Transgender runners demand end to male and female categories
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.