'Preventing trans women from competing is denying their human rights’: Transgender athlete Rachel McKinnon returns to defend track world title

Last year the Canadian became the first trans woman to win a rainbow jersey

Dr Rachel McKinnon has become the first transgender track world champion (Image: Twitter/ Rachel McKinnon)

Rachel McKinnon said it is a human right for transgender athletes to take part in competitive sport, as she looks to defend her track world title.

The Canadian made history last October when she became the first transgender woman to win a rainbow jersey, taking the women’s 35-44 sprint during the UCI Masters Track Worlds Championships in Los Angeles.

McKinnon will defend her sprint title at the Masters Track Worlds in Manchester on Saturday (October 19).

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In an interview with Sky News, McKinnon said: “There’s a stereotype that men are always stronger than women, so people think there is an unfair advantage.

“By preventing trans women from competing or requiring them to take medication, you’re denying their human rights.”

Dr Rachel McKinnon, who was born a biological male, says all her medical records say female, her doctor treats her as a female, and her racing licence says female, but that “people who oppose her existence still want to think of her as male.”

Her victory at the Worlds last year was met by both celebration and concern, with the third-place finisher in the event saying it was “not fair.”

Transgender athletes have been allowed to compete in the Olympics since 2004 but under the requirement they had undergone gender confirmation surgery and been on hormone therapy for two years.

In 2015, these rules were relaxed to remove the need for surgery and the athletes must have a testosterone level below 10nmol/L for at least 12 months prior to their first competition. The average range for adult females is 0.52 to 2.8 nmol/L., with 3nmol/L considered the upper end of normal.

Athletes who transition from female to male are allowed to enter in male competition without restriction.

Transgender athletes were due to face tighter restrictions by the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, as the maximum level of testosterone allowed was due to be halved, but the guidelines have been delayed because the International Olympic Committee can't reach an agreement.

Emerging research from the Karolinksa Institute in Sweden suggests that testosterone suppression for transgender women has little effect on reducing muscle strength.

A study by Loughbough University academics was carried out after the Rio 2016 Olympics after concerns about transgender athletes having an advantage.

After reviewing 31 national and international transgender sporting policies, including those of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the Football Association and the Lawn Tennis Association, the study concluded that a majority unfairly discriminated against transgender people, especially trans women.

The researchers said that there is no evidence that transgender women have a sporting advantage over athletes born female.

PhD student Beth Jones, who was involved in the study, said: “Our research has also shown that these stringent and unfair policies have a negative impact on transgender people’s experiences of sport and physical activity, even when the activity is engaged in at a recreational level, such as considering joining a local football team or going to the gym.”

The researchers suggested that if size or strength of competitors is a concern, different sporting categories not based on gender should be considered.

McKinnon said: “There is a range of body sizes and strength, you can be successful with massively different body shapes. To take a British example, look at Victoria Pendleton, an Olympic champion with teeny tiny legs.

“In many Olympic disciplines, the gap in performance is bigger between first an eighth in a single sex event than it is between the first man and the first women.”

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She added: “This is much bigger than sport, it’s a proxy for all of trans inclusion in society.

“Talk of bathrooms has switched into sport by people who don’t care about sport.”

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