Trans­gen­der run­ners de­mand end to male and fe­male cat­e­gories

The Daily Telegraph - - News - By Steve Bird

BRI­TAIN’S most pop­u­lar fun run has been crit­i­cised by trans­gen­der ac­tivists be­cause run­ners must de­clare whether they are ei­ther male or fe­male.

Cam­paign­ers are call­ing on Parkrun, which or­gan­ises free weekly runs in pub­lic parks up and down the coun­try, to of­fer those com­pet­ing in its 5km (3.1-mile) events the op­tion to not dis­close their sex or gen­der.

Three quar­ters of a mil­lion run­ners are reg­is­tered to take part in the Satur­day morn­ing events in more than 20 coun­tries around the world.

Af­ter com­peti­tors are asked to log their age and sex on an on­line form, most re­sults of the runs are di­vided into male and fe­male “first fin­isher” lists and posted on­line.

But cam­paign­ers fear that some non­bi­nary peo­ple (those who do not iden­tify as ei­ther male or fe­male) or trans­gen­der peo­ple (those who iden­tify as hav­ing a sex dif­fer­ent to the one they were as­signed at birth) may be be­ing put off en­ter­ing Parkrun events.

Mia Har­ris, who cam­paigns for LGBTQ rights, con­tacted Parkrun ask­ing them to “recog­nise gen­der di­ver­sity to in­clude all run­ners” by of­fer­ing more gen­der op­tions or a “pre­fer not to say” but­ton when sign­ing up.

She said: “At the mo­ment their on­line form of­fers only two gen­ders – male and fe­male. Parkrun’s cur­rent web­site doesn’t ac­tu­ally al­low for a com­par­i­son based on sex or gen­der, be­cause it’s based on the sim­plis­tic – and in­cor­rect – idea that ev­ery­body falls into one of two neat cat­e­gories: men who are bi­o­log­i­cally male or women who are bi­o­log­i­cally fe­male.”

Parkrun tweeted a re­ply to her which read: “Thanks for rais­ing the is­sue – we know that the cur­rent form needs to be up­dated and we are work­ing on chang­ing the regis­tra­tion process to be more in­clu­sive.”

How­ever, the com­pany re­fused to com­ment yes­ter­day.

A Parkrun source said its web­site was around 11 years old and be­lieves the tweet could have been re­fer­ring to the way the web­site op­er­ates, rather than the regis­tra­tion process. The source said Parkrun had worked for 13 years to break down bar­ri­ers and that its web­site con­tains an ac­count of an Aus­tralian trans­gen­der run­ner who has “felt noth­ing but over­whelm­ing sup­port and ac­cep­tance from the Parkrun com­mu­nity”.

Ms Har­ris said that al­though she was not against the way Parkrun di­vides win­ners by sex, such strict di­vi­sion ap­pears to ig­nore the es­ti­mated 1.7 per cent of the pop­u­la­tion who are in­ter­sex: where they have a re­pro­duc­tive sys­tem that does not typ­i­cally fit into ei­ther a male or fe­male cat­e­gori­sa­tion.

“Sex isn’t just male or fe­male. So split­ting the re­sults into male and fe­male, as Parkrun cur­rently does, ex­cludes the re­sults of in­ter­sex peo­ple.”

The Proud Trust, an or­gan­i­sa­tion rep­re­sent­ing LGBT peo­ple aged up to 25, said the is­sue sur­round­ing how trans­gen­der and non-bi­nary peo­ple are as­sessed on nu­mer­ous on­line and of­fi­cial forms is not lim­ited to Parkrun. “Ev­ery­one should be in­clu­sive,” they said.

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