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  • Writer's pictureAisling Salisbury

Women's Sports Are For Women, Sorry

Updated: Feb 16, 2021

If you have read a previous post of mine you would see that my religion is AFL (Aussie Rules Football). Three years ago the AFL (Australian Football League) finally introduced a Women's League which I couldn't be more thrilled about. One problem I feel exists with the league is that it's expanding so rapidly that the game is not as much a spectacle as it could be.

I am a supporter, or tragic, of the Melbourne Football Club. For many years Melbourne, along with the Western Bulldogs would play an exhibition game once a year before the men's side would do battle. The Melbourne and Bulldogs teams were made up of the 40 best female players in the country. The game even then was somewhat lopsided results-wise, however, the game featured a lot of the things that the male game is known for. High speed, high scoring and amazing skills. With the massive growth of the game in the last few years with more and more teams being generated the crop of female talent I feel hasn't met the demand of the number of teams being developed. Do not get me wrong, all the women who play AFLW are amazingly talented athletes, but many haven't come from a footy background, or if they did, they gave up AusKick at the age of 12 to pursue other sports such as Netball, Rugby and Basketball. Therefore they are getting recruited on their athletic skills to make up the numbers and are having to brush off a lot of cobwebs to tweak their skills to the uniqueness of Aussie Rules footy. Combine it with the fact that this competition is more so like an amateur competition the ability to train on a full-time basis and have long pre-seasons are not there to develop the skillset. So I ask the AFL, please, please, slow it down. Give it a few years for the talent to develop in the state women's leagues and let the game grow naturally over a manufacturing/marketing approach to it.

With the development of a women's league comes, you guessed it, the transgender debate. Like many sports, this has become an issue of late. I feel I'm going to be attacked for my views here, but please if you are wanting to comment then be respectful. This is simply my opinion only.

Now yes, sport is great because it unites people of all backgrounds in the support of their team or country. As one friend who is an ex-Marine said:

"Modern-day sport is where people now place their patriotism in a war-like sense."

Despite politics now starting to move into the sporting arena which is starting to turn many people off their beloved games because they just want to go and see a game, not be lectured on an issue. When it comes to the Transgendered debate this causes, in my view, the most heat. With anyone who dares question the premise being labelled 'Transphobic'.

A Tasmanian Senator, Claire Chandler is copping a lot of flack for stating the following:

"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."


"It's hardly controversial to point out that women's sport was designed for women"

Well with the way the world is going nowadays, it is controversial for pointing out facts of anything. Let's go straight to the guts of this though. I completely agree with the Senator and as a transwoman, she has my support on this. However, I will add, I do believe the Senator is actually fighting a just cause when it comes to sport but has other views that are completely anti-trans. Because she is also fighting for the protection of women by making all "female-spaces" such as bathrooms entirely for women only. We'll get on to that. When it comes to female sports, women are actually more vicious than men. In my past, I have played Aussie Rules football and I have played mixed Netball. It was more rough playing mixed Netball, which is actually a non-contact sport. Go figure!

But one of the things I feel is being lost on the "Trans Rights" argument when it comes to sport is biology over feelings. To those that think that guys will simply go "oh I'm going to identify as trans, undertake hormone therapy, have surgeries and spend heaps of my money just to compete and win in sports" is beyond stupidity. But if it's simply just down to a box you can tick on a form is how you are allocated a sport, well then it can open up problems. The second part of this argument is biology. The start of the AFLW required the AFL to adopt a Transgendered Policy due to a trans player by the name of Hannah Mouncey who was denied the ability to list for the AFLW draft based on being trans and then later she refused to do so because she didn't want to undertake the frequent blood testing required by the policy. The current AFL Trans policy is:

The three requirements are:

  • Testosterone levels to have been at or below five nmol/L for at least two years prior;

  • If that threshold is met, trans women and non-binary people may nominate for the AFLW Draft or apply to play in other elite competitions by providing information regarding their height, weight, bench press, 20m sprint, vertical jump, GPS data and 2km time trial;

  • If the application is approved, the player is required to maintain their total testosterone levels below five nmol/L, and may be required to undergo periodic testing.

This is where I stand on transwomen competing in women's sport, especially contact sports and something as rough as Aussie Rules. It comes down to build, not strength. Someone with a manly physique against someone with a female physique I don't care what anyone says has an advantage. We know that bone structure for men is a lot stronger which means that deep down there is a stronger build in the body or a larger and stronger frame. Now yes, hormone treatments do reduce muscle tone along with many other things, but they don't change the bone structure and the already biological build of someone. If I was a genetic female, I wouldn't be happy or at least have massive concerns if I was competing in a contact sport with someone who developed biologically as a male. It's not about discrimination it's about biology. Although, if a transwoman decides to undertake hormone treatments in puberty then yes, they will develop as a biological female would on many other levels than those who transition after puberty. The British Medical Journal of Sports Medicine even backs this up.

"People exposed to testosterone from puberty onward will develop physical and/or physiological attributes that contribute to a distinct performance advantage over most women. Although the performance boundaries between male and female athletes have narrowed in the past several decades, there are distinct gender differences that exist on average."

With many young trans folk now undertaking treatments in their youth, during puberty even, then I firmly believe they have the perfect opportunities to compete in women's sport under transgender policies being adopted in sport, especially contact sports. So, if you undertake these treatments sometime after puberty then I regret to say, I don't believe you should be permitted to compete in women's sport. As bad as it sounds, I think it comes down to appearance and common sense. If someone has the frame of a woman and meet the hormonal levels then there should be no question and they should be allowed to play, but if they have biologically developed as male during their pubescent years then I'm sorry you have to accept that maybe a sporting career or competitive sports will be something you will have to leave behind. I know this is something that people probably won't like. But when it comes to sport, it shouldn't just be a box that you can tick as to what competition you will compete in but should be based on a common-sense appearance method in addition to medical documentation.

To a lesser extent the "bathroom debate" should also have the common sense appearance applied to it. If you visit a bathroom appearing like the gender you identify as then you would "match" what would be expected of anyone using that said bathroom. But if you walk in there as a guy and use the women's bathrooms because you "identify" as a woman then that shouldn't be permitted and is a risk for women most definitely. It opens the door for exploration.

This is the thing. It's very sad but needs to be accepted. When you decide to transition you need to realise that there are going to be limitations and things that you may never get back or even be allowed to do again. It's part of the most important and crucial decision you will ever have to make. For some that means acceptance of their family and friends abandoning them. Part of the decision could even be that they will never have children in the "traditional way" but those are part of the sacrifices that have to be decided on. So when it comes to sport it's the same thing. For example, if you are massively into sport and want that to continue, then sadly it's part of the decision-making process that you might have to accept that competitively you might never be able to play that game again. However, it doesn't mean you have to close the door entirely. I love Aussie Rules, I wasn't any good at playing as a guy, so playing it as a girl? I probably wouldn't be any better. But if I felt so strongly about the game and wanted to be involved then I would consider maybe umpiring it? I actually have, but I'm not at that level of fitness anymore to run out a game as an ump. There are also sports that are actually mixed so you could maybe consider taking up those sports or joining those competitions. As Senator Chandler even said:

"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."

The fact is, involvement in sport isn't closed to you if you're trans, but you may need to compromise.

What is definitely lost in this debate now is that it's all about feelings. It's about "how I feel" or "how I identify" as opposed to, well common sense. Are we that fragile that we can't even put on a face? For example, I have known for years that I was trans. But when I'd fill out a form if I was asked about my gender I would tick male, I would dream of the day I could tick female and happily do so now, but I know what the form was about. If society now is so fragile that even "pretending" on a form is going to destroy someone emotionally then there are deeper problems rooted in society. Simply, can we please return to a world of common sense, even on the sporting field?


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