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Sport and transgender people: a systematic review of the literature relating to sport participation and competitive sport policies

Jones, Bethany Alice; Arcelus, Jon; Bouman, Walter Pierre; Haycraft, Emma

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Bethany Alice Jones

Jon Arcelus

Walter Pierre Bouman

Emma Haycraft



Whether transgender people should be able to compete in sport in accordance with their gender identity is a widely contested question within the literature and among sport organisations, fellow competitors and spectators. Owing to concerns surrounding transgender people (especially transgender female individuals) having an athletic advantage, several sport organisations place restrictions on transgender competitors (e.g. must have undergone gender-confirming surgery). In addition, some transgender people who engage in sport, both competitively and for leisure, report discrimination and victimisation.

To the authors’ knowledge, there has been no systematic review of the literature pertaining to sport participation or competitive sport policies in transgender people. Therefore, this review aimed to address this gap in the literature.

Eight research articles and 31 sport policies were reviewed.

In relation to sport-related physical activity, this review found the lack of inclusive and comfortable environments to be the primary barrier to participation for transgender people. This review also found transgender people had a mostly negative experience in competitive sports because of the restrictions the sport’s policy placed on them. The majority of transgender competitive sport policies that were reviewed were not evidence based.

Currently, there is no direct or consistent research suggesting transgender female individuals (or male individuals) have an athletic advantage at any stage of their transition (e.g. cross-sex hormones, gender-confirming surgery) and, therefore, competitive sport policies that place restrictions on transgender people need to be considered and potentially revised.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Aug 26, 2016
Online Publication Date Oct 3, 2016
Publication Date Apr 1, 2017
Deposit Date Oct 31, 2016
Publicly Available Date Oct 31, 2016
Journal Sports Medicine
Print ISSN 0112-1642
Electronic ISSN 1179-2035
Publisher Springer Verlag
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 47
Issue 4
Pages 701-716
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information The date of acceptance is an estimated one.


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