Saving Sport from Transphobia

The Australian Football League has looked backward this month, with its refusal to accept a woman’s nomination for the AFLW draft simply because she was born in the body of a man.

The reason given is vague. “The subcommittee carefully considered all of the information provided by Hannah, as well as the available data on transgender strength, stamina, physique along with the specific nature of the AFLW competition,” the AFL said in a statement.

It seems that they’ve decided that, at 190cm and 100 kilos, this woman is too big and strong for the delicate flowers of the AFLW to handle. Once again, men are deciding what constitutes womanhood. It’s a disgraceful state of affairs.

The IOC has regulations that allow transgender women to compete against fellow women — regulations the AFL has blithely ignored. Of course, these regulations themselves are insulting, forcing certain women to take hormones to fit the IOC’s definition of a woman. And it’s hard to conceive how this insanely corrupt regime is fit to pass judgement on anybody.

There is only one real way forward for the AFL, which has failed in its drive for equality, and it’s one that will stop the men of the AFL restricting women’s rights for good.

It is time to call an end to a competition that is divided along gender lines. No more “man” or “woman.” No more second-tier AFLW. It creates a false dichotomy that only serves to penalise people for being themselves.

We can only guess how many women are already playing in the AFL but haven’t embraced their true identity for fear of being vilified, ostracised and sent to play in the AFLW. A competition that is blind to gender would allow these women to stand proudly as they compete on the greatest stage of all.

Similarly, all the men who are currently playing in the AFLW would not be forced to hide their true identity. They could undertake any surgery or drug treatment they feel is necessary to become the man they really are.

If there must be two competitions, let’s not have one where the women’s league is given less prominence than the men’s. There should be two competitions with equal billing that aren’t divided along gender lines — instead there can be one for people who identify as any gender and were born with penises (BWP), and one for people who identify as any gender and were born with a vagina (BWV).

This will mean that players aren’t forced to change competitions and lose bonds formed with teammates as they come to terms with their true gender.

Let BWP women play against BWP men, and BWV men play against BWV women. This is the only way the AFL can prove that it is a place free of judgement.