Paralympian Lauren Rowles hits out against ‘segregation’ of trans people in sport
Two-time Paralympic rowing champion Lauren Rowles said sports “should be for all” amid attempts to sideline trans women in competitive sports.
The 25-year-old rower celebrated victory at the PinkNews Awards 2023, sponsored by Lloyds Bank, on Wednesday (18 October), picking up the Sports Personality of the Year Award, sponsored by Sky Sports.
Since coming out publicly as gay in 2021, Rowles has used her platform to advocate for greater queer disability representation within sports. As a world champion with her sights set on the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games, she remains a role model for young LGBTQ+ athletes everywhere.
In recent months, British Rowing has faced backlash for banning transgender women from competing in the female category, instead creating an “open” category for trans athletes.
Rowles slammed the increasing hostility towards trans female contestants from sporting bodies after collecting her trophy at the PinkNews Awards.
“As a queer disabled woman, I would say sport is for all and should be for all,” Rowles said.
“Unfortunately it is not that way at the minute and we need to get back to a point where sport is accessible and open for all people. That includes our trans brothers and sisters that are, unfortunately, being segregated, not just within British rowing but all sports.
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“[To] those people that are segregating them, be open-minded. And also remember these are real people with real lives.”
Rowles reflected on how her own life has been changed for the better after entering the sporting world.
“My life was saved through rowing and I was given an opportunity to put my life back on track after having a disability at the age of 13,” Rowles continued.
“Through sport, and now being here today, I can say that we should be giving people the opportunity to change their lives and to access sport. And just because of who they are and who they choose to love, it shouldn’t be a barrier to that.
“Sport really is for everybody, so please be open minded and remember that people are at the heart of this.”
Rowles hopes her PinkNews Awards win will help to inspire a new generation of LGBTQ+ athletes.
She said: “Just being authentically yourself [shouldn’t] hold you back and I think that’s ultimately what we are trying to tell everybody. It’s just so important for us [to be] out and visible to prove that you can be at the top and still be LGBTQ.”
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