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Trans inclusivity in sport

29 April 2024

4 mins

Loughborough is synonymous with sport. It is part of the University’s DNA and recognised across the campus for the positive impact it can have, improving health and wellbeing. 

However, the ongoing debate around trans athlete participation in performance sport has been used by some to promote hate, resulting in members of the trans community being excluded. 

Loughborough’s Chancellor and President of World Athletics, Lord Sebastian Coe, and the University’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Nick Jennings met with representatives from the Student and Staff LGBT+ networks to discuss the issues facing the trans community. This included decisions made by World Athletics, and other sport governing bodies, around the female category. 

Sharing his thoughts, Lord Coe said: 

“The decision made by World Athletics was to preserve the female category at the elite level of athletics until more research and information regarding the impact of male puberty on transgender athletes is available. We are not suggesting this decision is appropriate for every level of sports participation. I am acutely aware that decisions like this, are often used to promote hate and exclusion to a group in need of our support more than ever. I am personally committed to ensuring World Athletics continues to work with coaches through education, learning from the research undertaken and calling out the transphobia that can exist in sport. World Athletics’ Council has also created a Working Group on Gender Diverse Athletes, an expert advisory body charged with keeping abreast of developments in law, science, sports, and society concerning gender diverse athletes. The Working Group will present its final report to World Athletics’ Council before December 2024. 

“Our history in athletics has often been pushing the boundaries of social issues – Jessie Owens black representation being one of our proudest moments in the sport’s long history – and I am proud that we continue to be at the centre of societal discussion.”  

Vice-Chancellor Professor Nick Jennings commented: 

“I was incredibly proud of our LGBT+ student and staff networks in how they presented and discussed these issues with our Chancellor. This is a contentious topic in which strongly diverging views are held. As a University we want to use our resources and research to ensure fairness, dignity and respect in all sports. We need to engage in dialogue and work together to support all our students and staff, and ensure they feel a sense of belonging to the Loughborough community.  

“Therefore I, and other staff who attended, will look to meet with the LGBT+ Student and Staff networks again to look at how we can continue to work together to raise awareness and support all members of the Loughborough community.” 

Representatives from the Staff and Student LGBT+ Networks said:  

“We were pleased to be able to highlight the barriers to sports participation experienced by many trans people, and felt that these were listened to and understood. Sport has so much to offer individuals and society in terms of social contact, the joy of learning and teaching new skills, camaraderie and belonging, and of course the huge role that physical activity needs to have in tackling crises in mental and physical health. More people participate in sport for these benefits than for any hope of Olympic medals. To this end, it is helpful for Lord Coe to emphasise that the decisions around the female category at the elite level are not intended to create exclusion in grass-roots sport or to support transphobia. 

“Ultimately sports need to find ways to produce meaningful competition between individuals of all natural abilities, where competition is the primary aim, whatever their gender. In the meantime, we mustn’t allow the specific concerns of elite sport to make us lose sight of the much broader benefits to society of promoting participation for all.” 

Both Loughborough University and World Athletics strongly support the trans community in participating in sport, and in society more widely. 

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

Reflections, comments, discussion and opinion on EDI topics from Loughborough University staff and students

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