Tory minister Nadine Dorries plotting major overhaul of rules for trans athletes

Culture Nadine Dorries leaves Downing Stree

Tory minister for digital, culture, media and sport Nadine Dorries is plotting a “major intervention” on trans athletes competing in British sport.

The MP for Mid Bedfordshire will reportedly convene a summit with senior sports leaders to form joint policies around trans-inclusion – or exclusion.

Dorries is to hold a round-table with sporting executives and key performance staff in the coming weeks to form the new guidelines, Telegraph Sport reported.

The summit will draw up a joint response to a 2021 report by the UK Sports Council, the newspaper understands. In their report, the five sports councils across the UK claimed that, even if they reduce their testosterone levels, trans women retain certain advantages.

Nadine Dorries thinks ‘you can’t have trans women’ in sports

Nadine Dorries had previously signalled her intent to round up sporting governing bodies together to “reach a position that protects female athletes, but also shows compassion to trans athletes and helps them achieve their goals”.

“Maybe that is having trans categories, I don’t know,” she told GB News last week, “but what I do know the bottom line is you can’t have trans women competing in female sports.”

She added that as much as the government will support trans people in their “choices”, she remains of “the opinion that it is impossible for a trans woman to compete in women’s sport”.

Dorries’ troubling stance on trans athletes simply wanting to run around a track or kick a ball follows years of her pushing against LGBT+ rights. She has repeatedly voted against marriage equality and was recently accused of conflating homosexuality with paedophilia in her 2014 novel The Four Streets.

The question of how – or whether at all – to regulate the athletic participation of trans women has quickly seized newspaper front pages as Conservative ministers increasingly share their thoughts on trans rights.

Health secretary Sajid Javid, for example, is to reportedly launch an inquiry into gender-affirming healthcare for trans youth and compared being trans to “child sex abuse“.

Prime minister Boris Johnson said that “biological men” should not be allowed to compete in women’s sports.

Liz Truss, Dominic Raab, Sajid Javid and Nadine Dorries sitting in a row

A number of ministers have dealt broadsides against trans rights. (L-R) Liz Truss, Dominic Raab, Sajid Javid and Nadine Dorries. (BEN STANSALL/AFP via Getty Images)

Coincidentally, the government has been shaken by scandal after scandal. From a string of boozy lockdown violations in 10 Downing Street to chancellor Rishi Sunak’s wife’s non-domiciled status, which stopped her from paying millions of pounds a year in taxes.

But trans-inclusion in sports has faced threats after the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) ruled that 21-year-old trans cyclist Emily Bridges could not compete in a top tournament last month.

Though she met British Cycling’s eligibility criteria for trans athletes, the world cycling’s governing body barred her, prompting British Cycling (and other sports, too) to suspend its policy altogether. Throwing athletes like Bridges’ careers into limbo.

More than 560 people, including top athletes, cycling groups, sports organisations and LGBT+ campaign groups, have signed an open letter urging for the ban to be lifted.

Signatories of the petition by LGBT+ cycling group Pride Out include elite cyclist Phillippa York and athletes Tiffany Thomas and Eden Elgeti.

“Recent comments from the government, including Boris Johnson, Nadine Dorries and Sajid Javid are at best, an unhelpful red herring, and at worst, transphobic,” Richard Hearne, Pride Out’s founder, told PinkNews.

“I ponder, for example, why they seem so hell-bent on making a big issue out of the inclusion of trans people and non-binary people in sport. This is an issue which affects a tiny proportion of the population”

While many sports governing bodies have different guidelines to determine the eligibility of trans women, the research on trans athletes tends to agree that there is no real conflict between inclusion and competitive fairness.

One researcher stressed that as much as trans women’s supposed advantages are often megaphoned, trans athletes also have certain “disadvantages” in sports that are rarely discussed. Testosterone, meanwhile, isn’t even really the reason behind athletes having performance differences.

“That’s precisely why it is so heartbreaking and upsetting to hear rhetoric seeking to demonise and exclude trans and non-binary people,” Hearne added.

“Surely our government should be moving hell and high water to look after and include everyone, not just the majority.”

PinkNews has contacted out to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport for comment.