We have received another great guest contribution, this time from supporter Katherine Griffiths. If you would like to write an article or contribute to a page on our website, please send us an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org, thank you Katherine for your contribution.
I’ll begin this article by introducing myself. I am a 42 year old trans woman (male to female transsexual) living in North Kent. I am about 6 months into my treatment. Gender Dysphoria, to give the condition its proper name, is a recognised medical condition that affects about 1% of the population. I am a Legal Secretary / trainee Paralegal and work for a small, new legal service firm in Staines in Middlesex. My main hobbies are 1940’s Living History (my character is a codebreaker from Bletchley Park) and air pistol shooting.
I first learnt to shoot during my service in the British Army and found I enjoyed shooting any sort of firearm but really loved shooting pistols and during my service I fell in love with the Browning Hi Power which was my primary side arm I carried whilst carrying out my wartime role of medic (medics are allowed to carry small arms for protection). After I finally left the Army in 1991 (I actually left in October 1990 but was recalled to the colours to serve in Operation Granby (the British part of Operation Desert Storm). It wasn’t until 2001 before I took up airgun shooting and bought a Webley Nemesis pistol and shortly after that a Walther Lever Action ‘Winchester 1892’ CO2 rifle. I had to give up the sport when I got very heavily involved in motorsport as a senior official and also a team co owner. When I moved to my current flat I surrendered my airguns to the police as I had no where to shoot. The only guns I had were my blank firing western guns which I used for Western Living History.
I transitioned in 2009 after my blood pressure was dangerously high due to the fact I had to hide my true self (in fact since I have been shooting my blood pressure has fallen to normal levels). It was after watching the shooting during London 2012 that I decided to take up the sport of air gunning again. I quickly found a local and friendly club, South East Airgun Club near Paddock Wood. I bought a Walther CP88 CO2 pistol and started shooting on Sunday mornings and really enjoyed it. The club didn’t mind my ‘trans’ status and at the beginning of this year I entered the clubs Field Target Pistol league. The first round was on a freezing march day and I used a Crossman 1377 American Classic pump pistol. The pistol was not suited to the competition and I was worn out at the end of the 2 rounds from the pumping and was last in both rounds. The next few rounds I used a Beeman 2004E single stroke pneumatic pistol and I played around with open sights before settling on a red dot sight. I was firmly rooted at the bottom of the league. I was determined to improve and my aim was a podium by the end of the season. My big breakthrough came in the summer when I bought a Brocock GP single shot pre charged pneumatic pistol. My scores improved and I eventually won two rounds and came 5th overall in the final results of the league.
Even before I started in the league I started to look at various competitions in the area and saw that many were governed by NSRA, so I contacted them and the international governing body, the ISSF, for the policy on transsexuals competing. The NSRA said they used the ISSF policy and the ISSF policy said they had to use the IOC rules. I looked at the IOC rules and was horrified to see that the IOC lumped all sports in one basket in regards to transsexuals and the rules stated that transsexuals were not allowed to compete until two years after genital surgery to reduce any gender advantage.
I had to ask myself what was the gender advantage in shooting? The sport is not based on strength or stamina but rather on accuracy and concentration. In fact up until the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, shooting was a mixed sport where men and women shot against each other for the same medals. I started to write to the then IOC President Jacques Rogge. I never received any reply to my letter. I have also written to the current IOC President Thomas Bach and again no reply.
Being a Legal Secretary I decided to look at the law to see if there is any legal reason for the ban. In the UK the main anti discrimination legislation (because the ban to trans athletes is
discrimination) is the Equality Act 2010. The Equality Act in Section 7 gives Protected Characteristics to those proposing to undergo, is undergoing or has undergone a process for the purpose of reassigning the person’s sex.’ Section 195 of the Act only allows discrimination according to gender in a GENDER-AFFECTED activity. Subsection 2 allows discrimination relating to gender reassignment for a transsexual competitor in a gender-affected activity only if it is necessary to secure fair competition and competitors safety Subsection 3 defines gender-affected activity as ‘A gender-affected activity is a sport, game or other activity of a competitive nature in circumstances in which physical strength, stamina or physique of average persons of one sex would put them at a disadvantage compared to average persons of the other sex as competitors in events involving the activity.’
Under the Gender Recognition Act 2004 Section 19 basically reads the same as the Equality Act as far as trans competitors and gender-affected sports are concerned with minor wording changes but the meanings are the same.
Let’s now look at the IOC view and rules on this issue and remember that shooting was a mixed sport in the Olympics. On 28th October 2003 an ad-hoc committee was convened by the IOC Medical Commission in Stockholm to discuss and issue recommendations on the participation on transsexual competitors. The committee basically decided that transsexuals would be banned from competing until at least 2 years after all surgical anatomical changes have been completed, legal recognition of the assigned gender has been recognised by the appropriate official authorities and verifiable hormone therapy has been administered for a sufficient length of time to minimise gender-related advantages. As you can see it is a very vague rule and this seems to have been decided, written and published in just one day. This is a very complicated subject. I also have to ask were any of the committee members specialists in Gender Dysphoria? These rules give both international and national governing bodies the ok to discriminate against trans competitors. This is not right. Trans people get enough discrimination in their every day lives without this being extended to sport and this discrimination is sanctioned by the most powerful governing body in all of sports, the International Olympic Committee. Why won’t the President of the IOC respond or get one of his staff to respond to my letters? Is he afraid of admitting that his organisation sanctions discrimination against a minority group? Or does he think I’ll go away and stop writing.
Why have the IOC and the International and National Governing Bodies of shooting put in place this blanket ban? More importantly what sports are considered ‘gender-affected’? I can find no list of sports that are considered ‘gender-affected’. Why? Surely there should be some sort of guidance to the Governing Bodies of sport.
I have emailed the Department of Media, Culture and Sport (I emailed them on 13th January) and UK Sport (20th January) for a list of sports that are considered ‘Gender Affected’ and so far no reply. I have also emailed the NSRA again on the same day as I emailed the Department of Media, Culture and Sport and once again no replay. It looks like that the rights transsexuals are being ignored as far as shooting is concerned just like their rights are often ignored in society. I have also written to Lord Coe who is the currant chair of the British Olympic Association. I was allowed to take part in London 2012 as a Steward Team Leader for both the Torch Relay and the Paralympic Road Cycling. Since that wonderful experience my opinion of the IOC has gone down because of their policy.
I am starting a new Facebook page called Trans Equality in Shooting Sports to draw attention to the issue. Believe me the fight for trans equality in shooting has only just begun and this girl will never surrender.