Blog - Reflections on the Alliance's recent transgender inclusion event

Reflections on transgender inclusion event blog ()

With transgender inclusion such an important topic in the current sport and recreation landscape, the Sport and Recreation Alliance recently hosted an event for National Governing Bodies (NGBs), to provide them with a space to discuss experiences, ideas, successes, and failures.

Read on for a blog about the event from the Alliance’s Head of Governance, Vijaya Panangipalli.

Last month we held an event for representatives of NGBs to hold a discussion on developing transgender policies. The request came from CEO Forum members who needed a platform to openly discuss the topic and learn from each other. Alliance facilitated an invite only session as per the Forum’s request. The aim was to create a safe space for NGBs to discuss their journey, success stories as well as their roadblocks.

Why should we consider a transgender policy, you may ask. This question may not have a simple answer, but assessing the value and contribution of diversity within your sport is something everyone can and should answer to. Over the past few months, we heard from many in the sector who are pondering how to create the right set of policies and how they would appreciate a forum to discuss this. Our event just facilitated this conversation - a place for NGB representatives to talk about their progress, ask questions and network with their peers.

I was lucky to be in a room full of people who want to make a difference and are willing to learn new things. After hearing our speakers, my view on this issue is certain – there may not be a right way to do things but certainly the wrong way is to not do anything.

We heard from: Robert Hicks, Director of Operations at Rugby Football League; Claire Livesey, People Director at British Cycling; Andy Salmon, CEO of British Triathlon; and Chris Lavey from Bird&Bird, who gave us a legal perspective. Our speakers talked about their journey developing transgender policies. A fascinating combination of striving for gender equity, collaborating with other sports and how they level with their international federation.

Although their journeys were distinct, the common denominator was the determination to make their sport accessible to everyone. There was so much richness to their stories, and I wanted to take this opportunity to reflect on what we heard on the day. If you are yet to begin forming your policy, I hope the some of my takeaways will aid your journey.

Consider your position – this is the moment to reflect on your position as a sport and use it as an anchor. Consider key factors such as safety, fairness and inclusion and reflect on what is important for your sport, your values, and the culture within the organisation. The science has not progressed to give answers to all the questions surrounding inclusion or fairness; however, sports should be able to conclude what they can and cannot offer. As easy as this may seem, the practicality is not going to be straightforward,so be prepared.

Consultation, consultation, consultation – all our three speakers spoke about their consultation process and how important this stage was for them. We heard how all three of these sports consulted with members, stakeholders and relevant groups which allowed them to gather ‘lived’ experiences and some constructive criticism. We also heard how important it is to speak to people who may oppose or may not have positive views towards such matters because at the end of the day, the consultation should be an inclusive process whether there are positive inputs or otherwise.

Our speakers mentioned that they had difficulty finding all the answers but found confidence with their efforts leading up to forming the policy. That is the key – do what’s right for your sport and continue your efforts with the best intentions.

Considerations – our speakers also pondered other considerations as part of their journey – such as, gender vs sex, the Equality Act 2010 and its implications, as well as who to consult and the international federation’s position, if any. Consider your legal position and speak to experts before publishing your policy.

A one size fits all approach does not work for most of us and is certainly not the case for Sports Council Equality Group’s (SCEG) transgender policy guidance. The guidance may not suit all sports as this is such a volatile and sensitive space, but we heard from our speakers that the guidance has helped answer some questions during the process.

Role of international federations – yet another hurdle to cross is the impact of international federations’ policy and how it affectsyour athletes. All our speakers believed the same thing – don’t wait for federations to formulate a policy, instead create a domestic policy as soon as it’s feasible but be cognisant of the federation’s position and how this may affect you . As one of our speakers put it, ‘we are many sports within one sport’ and the challenges this threw up.

So, what’s next? Things are progressing at a faster rate than we had anticipated - so much so that the IOC has published guidance on interpretation of the framework in January 2023, of which details can be found here.

Sport England and UK Sport will also be holding workshops on SCEG guidance and thematic workshops around legal considerations, best practice around consultation and others. Although they are yet to be finalised, numerous dates will be released to allow multiple sport representatives to attend these workshops,andwe are hoping that Alliance membership will be able to access these workshops. We will also be updating our Inclusivity Hub with a list of documents and resources shortly.

My reflections are that we as a sector are behind in adopting the policy, but rightly so because sport is such a complicated space. There are equity champions out there and people who are working hard to make their sport inclusive so no child, adult or athlete will miss out on what sport can offer to them.

As a sector, we just need to speak more, learn more, and strive for better. I thank all our speakers who carved out time to speak to others and share their stories. If you have any questions or need assistance in this matter than please reach out to me – If I cannot help, I can at least guide you to the next best person.

The Alliance is committed to improving inclusivity across the sector and has recently launched a new Inclusivity Hub, which is a dedicated web page for our members to help cultivate a positive culture, enact change and make sport and recreation a more equal, diverse and inclusive place. You can take a look at all the resources on the Hub here.