Including trans people in sport

About this event

A brief introductory level session delivered by Gendered Intelligence (GI).

Part of the Pride House Birmingham Learning Series. Providing insight, strategies and good practice solutions for engaging LGBT+ people in sport, physical activity and physical education.

Content of the webinar

A brief introductory level session delivered by Gendered Intelligence (GI), a charity that works to increase understandings of gender diversity and improve the lives of trans people. 

The session will cover what ‘trans’ means, why working on trans inclusion in sport is important, and some top tips for making that inclusion happen in practice. There’ll be opportunity to ask questions.

From the blurb

About the hosts Pride house Birmingham Learning aka Pride Sports  

The host from Pride House Birmingham Learning, told us the session was being held in the lead up to the Commonwealth Games.  Pride House is a subsidiary of Pride Sports. According to Pride Sports’ most recent accounts it received a grant of 25K from the pharmaceutical giant GSK.

From the Companies House register

Pride Sports has links with other LGBT sports groups, including the Scottish organisation LEAP, who holds a free weekend residential for anyone who fancies identifying as ‘LGBTIQ+’ aged between 16-25. It is also directly responsible for Pride House International and Football v. Homophobia, but there is scant information on its website about what Pride Sports does or who works there.

Despite Pride Sports being set up in 2008 its resources section has only two reports. The news page at the time of writing had six articles which is piss poor for an organisation with such reach, and even I, a mere penniless blogger, manages to produce at least two articles a month. It suggests that they don’t really have any community engagement or any activities to report on.

You have to ask yourself why there are so many organisations dedicated to sport for the ever expanding alphabet bag? The Office for National Statistics in 2019 estimated that 2.7 percent of the population identifies as gay, lesbian or bisexual. Those identifying as trans, if we were to take Stonewall’s figure, is 600,000. When you take into consideration that people in those two groups won’t have any interest in playing group sports, you realise these organisations are agitating for a vanishingly small number of people. And yet the number of out gay footballers is still counting fingers, so these organisations are very ineffective on one hand, but on the other, the inroads into opening up female sport as an open category has been truly successful.

And that’s where outfits like Gendered Intelligence (GI) come in, who had been invited by Pride Sports to give the presentation that day. Simon Croft, a GI stalwart, led the session. Simon says GI has now trained over 30,000 people in the public and private sector and that it has special links to youths in sport.  GI has worked with a number of governing bodies and frontline providers.

Simon is 56 years old and transitioned in 1998 and had been involved in GI since 2008.  

From Gendered Intelligence’s Meet the Team page

Poor little mites

Simon opened by saying that trans people don’t feel comfortable in sport and ‘self-select’ out of it.  However, inclusion was possible, it just required us to reappraise ‘stereotypes’ and change the way we do things.

Simon read a quote from GI’s ‘research’ (i.e. some selective focus groups) and we heard there was a trans person relying on sport to keep them going whilst they waited for ‘hormones and surgery’.  A quote from the IOC told us that ‘sport was a human right’.  So why did ‘trans folk’ find it hard to take part? 

The ‘trans can be anything’ sciency bit 

Well, in order to answer that, we need to know what trans is.  And trans can be – as we already know – anything people say it is, but fair play to Simon for making it sound so sciency.  People might even be male one minute and female the next!  People might have no sense of gender at all!  People might be gender questioning!  Or non-binary!  

There was research to suggest that non-binary genders were much more prevalent than originally thought and a study in the US showed that 9 percent of high school students don’t fully identify with the gender binary.  This showed that young people didn’t think about ‘gender’ in rigid or fixed ways.  Therefore it was important for ‘sport’ to allow access to blue haired badge-wearers.  

Transition is a very serious matter

‘What other aspects of trans lives was it important to consider?,’ posited Simon.

Transition.  Again, she was keen to stress that not all trans people transition, but some do.  Transition could be social, i.e. using your preferred toilets in public (Simon’s voice betrayed something like glee here), or it could be medical or surgical.  For youths it could mean puberty delaying treatment.  There was also changing your legal sex.  

Often in sport the focus was on medical transition, especially testosterone levels.  Non binary people might also take hormones so that they could have a hormone profile which was ‘not typically male or typically female’.  

So it was important for sport to consider what to do with these drug addicts.  (No mention from Simon, of course, that anabolic steroids are banned in sport.)  

How can we make [women’s] sport an open to all option?

It was important to consider how to keep trans people involved in sport as they transition.  ‘Trans men’ might not want to play in men’s sports, because they might find it too big a leap, a bit too boisterous.  ‘Trans women’ might find it very uncomfortable to play in women’s sport, but can’t play in men’s sport because ‘they’re not men’, said Simon.  

How can sport support ‘trans men’ to remain playing in the women’s game (i.e. women on testosterone) and how can we get ‘trans women’ into women’s sport more effectively?  (Or how about you fuck off and set up your own beta league?)

If you moved a woman/girl out of the team because she had started testosterone you’re cutting her off from her key social network!  What’s more that woman/girl might then delay her transition in favour of continuing sport.  (What a tragedy.)

‘People shouldn’t have to choose between playing sport and being themselves,’ Simon intoned.

Puberty blockers 

Some trans people had partially paused their puberty and therefore when they are older they will have only experienced ‘a partial puberty of their assigned gender’.  How might these people be accommodated?  

You don’t know who is trans

There might be loads of people playing sport who are trans but you don’t know about them because they pass.  Unwelcoming attitudes might be keeping them in the closet.

But also: Don’t you dare compromise their privacy! 

Intersex people

Sports needed to consider how trans inclusion policies affected intersex people because ‘this was about everybody moving forward together’.  

Challenging barriers

With a smile in her voice, Simon told us that we needed to address ‘the barriers’ posed by sex-segregated sport.   

Simon read out a quote in which a woman on testosterone bemoans the fact she is going to be removed for being ‘too male-looking’ but that she doesn’t want to play on the men’s team because she is ‘non-binary’.  

And then she played a video of another woman saying something identical.  

Rattling off some more statistics, Simon assured us that it was a very bleak picture out there, including a Stonewall study when showed 28 percent of trans people had been abused in fitness clubs/group sports.  

A Veronica Ivy graphic 

Trans people aren’t in elite sport! said Simon and explained Cyclepath’s graph to us, i.e. between 2004 and 2018 over 50,000 people had taken part in the Olympics, none of whom were trans.  In the 2020 Olympics there were 4 transgender participants.  Statistically we should have expected several hundred over this period and it did in fact prove that there was a massive under-representation of trans people in sport.  

How do we improve inclusion? 

Use inclusive language, have inclusive changing rooms/toilets and start this off at the grass roots level.  The policies of the English Cricket Board and Roller Derby (which isn’t a real sport, nor is it popular in the UK) was an example of allowing men to play on the women’s team.  

From the ECB policy paper here, in a later version the reference to Stonewall is gone

Simon told us that sport was already inclusive of a wide range of body types, being trans was just like this.  We don’t stop ‘average’ people from playing sport, Simon whined.  

How often would a trans woman fall outside the entire range of capability of other women?  Or a trans man fall outside the range of other men? Well, the truth is, we really don’t know. 

Simon says

Where eligibility criteria did exist, this really needed to be assessed on a ‘case by case’ basis and the English Football Association were taking this approach.  Blanket approaches really relied on stereotypes.  

Non binary inclusion

Simon also spoke about non-binary sport participation and that Quinn, the famous non-binary-identified female, plays women’s football. This, apparently, was an example of ‘inclusion’.  Not only that but Quinn and her team got the ‘gold medal’.  

Pride Sports had produced a guide called ‘Non-binary people, sport and physical activity’, the guide was part funded by Sport England. Sport England is mostly funded by the National Lottery but also gets grant in aid from the government as it is classed as a non-departmental public body. And as I said earlier, it was Pride Sports that had invited GI to give the training that day. 

Familiarise yourself with these policies so that if anything does go wrong, or there is any bullying or harassment, you know what to do.  

More quotes from the focus group

Simon read out threes quotes, one from 9 year old girl who wanted to be treated as a boy and be able to wear the same sport strip as the boys, another from a ‘trans woman’ who just wanted to be seen as ‘any other woman’ and finally a ‘non binary person’ who said they enjoyed playing mixed sex wheelchair basketball.  

Simon had a peeve about mixed teams though, because sometimes they had quotas which meant non-binary people might not be included.  

Good practice 

Don’t assume gender.  Language is normally the means by which we do this.  Use only unisex terms, like folks, people, players, etc.  Some teams have a name you can use, e.g. shout out ‘Come on you Tigers’.  

Other nuances included using the phrase ‘the players on the women’s team’ as opposed to ‘the women’s team’. (GCs take note, when you use phrases like ‘people born male’ this is exactly the nuance they are seeking; a person born male is a man. End of.)  

How to find out someone’s pronouns? 

Ask them how they would like to be addressed.  Ask them directly.  Or the best one was to offer your own pronouns, since that showed that you were a) on board and b) willing to listen and c) open to pronouns that might be made up.  It’s all so complicated, isn’t it? 

Another top tip was to use the beginning of the season to do a pronoun round which would neatly allow any team players to state if they had a different or updated pronoun. 

Using the correct pronouns made trans people feel safe and seen, but if you do make a mistake just apology briefly and move on.  Simon then demonstrated how that mistake might happen and also how to apologise briefly and move on.  

It was important to respect pronouns at all times, even if it was a ‘trans man’ playing on the women’s team.  

Include all these options on your databases, or if you can’t, create your own individual spreadsheet (a recommendation which sounds like it goes against data protection).  


Only disclose someone’s trans identity with their express consent.  Another top tip was to let people pick the facilities/toilets which suited them best.  ‘It’s all about behaviour, not bodies,’ said Simon and went on to explain that if we see someone behave inappropriately we address that, it didn’t really matter ‘what type of body’ they had.  

Privacy was very important for all people but also ‘gender neutral’ options should be available.  

Travel overseas/playing away

When travelling abroad with your trans players, will they be safe in that country?  Are they able to import their legally prescribed hormones?  Are the other teams facilities trans inclusive?  

What happens if you don’t advertise your inclusivity

You might not even get a trans person put a foot through your door.  If you don’t tell everyone you are inclusive, you are creating an active barrier.  Then we had a quote that someone was ‘too scared’ to play on a team which wasn’t explicitly trans inclusive.  

Roller Derby 

Simon returned to the sport that no one in the UK has heard of, nor would want to play even if they had, and told us that in Roller Derby the women’s team is inclusive of both sexes, no questions asked.  

Simon then read out a quote from a Roller Derby official, stating that it is a contact sport, ‘more so than rugby’ (it isn’t) and that there were no safety problems.

Further support

Download our resource list and our colourful images of trans inclusive sport.  Buy training from us.  

Question and answer

The woman hosting from Pride House waxed lyrical about how amazing the session had been and said she got something new every time she attended one.  

Why would someone take testosterone to look male, but then not identify as male?

Ooh, transition is very individual, cooed Simon, and people have to do whatever they need to do to feel comfortable in their own body.  For example, many of his female colleagues at GI identified as non-binary but did in fact pass as men. 

Simon recommended a book: Testosterone: An unauthorised biography, which had a chapter on ‘athleticism’.

Hormones are so complicated!  

Simon says

Simon says the book proved that it wasn’t correct to think of testosterone as a sex hormone (which it is, in both sexes) nor that it were particularly a male sex hormone (the normal range for females is at least 270 nanogram lower than it is for males).  

Testosterone is necessary for female reproduction said Simon knowledgeably (well sure, since males need their in utero testosterone dump from somewhere). 

What is meant by ‘gender expansive’?  

Ooh, it’s a more positive term to describe gender, said Simon.  It was very easy to paint trans people as sad nobodies, but in fact they had great lives and gender expansive was a way of communicating that.  Gender euphoria was another one.  Simon spent far too long answering the question (several minutes), no doubt running down the time.  

How do we deal with negative comments from an opposition team about a trans man on our team?

Have the conversation before it happens, find out what the facilities are like, get them to sign up to a code of conduct, etc.  Manage confidentiality.  

The Sports Council recently used a new concept of ‘retained advantage’ to justify restrictions on trans peoples participation, do you know any credible research to challenge this?

Simon said that the current science was very variable and suggested all sorts of things and that because sample sizes were very small it was difficult to know the truth.  We need to think of it as intersectional.  Simon didn’t answer the question, surprise surprise, but still managed to talk for several minutes.  The host pointed out there was only two minutes left now, ‘ooh, sorry’ pretended Simon.

There is currently a very loud minority making the world very difficult for trans people.  I predominantly work in competitive sport where trans, non-binary and gender non-conforming people are often put into the spotlight, whether warranted or not.  How can we protect them? 

Simon congratulated the questioner that they had taken the first big step in recognising that this can happen.  And just repeated much of the stuff she had already said, ad nauseam.  If anyone expressed any concern about a trans player they should have to express that concern at a policy level, not at an individual level.  Don’t be afraid to close down conversations and tell people it isn’t appropriate!  Freedom of speech isn’t the freedom to make people feel uncomfortable.  

Is it offensive for cisgender people to share their pronouns on LinkedIn etc?

No, it isn’t.  If Simon is in a queue and she hears everyone else get asked what their pronouns are, when she finally gets asked, that doesn’t make her feel odd in any way.  We need to normalise it.  Don’t practise empty allyship though, that’s not good, it’s important you understand the importance of pronouns.  Simon would send us some pronoun articles later.  


I suspect that every time Pride House aka Pride Sports host Gendered Intelligence (this is at least the second training session I have attended) it generates at least one sale for GI. It’s not clear what the benefit for Pride Sports is, since a large part of their income is from the consultancy business too. You would think they would want to produce their own trans sport awareness training, but as the saying goes, one hand washes the other.

The quality of the training is just so unbelievably piss poor. Particularly concerning is the focus on children, not only in GI’s research but also the promotion of puberty blockers as a normal part of development.

I wonder if the real purpose of Gendered Intelligence’s training is to simply leave people with a completely false impression of what ‘transition’ is. The idea that people post- phalloplasty or vaginoplasty will be running up and down a playing field with gay abandon is simply pure fantasy. More of a mystery though is why sports organisations have simply embraced the trans activist narrative. I don’t recall seeing one refutation from a sporting body about the importance of keeping healthy through exercise and advising against drug use, especially anabolic steroids.

Thank you for reading! Sign up to my blog by going to the bottom of the page.

Please share on other forums if you liked it, as I only do Twitter.