Olympian Emily Seebohm ‘horrified’ after her photo is used on transphobic billboard

A billboard created by Advance Australia targeting independent Warringah MP Zali Steggall which includes the slogan “women's sport is not for men” as well as photos of top swimmers Dawn Fraser, Emma McKeon and Emily Seebohm.

Olympic gold medalist Emily Seebohm has condemned a right-wing Australian lobby group for using her image without permission on a “transphobic” billboard. 

Conservative group Advance Australia organised mobile billboards targeting independent Warringah MP Zali Steggall, who is a staunch advocate for trans women’s inclusion in sports. The billboards include the slogan “women’s sport is not for men” as well as photos of top swimmers Dawn Fraser, Emma McKeon and Seebohm.

Seebohm slammed the billboard in an interview on The Project on Tuesday (26 April) and said she had “no idea who Advance Australia is”, the Guardian Australia reported. The Olympian added that she didn’t give her permission for the group to use her image, and she certainly didn’t want her “photo next to something saying transphobic”.

“That is a statement that I’ve never said and I don’t suggest nor support that and … the photo is just horrific! So the whole thing is just awful to me,” Emily Seebohm added. 

Steggall, who is a former Olympic athlete, shared an image of the billboard on Twitter and wrote that “right wing activist group Advance Australia” is “up to their usual misleading dirt”. The MP also questioned if the group had the consent and approval to use the images from Swimming Australia, Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) and Fraser. 

Fraser told the Sydney Morning Herald that she was furious about her image being associated with the campaign and had engaged with her solicitor.

The AOC and Swimming Australia have threatened legal action against Advance Australia over the billboard. 

Swimming Australia chief executive Eugenie Buckley said the organisation “strongly condemns the use of imagery of our athletes, past and present, by the Advance Australia party” on the “political” ad. 

“For clarity – if it was sought it would have been categorically denied. Swimming Australia does not endorse this, or any message, from the Advance Australia party,” Buckley said.

“Swimming Australia believes in a competitive environment that is inclusive, fair and equitable for all athletes at the same time. Ultimately, all Australians deserve to feel welcome, safe, valued and celebrated in swimming.”

She added that Swimming Australia issued a legal notice to the right wing group.

A spokesperson for the AOC told the Guardian Australia that the committee will send a legal letter to Advance Australia. The AOC will allege that the billboards are using its intellectual property without permission as McKeon and Emily Seebohm see in the photos wearing uniforms which feature the Olympic rings. 

PinkNews has contacted McKeon for comment. 

A spokesperson for Advance Australia told the Guardian Australia that statements by Fraser, McKeon and Seebohm are “all on the public record” and all alleged that allowing trans women to compete in girls and women’s sport “isn’t fair”. 

“The country’s best swimmers have made their views clear, so where is the sport at?” the spokesperson added. “Swimming Australia should be honest about what they plan to do to address the concerns of Australian parents.”

The spokesperson also said the “media” is “obsessed over who is allowed to use a photo” and claimed that Swimming Australia is “running cover for radical woke politicians”. 

The Australian swimmers have weighed in on the current debate on trans inclusion in sports. 

Emily Seebohm told Sky News Australia that trans women are “always going to be stronger, fitter, faster than biological females”. She also claimed that swimming governing bodies need to “work out how we can all come together in this sport” and later said she wanted the sport to be “so inclusive to everyone”. 

Seebohm said on Tuesday that her earlier comments were taken out of context as she has “not once said that I don’t want inclusivity in this sport”. She said that she wants “everyone to feel included”, but “we have to work out how that works”. 

“Whether it is a female race, a male race and a transgender race we just don’t know yet, that’s something that needs to be discussed and we need to work out how to do that so everyone feels safe and supported and the competition is fair at the end of the day,” Emily Seebohm said. 

McKeon said she believed that swimming against a trans woman is “just not fair”, and that she “personally wouldn’t want to be racing” against a trans swimmer, according to InQueensland

“It’s not a new thing, but it’s new in that sport, swimming, are going to have to deal with it,” McKeon said. 

Fraser suggested in an interview with the Daily Telegraph that sporting bodies should separate categories to be introduced for trans athletes.

“I don’t think it’s fair to have transgender men competing against women,” Fraser said. “Why don’t transgender people compete against each other. That would solve all the problems?”