Transgender sport in the moral maze

The Olympics are conscripted into the culture wars. Inevitably.

On BBC Radio’s Moral Maze this week, we tackled the participation of transgender athletes in sporting competitions.

Our peg was the controversy over the New Zealand transgender weightlifter Laurel Hubbard. Hubbard previously competed in men’s events before “transitioning” in 2013, and is to compete as a woman in the super-heavyweight category at the Olympic Games. This has been made possible by a change in International Olympic Committee guidelines on testosterone levels in 2015, and after qualifying requirements were modified by the International Weightlifting Federation.

On the Maze, we sought as ever to explore the deeper issues behind this row. Does it present an invidious choice between fairness and rights? Do trans people have an unfair advantage if they compete against women? Is there a right to expect everyone else to adapt their own rules to whatever identity anyone may profess? Are “human rights” even an appropriate framework for finding a harmonious resolution to these divisive issues?

My fellow panellists were Matthew Taylor, Tim Stanley and Ash Sarkar. Our witnesses were Joanna Harper, adviser to the International Olympic Committee on gender and sport; Debbie Hayton, transgender activist, teacher and journalist; Adam Wagner, human rights barrister and visiting professor of law at Goldsmiths, University of London; and Dr Dafydd Mills Daniel, lecturer in theology and ethics at Oxford university.

If you can access the BBC website, you can listen to the programme here.

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