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The Big Debate: Should transgender women compete in women’s sport?

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by Adam Moynihan

When Lia Thomas won the 500-yard freestyle at the NCAA Swimming & Diving Championships last week, a long-simmering topic was brought to the boil.

Thomas’ victory makes her the first transgender woman to win an NCAA swimming championship, a milestone which led the president of World Athletics, Sebastian Coe, to claim that the “integrity of women’s sport… and actually the future of women’s sport, is very fragile”.

Meanwhile, Erica Sullivan, an Olympian who finished third in that 500-yard freestyle, says she is proud to compete alongside Thomas. “As a woman in sports,” Sullivan wrote in Newsweek, “I can tell you that I know what the real threats to women's sports are: sexual abuse and harassment, unequal pay and resources and a lack of women in leadership. Transgender girls and women are nowhere on this list.”

Which one of these key stakeholders is right?

For the majority of fans and athletes, this is a relatively new and very complicated subject and I think many of us are still trying to wrap our heads around it. Broadly speaking, public opinion seems to be siding with Coe. Thomas has legions of detractors worldwide, many of whom cite the apparent “unfair advantage” she has over cis women. The American was assigned male at birth and experienced male puberty before transitioning and coming out as trans while in college.

While I do believe that a good number of people on this side of the debate have sincere concerns about fairness and sporting integrity, let’s not kid ourselves here: others are simply transphobic. Some people don’t recognise a transgender woman’s right to identify as a woman. If that’s your starting point then of course you’re not going to condone a transgender woman competing against cis women.

Notorious scaremongers like the Daily Mail and Fox News have been extremely vocal on the issue. They would have you believe that the Thomas case will lead to armies of men simply deciding they are trans so they can take over women’s sport. Firstly, this is massively disrespectful to Thomas as it suggests that her transition is inauthentic. Secondly, who are these men who are willing to officially change their gender and subject themselves to hormone therapy, just so they can beat women at sport?

I suppose everyone is entitled to their own opinions but, as a general rule, if you find that your opinions are perfectly aligning with the vomitous losers who write hate-fuelled columns in the Daily Mail, it’s definitely worth re-evaluating your position.

The fact that transphobia is driving at least some of the anti-trans-women-in-women’s-sport rhetoric has naturally brought about a strong reaction from people in the LGBTQ+ community, as well as those on the left. For some people on this side, it’s black and white: trans women are entitled to equality. That means being treated the same way any other woman would be treated, in any given sphere.

Then there are the people in the middle, people who might support LGBTQ+ rights in general, or who might even consider themselves an “ally”, but still have questions. How can Thomas, who up until 2019 had a male body (she has undergone feminising hormone therapy since), be grouped with cis women in competition? Men and women are segregated in sport for basic biological reasons. If Thomas and other trans women are allowed to compete against cis women, does that mean that those biological differences don’t matter?

Equality and inclusion are beautiful things in the real world but one could argue that sport isn’t really the real world. There are divisions and handicaps and separations in the interest of fair competition.

On the other hand, certain cis women are naturally built differently to other cis women but they are allowed compete side by side. I’m built differently to 6'6" former Kerry footballer Tommy Walsh but I’ve shared a football pitch with him. Should that be allowed? (Probably not, but for different reasons.)

This debate really boils down to one very loaded question: does real life equality trump sport's own version of "fairness", or can sport play by its own rules?

What do you think? Should trans women be allowed to compete in women’s sport? Share your thoughts with Adam by emailing sport@killarneyadvertiser.ie.

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“Argentina have Messi but we have the Messiah”

By Michelle Crean  Calls for full civic reception for David Clifford Superstar footballer David Clifford has been compared to Argentina’s Messi. At Monday’s full Kerry County Council meeting councillors were full of […]

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By Michelle Crean 

Calls for full civic reception for David Clifford

Superstar footballer David Clifford has been compared to Argentina’s Messi.

At Monday’s full Kerry County Council meeting councillors were full of praise for both the Fossa and Rathmore teams who won their respective finals a day earlier in Croke Park. Fossa became the All-Ireland Junior Football Champions when they beat Stewartstown Harps, while Rathmore secured the AIB All-Ireland Intermediate Club Football title.

Cllr Mike Kennelly said “we are currently witnessing the greatest footballer ever” as he called for a full civic reception to honour David Clifford.

“I think he’s the greatest inspiration to every Kerry person. We, as an authority, as a county need to acknowledge this. We need to acknowledge David’s greatness and inspiration on his unrivalled success over the last 12 months. Argentina has Messi but we have the Messiah and we’ve got to protect him and honour that. Most people will agree with us that he is the greatest we have ever seen.”

However, cautiously Cllr Cahill added that it’s better to hold a civic reception for both teams rather than single out one player.

“I’m not too sure about singling out David. Maybe talk to the family on that. Paudie got an All Star this year and last year and was Man of the Match at several games. I’m not saying we shouldn’t do it but tease it out a little bit further.”

The matter was referred to the CPG.

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Exclusive: Paudie Clifford reflects on “emotional” All-Ireland Junior Club final

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by Adam Moynihan

Speaking to the Killarney Advertiser this evening (Wednesday), Fossa captain Paudie Clifford reflected on an emotional All-Ireland Junior Club final against Stewartstown of Tyrone.

Fossa emerged victorious on a scoreline of 0-19 to 1-13 but much of the talk in the aftermath has been focused on ill-discipline. Clifford was one of six players to be sent off in the second half, although he himself was the victim of arguably the worst offence: a vicious elbow to the face in the first minute of stoppage time.

Thankfully, the Kerry star was not badly injured in the incident.

“I’m good,” Clifford confirms. “I’ve a cut on the lip. Probably lucky, really. But no, I’m okay.

“David touched on it (in his post-match interview on TG4), there was a lot of emotion at the end of the game. There was a lot at stake.

“These things happen.”

The elder Clifford is still disappointed about his own red card, however. Not over the fact that he was sent off per se, but for the explanation given by referee Thomas Murphy.

“The referee said it was an eye gouge and sure it clearly wasn’t an eye gouge. That’s why I was so annoyed. That’s why I said it in the speech. I was seriously annoyed that he said it was an eye gouge.”

Although the video footage indicates that Clifford has right on his side, he does clearly put his hand in his opponent’s face. If the referee had said that the red was for a hand to the face, would he have accepted that?

“I wouldn’t have had any arguments with that really. It was the fact that he said it was an eye gouge that I wasn’t happy with.”

As for the aforementioned acceptance speech, an unorthodox address in which he said “well done” to the match officials before claiming that he shouldn’t have been red carded, Clifford simply puts it down to the immense “emotion” he was feeling at the time.

SUCCESS

Sunday’s victory marked a glorious end to what was a memorable season for Fossa. The relatively small club on the outskirts of Killarney sampled unprecedented success, something Clifford attributes to his hardworking teammates.

“Winning an All-Ireland seems so far away at the start of the year. You have to get out of your group and try to win Kerry, and even then you still have a long way to go.

“After all the hard work that the team has put in, it was unreal to get the reward at the end.

“We’ve had a lot of bad days in the last few years when we haven’t performed on the big occasion. There’s no other way of putting it. But in fairness to the lads, they didn’t put a foot wrong all year. They won Division 4 of the County League and the O’Sullivan Cup (East Kerry Junior Championship) when me and David weren’t there.

“On Sunday Matt Rennie caught massive balls when we needed him to. Dan Connell has been unreal all year since he came back from San Fran and he played very well. David got the big points. The fellas who came off the bench, like Rian Colleran, made a big difference.

“To be fair, there weren’t many fellas that didn’t play well for us. It was a fairly solid performance against a tough team. I thought [Stewartstown] were very good. Very powerful runners and a very good inside forward line.”

Younger brother David was typically sensational, kicking 0-11 (eight from play) en route to yet another Man of the Match award. The Footballer of the Year turns 24 on Sunday. Is there room for even more improvement in his game as he enters his mid-twenties?

“I suppose he’s going to try and go out and improve every day,” Paudie says. “I’m sure he’s striving towards that, but it remains to be seen. I wouldn’t put it past him.”

The elder Clifford (26) also reserves special praise for Fossa’s management team, in particular bainisteoir Adrian Sheehan and coach Eamonn Fitzmaurice.

“Adrian is a very good man-manager. Everyone gets on with him. But he’s very tactical too and another thing about him is that he’s always willing to learn. He’s very modest and he’s always willing to listen to the players and take their opinions on board.

“I really hope that he gets a chance at intercounty level once he’s finished with us, be it minor or U21. But obviously we don’t want him to be finished with us for a long time.

“Eamonn then is an absolute genius really. It’s like he makes things very simple but he also gets a lot across, if you get me?

“He’s very calm. At half-time, if things aren’t going well, he’s really able to calm things and get us ready. He’s able to spot things in a match as well. He has all the attributes you could want in a coach.”

The 2023 National League gets underway next weekend (January 28/29) with Kerry facing a tough away trip to Donegal on the Sunday. After an extremely long season with county and then club, it would be understandable if the Clifford brothers were granted an extended rest period before linking back up with their Kerry teammates in Currans.

But, in his distinctive, matter-of-fact tone, Paudie says that he and David won’t be taking too much time off.

“I’ve been talking to Jack. [The break will be] a few weeks. Nothing major.

“We’ll be ready to go again in a few weeks.”

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