Why are trans people talked about in sports during a federal election?
How did the murky issue of transgender children‘s participation in sport become an issue of national importance that politicians simply need to have an opinion on? Like Ernest Hemingway’s quip about falling into bankruptcy, it happened in two ways. Little by little, then all of a sudden.
First, the gradual part. As the trans lobby has become more prominent and younger generations adopt less strict and more liberal attitudes towards gender identity, trans inclusion has become a real issue facing societies. . It’s a shift, an evolution, and if you’re talking to someone under the age of about 30, the loosening of gender identity is only going in one direction, and it’s not as conservatives would like. .
At the community and school level, as more children and adults come out as gender non-conforming or identify as trans, educators and parents have largely resolved the issue of inclusion among themselves. This is what is lost in the political debate, and what is so cynical about people like Warringah Liberal candidate Katherine Deves, who insist they are simply fighting for the rights of women and girls. .
Deves, Morrison, Albanese and all those who say “girls should play against girls” effectively argue for the exclusion of some children from sport. A most anti-Australian stance, I would have thought.
At the community level, no decent and impartial sports educator or coach would support such a thing. Most work hard to find a way to include all children. But as decent, ordinary, dare I say, calm Australians finding a way to adapt to this social change, politically the unease that many people feel about changing gender norms has found a home. Of course, it does – every social change has a political response, whether progressive or reactionary.
So we come to the sudden moment – the outbreak of controversy and media coverage surrounding Deves, and his now-deleted tweets about trans people. The tweets indicate a deep antipathy towards trans people, which speaks volumes about her motivations. But Deves is tapping into something quite real. Because alongside the gradual social change in gender norms and the efforts of ordinary people to respond to them, there is concern among some feminists and other women.
Worry has two sons. The first is the sentiment expressed by gender-critical feminists (labeled TERF, Trans-Exclusionary-Radical-Feminists) that if we ignore biological sex as a key marker of femininity, many of the gains made by feminists will be undermined. Biological sex is at the heart of feminist struggles around abortion rights, maternity rights, sexual discrimination at work, sexual assault and more recently, discrimination related to menstruation and menopause.