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Literature Review Does Not Support Bans on Transgender Women Athletes

The Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport (CCES) has released “Transgender Women Athletes and Elite Sport: A Scientific Review.” The CCES commissioned this review of the scientific and grey literature regarding trans women athletes’ participation in elite and high-performance sport, with a focus on the state of literature about the science of testosterone and its impact on sport performance.

The authors recommend that all reasonable efforts should be made to make sport inclusive and accessible for transgender individuals. They conclude that there is no firm basis available in evidence to indicate that trans women have a consistent and measurable overall performance benefit after 12 months of testosterone suppression.

“This literature review makes it clear that we need more scientific data derived from methodologically sound research focused on trans women athletes to build a foundation of solid evidence and to ultimately guide policy recommendations. The review suggests that sports should support inclusion of trans women in the female category in sport until there is robust and peer-reviewed evidence that it is not safe or fair for other competitors,” said Paul Melia, CCES president and CEO. “Thank you to E-Alliance for this important in-depth examination of the current biological and sociocultural research on transgender athlete participation in competitive sport.”

This literature review is one component of a larger scope of work that aims to support leaders and policy makers and provide access to critical research insights. The scope of this review was limited to binary trans women who are elite athletes, and it was not sport specific. As a result, the conclusions are not directly applicable to other trans or non-binary populations and other levels of sport.

The impacts of sport inclusion policies, or lack thereof, are significant and reach far beyond sport to affect how trans people are included in other areas of society. Sport can have a positive impact on the physical and mental health of transgender people and can contribute to lifesaving opportunities.

The CCES, Canadian Women & Sport, and AthletesCAN are long-time collaborators in this space and are dedicated to working with athletes and sport organizations to identify a path that will ensure all transgender and gender-diverse participants are included and feel safe and welcome in Canadian sport. Upholding the Canadian sport system’s tradition of grounding policy decisions in evidence, the group’s work is founded on human rights considerations, guided by the values of inclusion, fairness, and safety, and informed by research evidence. The partners are also consulting with transgender athletes, cisgender athletes, and national sport organizations, as well as commissioning human rights research and additional literature reviews, and developing educational resources to support the sport community as it works towards inclusion.

The literature review was completed by E-Alliance, under the supervision of Guylaine Demers, Professor at Laval University. Led by Dr. Gretchen Kerr (University of Toronto) and Dr. Ann Pegoraro (University of Guelph), E-Alliance is a knowledge sharing hub made up of scholars and partner organizations from across Canada who are dedicated to gender+ equity in sport.

View the report HERE.


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