Question 12: Do you think that the participation of trans people in sport, as governed by the Equality Act 2010, will be affected by changing the Gender Recognition Act?
If people are able to obtain a GRC without a diagnosis of gender dysphoria or any engagement with medical professionals, then there is every chance that an increased number of male people who have not undergone any medical transition will seek to participate in women’s sporting activities and competitions.
The government has a Public Sector Equality Duty to promote equality of opportunity. There is already a noticeable discrepancy between male and female participation in sport, and differing patterns of sporting activity between men and women.
The Active People Survey commissioned by Sport England in 2014 found that 40% of men take part in sport at least once a week, while only 31% of women do. (https://www.sportengland.org/media/3285/gowherewomenare_final_01062015final.pdf)
Research commissioned by the Department for Culture. Media and Sport in 2011 (https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/137986/tp-adult-participation-sport-analysis.pdf) found that women’s participation in sport is heavily concentrated in a few types of sporting activity (swimming, health & fitness at the gym, dance/exercise classes) – mainly those which take place indoors and in predominantly female groups.
The reasons for this imbalance are complex, but are likely to include the greater pressure on women’s time due to their disproportionate responsibility for domestic work and childcare, the high levels of harassment experienced by women who run or cycle in public spaces, and the social expectations placed on women to look “attractive” when in the presence of men.
Rather than exacerbating this imbalance, the government should be taking steps to enable women to feel more free to engage in sporting activity. Making it easier for male people to take part in women’s sport is likely to have the opposite effect.