans woman with a disability may well find that access and understanding regarding her disability is not well provided for in a trans space, and her trans identity / needs are not well understood in a space for people with disabilities, meaning she is unable to access either.

4.5.2.  A trans asylum seeker fleeing persecution around their gender identity may find that trans support groups do not speak their language, yet the groups of refugees from their country of origin, who could interpret, may hold the same transphobic views from which they are fleeing. 

4.6.       These multiple exclusions make some trans people particularly vulnerable to poverty, homelessness, poor health and hate crime, and of course all this impacts on their access to sport and recreation

4.7.       Trans inclusion therefore cannot be separated from all other forms of inclusion. There is no hierarchy of rights – it is a matter of support and access for all.

4.8.      It is vital that any consideration of trans inclusion in sport and recreation considers and addresses the additional barriers faced in relation to intersectional experiences.

 

  1. Transition

5.1.       The term ‘transition’ describes the process of taking steps to move away from living your life in accordance with your birth assigned gender, towards living life in accordance with your sense of self.  Transitioning typically means changing some (or many) aspects of your gender expression (cultural gender cues) and/or how you interact with the world (e.g. the documentation you have and the gendered spaces you use) to better align with your gender identity (sense of self).  This can refer to social, medical and/or legal changes.

5.2.       Transition is often thought of as being primarily about medical transition (hormones and/or surgery) but that’s just one possible part of the picture. Some people make a social transition – change name, pronoun, appearance etc - and don’t seek medical support. Of those who do use medical support, not everybody takes up every option.

5.3.       Medical transition isn’t limited to binary identified people – non-binary people may seek medical support as well. Some young people may use hormone blockers for a period of time to place a hold on the progress of puberty.

5.4.       Sports and recreation providers need to think about how they accommodate the variety of different experiences of transition, and to think about where someone might be in that process – transition is often the time when people are lost to sport and activity. It’s important for organisations to consider how to retain people when they transition.

5.5.       Sport benefits include many social aspects, so requiring a trans person to move teams / settings as soon as they begin to transition medically is to cut them off from what is likely to be one of the key social networks they need at that time.

5.6.       Policies that create a gap in practical access to gendered teams, often centred on medical requirements, can push people towards delaying a transition that they want and need because they love the game so much they can’t bear to give it up.  Paradoxically sport is the support network they need to move forward, but also the constraint that is holding them back.

5.7.       People shouldn’t have to choose between playing sport and being themselves.

5.8.      In order to maximise participation, it is vital that any consideration of trans inclusion in sport and recreation recognises the diverse ways people may transition and avoids centralising medical requirements.

 

  1. Intersex inclusion

6.1.       Whilst Gendered Intelligence is not an organisation of and for intersex people, it is especially important to add intersex people to the list of groups often marginalised in sport (and generally).  Elite athletes who are intersex women such as Caster Semenya and Dutee Chand have had extremely poor experiences.  Their cases highlight the combined intersectional effects of having an intersex trait, being a woman, being of colour and being from the Global South. 

6.2.       In 2018, the UN Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health; the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; and the Working Group on the issue of discrimination against women in law and in practice wrote a letter condemning the approach of the IAAF (see especially para 2, p4 of the letter)[4]

6.3.       Trans and intersex people are different and in some areas have widely differing experiences.  However, the cultural approach to sex and gender in the UK and the rigid binary structures we have in place in many areas of life, especially sport, affect both groups significantly.  It is important to consider both the similarities and the differences to ensure sport is welcoming for both groups, and that attention paid to one group does not inadvertently undermine the inclusion and access of the other.

 

  1. Experiences of trans people in sport and physical activity –evidence

7.1.       Trans people are significantly underrepresented at all levels of sport and physical activity

7.2.       60% of trans people / 64% of non-binary people are not active enough for good health (General population: 33% of men, 45% of women)[5] 

7.3.       62% of trans people avoid being open about their gender identity at sports clubs, fitness / leisure facilities for fear of a negative reaction from others[6]

7.4.       28% of trans people have been discriminated against while exercising at a fitness club or taking part in group sport in the year to 2018[7]

 

  1. Responding to this inquiry

8.1.       We are responding specifically to Questions 3 and 6 as we feel these questions are most relevant to our experience and areas of expertise and are where we can add significant value.  We respond with a specific focus on trans inclusion:
The material under Q3 is relevant to Q6 and vice versa.

 

Q3: “How can adults of all ages and backgrounds, particularly those from under-represented groups, including women and girls, ethnic minorities, disabled people, older people, and those from less affluent backgrounds, be encouraged to lead more active lifestyles? If possible, share examples of success stories and good practice, and challenges faced.”

 

We respond in two ways:

 

  1. Gendered Intelligence’s Qualitative Research

9.1.       Gendered Intelligence carried out a survey of trans people around their participation in sport in 2019.  There were 116 valid responses.

9.2.       They showed that trans people are as keen to take part in sport and recreation as anyone, and find it particularly valuable, yet experience many barriers to access.

9.3.       Key themes arising:

9.3.1.  Positive experiences / enablers:

9.3.2.  Negative experiences / barriers:

9.3.3.  What trans people wanted organisations to do:

 

9.4.       56% of respondents said they currently participated in sport and named a very wide range of different sports and physical activities, including gym, running, swimming, cycling, rugby, walking/hiking, martial arts, yoga, gymnastics, sailing/rowing, football, skating and pilates.  The vast majority participated at least once a week.

9.5.       Of the 44% not participating, 88% said being trans was a factor.  Almost all of these said that if organisations were more inclusive they would consider participating.

9.6.       Roughly equal numbers of people chose she/her, he/him and they/them pronouns, with a small number choosing a different option.

9.7.       Here are selected quotes from our study – the study will have a public release in due course, and there are many more quotes we can offer:

9.8.       “Sport and fitness really helped me - mental health, body image and self esteem.

It’s been really important for me in terms of accepting and being proud of my body as it is, instead of seeing it as ‘less then’ or weird/different."

9.9.       “It restored a lot of my sense [of] self when I returned to my sport.”

9.10.  “Roller derby is very important to me as it is the one area of my life where I feel like I can be truly myself."

9.11.  “I think the biggest thing is to be visibly supportive. I’ve no idea if anything happened, whether staff… have any awareness or would be understanding, stand up for me and support me. Recognise that this is something that can be a barrier to trans people accessing [activities] and the levels of stress, anxiety etc it can cause.”

9.12.  “I currently play hockey for a women's hockey team, despite the fact that I am non-binary.  I have now started taking testosterone and I am painfully aware that my days on this team are numbered because there will come a point when I am perceived as 'too male looking' to play, despite me not actually identifying as male.  The idea of leaving a team that has been my family for the last 5 years breaks my heart, but I feel I have no choice as sport is so heavily based on sex and gender.  I am not willing to play for a men's team as I find it intimidating and don't identify as a man so I feel my hockey playing days are over.”

 

  1.         Gendered Intelligence – What We Know to be Needed

10.1. Create options that are welcoming of trans people

10.2.  Reflecting on the traditional men’s team/women’s team structures of many sports, it is important to note that there is a growing number of people (including non-binary, gender fluid and agender people) for whom traditional binary men’s/women’s participatory structures and arrangements of facilities don’t really work. So, it is important to think creatively about new options that are inclusive for all (note this is inclusion for all, not ghettos for trans folk)

10.3.  “Inclusion is not bringing people into what already exists; it is making a new space, a better space for everyone.” - Dr. George Dei, Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport, Trans Inclusion Guidance.

10.4.  However, new options will co-exist with traditional options and therefore some people will seek to move between gendered teams and gendered facilities.  So, we need to facilitate access to the options that already exist.  This often crystallises around the time someone transitions.

10.5.  Sports that have started in recent times have been able to embed this access from the start.  Roller Derby is one such example.  Regarding inclusion in the women’s team it simply says:
“An individual who identifies as a trans woman, intersex woman, and/or gender expansive may skate with a WFTDA (Women’s Flat Track Derby Association) charter team if women’s flat track roller derby is the version and composition of roller derby with which they most closely identify.”[8]

10.6.  These two actions are both necessary – it’s not an either/or situation

 

  1.         Establish Basic Guidance around Good Practice

11.1.  Fundamentally, trans people need to know that:

11.1.1.   Sports and recreation providers are genuinely welcoming – that their ethos is genuinely inclusive. That means that offering workers education, information and the opportunity to ask questions is key.

11.1.2.   The club or setting has some basic knowledge. 

11.1.3.   There is a policy or written statement in place to make trans folk welcome in practice – something that shows what they can expect, that they can see in advance and rely on, and that also supports and provides guidance to workers

11.1.4.   No-one will be judged on appearances – trans people (and trans women in particular, like other women) are so often scrutinised and judged against normative ideas of what women ‘should’ look like

11.1.5.   Names, pronouns (and other gendered terms) will be respected.  Language is a key part of good practice.  Key tips are to start with gender neutral language and avoid assumptions of gender, and follow an ask, listen, respect approach – for everyone.  Databases and forms should include options for all

11.1.6.   They are able to join the team / participate in the setting that best matches their gender identity – trans women should be able to participate in women’s SPA.  Note that it says “best matches” – don’t forget non-binary people.

11.1.7.   They will be able to use the facilities that best match their gender identity, and that there will be adequate privacy there.  Trans women are women and should have access to women’s spaces and facilities.  Different trans people will have different views on what would work best for them.  So we need to open up options so that everyone has something that works for them.

11.1.8.   There are gender neutral options available for those that need them - non-binary people need gender neutral spaces and facilities; some trans women choose neutral space because of the level of scrutiny they encounter in women’s spaces.  Whatever space you have, educating other users can be part of the picture – if trans people are stared at, or complained about, or told we are in ‘the wrong space’, then we are unlikely to feel welcome. Develop a culture where people simply accept that everyone chooses the right facilities for them.  It’s not good practice to call people out on the basis of their appearance.  Focus on behaviours, not bodies.

11.1.9.   Clothing requirements are flexible – often kit is very gendered and clingy, especially swimwear; allow anything that meets safety requirements

11.1.10.                      The club or space doesn’t tolerate negative behaviour, whether from staff, players or other users, and that someone will stand up for them if it occurs; this means everything from ensuring people respect confidentiality, to not tolerating speculation or gossip as well as holding people to account for verbal or physical abuse

11.1.11.                      Mistakes or problems will be taken seriously and sorted out

11.1.12.                      Their trans status or history (if they disclose it) will be treated with confidentiality. and that sports and recreation providers will take care not to ‘out’ them (that is to disclose their trans status or history without their consent) and will not tolerate gossip or speculation.

 

  1.         Recognise the impact of elite sport on wider participation

12.1.  Elite sport sets medicalised (and often questionable) regulations around eligibility which tend to cascade throughout all levels of a sport without adaptation, although such regulations are typically unnecessary at grassroots level and present significant barriers to participation.

12.2.  Elite trans and intersex athletes are almost exclusively reported in negative ways, and the athletes themselves receive enormous amounts of unwanted and intrusive publicity regarding their personal situation, often with high levels of trolling to the extent where at least one elite athlete has PTSD as a result. [Veronica Ivy, previously Dr Rachel McKinnon, “I have PTSD and an anxiety disorder from harassment (both career and sport related)”[9]]

12.3.  This has a huge impact on wider participation – many people simply don’t want to risk that kind of scrutiny, publicity, negativity and impact on their well being.

 

 

Q6: “How can racism, homophobia, transphobia, misogyny and ableism in sport be tackled?”

 

  1.         Definition of transphobia

13.1.  There is a wide range of definitions of transphobia:

13.2.  Transphobia is not a word to use lightly.  It is not transphobic to ask a genuine question, to which you do not know the answer, even if that question is naïve, clumsily worded or lacking in any prior thought or logic.

13.3.  However, when someone has had access to accurate information, it is transphobic:

13.4.  All these things do occur regularly, causing harm to the wellbeing of trans people and limiting their access to sport and recreation.

13.5.  Transphobia in sport and recreation can occur towards (or be shown by) anyone involved e.g.:

13.6.  And it can occur in any place / setting e.g.:

 

  1.         How can transphobia best be addressed?

14.1. Education

14.1.1.   Education is perhaps the most crucial step in addressing transphobia and promoting inclusion

14.1.2.   In Gendered Intelligence’s experience, most people are decent people who do not want to deliberately hurt or exclude others.  Yet this can and does happen when people are unaware of what inclusion looks like, and unaware of the impact of their actions. 

14.1.3.   People can also fear what they do not understand and react in exclusionary ways.  One of the most consistent questions we now get in our training both in the sports sector and more widely, is how to deal with transphobia in others.

14.1.4.   Clear, open, non-judgmental education with the opportunity to ask questions is essential.  GI’s sport-specific training receives consistently excellent feedback, often commenting on the clarity and non-judgmental atmosphere, showing that this kind of education is possible and valued e.g.

14.2. Policy and Guidance

14.2.1.   Introducing good policy and guidance is another key step in addressing transphobia.  If organisations set clear, practical standards of inclusivity, based on relevant real-life experience and evidence, educate people about them and implement them effectively, it provides a framework to reduce transphobia.  Guidance forms an essential part of the educational picture.

14.2.2.   For example, tackling transphobia means developing a culture where we simply accept people choose the right facilities for them. It’s not good practice to call people out on the basis of their appearance. The focus should be on behaviours, not bodies.

14.2.3.   It is crucial for such policies and guidance to be visible and practical.

14.2.4.   Sadly, fear can also operate at an institutional level with, for example, World Rugby instituting a blanket ban on trans women competing in the women’s game.  Factors such as fear of injury-based litigation and fears around insurance can play a part in such actions.  Safety is of course of paramount importance, but it is not best addressed by banning an entire class of people – that is institutional transphobia.

14.2.5.   Such decisions send clear messages to trans folk that they are not wanted in sport.

14.2.6.   (It is notable that England Rugby and USA Rugby have both decided not to implement the ban in domestic competition on the grounds that substantive, material, relevant evidence is lacking.)

14.2.7.   It is to be hoped that the forthcoming revised Sports Council Equality Group (SCEG) Guidance around Trans Inclusion in Domestic Competition will help underpin a more inclusive approach to competition policy, at least domestically.

14.3. Accountability

14.3.1.   People and organisations need to be held accountable for their actions. 

14.3.2.   All organisations should ensure that they have codes of conduct and everyone should be held to standards of inclusive behaviour.

14.3.3.   There should be clear ways of dealing with harmful behaviours of all kinds and the organisations themselves should be held accountable for addressing endemic issues.  Apps like ‘Kick It Out’ can help. 

14.4. Media

14.4.1.   All the above steps apply to the media as much as to front line providers.  Any brief search of mainstream media articles about trans people in sport shows the issue.  The media carries considerable responsibility / culpability for fomenting trans-exclusive feeling.  They are stifling the nuanced discussions necessary to create real inclusion.

 

29 January 2021


[1] National LGBT Survey - Research Report, 2018

First national LGBT survey – 108,000 respondents incl. 13% trans people - summary and full reports

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/national-lgbt-survey-summary-report

 

The recent government LGBT survey report by the Government Equalities Office says (p14) (our bold):

“There is currently no robust measure of the size of the trans population in the UK. Applying estimates of population prevalence from studies in other countries suggests that between 0.35% and 1% of the UK population might be trans, although this does not include non-binary people. …”

 

Given that the report also says (p16):

“Of all respondents, 49% were men (including 3% trans men), 42% were women (including 3% trans women), and 7% were non-binary. The remaining respondents either had an ‘other’ gender identity (1%) or said that they did not know or preferred not to say (1%)”, this indicates that non-binary may, in fact, be a majority identity amongst trans people and applying that to the 0.35% - 1% statistics gives a range inclusive of non-binary people, of at least 0.7% - 2%

 

1% is the statistic that is commonly used across Europe.

[2] Ibid.

[3] https://edition.cnn.com/2018/02/06/health/teens-gender-nonconforming-study-trnd/index.html; Also anecdotal evidence from staff running Gendered Intelligence’s own youth groups

[4] https://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Issues/Health/Letter_IAAF_Sept2018.pdf

“IAAF regulations seem to ignore the real stigmatizing and discriminatory impact of the processes and outcomes of the regulations on the dignity and privacy of the targeted group of women. … Gender and sex-based stereotyping and stigma have a long history, not only of causing psychological harm to women and gender minorities, but also of increasing the possibility of violence against them. Women who do not conform to culturally constructed notions of womanhood are particularly at risk of discrimination, violence, and criminalization. By singling out a certain group of athletes and denying them membership in the “female” category, the IAAF puts these women at risk of repercussions far beyond the inability to compete, as well as subjecting them to shame, ridicule, and intrusion upon their personal and private life.”

[5] Source: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans People and Physical Activity: What You Need to Know, National LGB&T Partnership, 2016, referencing Health Survey for England, 2012, and the Partnerships own survey of LGBT people, 2015

[6] National LGBT Survey, Government Equalities Office, 2018

[7] Stonewall, LGBT in Britain, 2018

[8] https://wftda.com/wftda-gender-statement/ ; the full UK policy can be found at: http://ukrda.org.uk/2014/04/ukrda-transgender-policy/

[9] https://www.cbc.ca/playersvoice/entry/its-fair-for-trans-women-to-compete-in-womens-sport