Sport Ireland has published a guidance document intended to provide information and insights to the Irish sport sector to assist with decision making and policy development for the inclusion of transgender and non-binary people in sport.

This has been an area of concern for many sports and the guidance was being requested and has now been delivered. It will still be up to each individual sport both here and internationally to create its own policies around the participation of transgender and non-binary groups but doing so with a background of fact rather than emotion will lead to better decisions.

The guidance document provides recommended steps and considerations when putting a policy in place for the participation of transgender and non-binary people in a particular sport. It also highlights practical considerations for implementation and review of these policies.

It runs to 20 pages and covers everything from language to physiology.

The challenges are well expressed in the statement that “Finding the best place for everyone can be complex because not everyone agrees on how to define categories in sport, particularly those based on the existing male/female binary. In the past it has been generally accepted that the male/female divide in sport is valid due to the different body types of the two sexes. Society is now moving toward an understanding of gender, which may not be based on physical characteristics.”

Sport Ireland has also launched a suite of resources to support the sport sector, which will be updated regularly to reflect the ever-evolving nature of the environment in which the policies will operate.

This guidance document is underpinned by a comprehensive consultation process which took place over a period of six months.

The key stakeholders consulted as part of this process were involved in every element of Irish sport from grassroots to high-performance, transgender and non-binary people and their families, advocacy and representative groups, and the general public.

In total, more than 4,000 people were consulted through a mix of surveys, focus groups and interviews.

The initial phase of this work, which spanned over 12 months in total, also explored the environment in which the guidance operates, including analysis of the national and international policy landscape.

“This is a very important guidance document which is designed to provide support and education to National Governing Bodies when developing policies for the inclusion of transgender and non-binary people in their specific sport,” said Sport Ireland CEO Dr Una May.

“We acknowledge that this is a complex issue and by the very nature of sport there is no one-size fits all approach that can be applied across the board. Equally it is an area that is constantly evolving, and as such we at Sport Ireland will evolve our support to the sector through a suite of resources which are regularly updated.”

“Our ambition is always to make sport as inclusive as possible so that everyone, regardless of their background, can reap the many benefits that participation in sport brings. We would encourage all NGBs to put a policy in place if they don’t already have one.

The Guidance for Transgender and Non-Binary Inclusion in Sport document can be found here.

We will be talking about this in greater detail with Sport Ireland Diversity and Inclusion manager Helen McHugh later in the week.


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