Badminton England bans trans women from female competitions

A person with a rainbow bucket hat holds a badminton racket.

Trans and non-binary badminton players are to be excluded from women’s competitions under newly issued rules.

A policy document uploaded to the website of the national regulatory body, Badminton England, on Thursday (11 August) confirmed that trans women will be excluded from sanctioned and unsanctioned female tournaments.

Instead, the men’s category will be replaced with an open competition, which would accept “all individuals” who were not assigned female at birth (AFAB).

The changes came into effect last week and will be re-assessed annually, with the next policy review coming in a year’s time.

Badminton England said that while international selection would be “restricted to the player’s assigned sex at birth”, they were committed to working to provide events where trans players are able to play competitively.

“We recognise that this is a developing area of policy with new research being published and changing societal attitudes. As such, we will review this policy annually before the start of each competitive season, to ensure that best practice is continued,” a statement read.

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The governing body “recognises and acknowledges” each individual’s right to “define their own gender,” but “fairness of competition” had been prioritised, it went on to say.

The policy report said that research conducted by the governing body had concluded that badminton is a “gender-affected sport”, meaning one which, it says, sex assigned at birth could have an effect on play.

Despite this, it highlighted that there is “limited evidence” or research on how these alleged advantages could affect games.

The governing body also cited the 2010 Equality Act in its reasoning for the change, saying: “Such prohibition or restrictions can only be made in order to secure fair competition or the safety of competitors at events.

“Badminton England will support organisations involved with the delivery of events and competitions, to ensure fairness, and will investigate fully any complaints relating to unfair exclusion from badminton.”

Trans sports bans are becoming widespread

While the international regulatory body, Badminton World Federation, currently has no policy on trans participation, it has commissioned research to better understand the impact of “biological advantages”.

Similar exclusion of trans participants has occurred across a number sports recently, including cycling, swimming and rugby.

In April, Swim England updated its policy, leading to the exclusion trans competitors in female competitions. A year earlier, the’s world governing body, the International Swimming Federation, effectively made it impossible for trans athletes to compete in women’s competition by raising the testosterone threshold.

Several experts and researchers criticised the move, saying it was based on people’s “opinions” rather than science.

Trans athlete Schuyler Bailar told PinkNews last year that he was confused as to what research the regulatory bodies were pointing to when excluding trans competitors.

“There’s a really big problem with putting out rules right now on trans athletes because we don’t actually have robust research on trans athletes,” he said.

“Not a lot of us have actually competed at elite level sports because of the amount of discrimination we experience, and now, because of FINA’s new rule, we will not be allowed to compete.”