The transgender debate has hit cricket hard in recent weeks with Kent naming Maxine Blythin as their women’s player of year for 2019. Blythin is a transgender athlete which, to use the dictionary definition means, “denoting or relating to a person whose sense of personal identity and gender does not correspond with their birth sex.”
I wrote a blog about this issue earlier in the week. It drew a range of responses. I’ve been called transphobic on Twitter and also received a lot of support for the views – it’s clear that this is an issue which polarises opinion. It also drew a response from the ECB’s director of communications, Kate Miller.
Firstly, and most importantly, Blythin has received death threats over this. That is, I hope obviously, absolutely appalling. You may vehemently disagree with her playing in a women’s sports team, but to send death threats? It’s not a reasonable or rational response.
Especially when you consider that is a mess not necessarily of Blythin’s own making. Miller stated in her correspondence that, “In county and recreational cricket overseen by the ECB, the eligibility of players is based on their own self-identified gender. There is no medical requirement.”
In short, anyone can play women’s cricket. Anyone. Think about that for a moment.
You say you’re a woman? Welcome to the team! This complete dereliction of duty from the ECB has paved the way to question the very integrity of women’s cricket. It’s a stance made even more bizarre when you consider that the ICC (International Cricket Council) has guidelines on this very matter. World cricket’s governing body has guidelines designed to avoid this very issue which the ECB has chosen to ignore. You start to wonder if Blythin has been pushed under the bus a little.
ECB is sitting on its hands
To play for the England women’s team in ICC events, female cricketers have to meet these ICC guidelines. I have asked twice if Blythin is able top represent the England women’s team and twice Miller and the ECB have declined to comment. Make of that what you will.
The ECB has done a lot of good work in women’s cricket over recent years. The England women’s team has taken a far more prominent role in cricketing activities and names such as Nat Sciver, Charlotte Edwards, Heather Knight and Tammy Beaumont have become household names in cricketing circles. It is extremely puzzling, therefore, that the ECB is prepared to sit on its hands and allow this situation with Blythin to even occur. It is odd the ECB is allowing serious questions over the integrity of women’s cricket to arise.
If Blythin satisfies the ICC regulations on female cricketers, then fine. The debate moves onto whether or not those rules are stringent enough and the ECB can point to a global regulatory framework which it has implemented. Instead, nothing.
The truth remains unforthcoming
I was also accused of being sensationalist, displaying false information and tripping into media intrusiveness by the ECB. The problem here is that, ‘woman plays women’s cricket’ is simply not a story and the ECB has refused to confirm what the true information is. I remain happy, as I have stated to them, to amend my original blog with the truth, but the truth remains unforthcoming.
Tammy Beaumont, the Kent and England women’s cricketer, took to Twitter to defend her teammate Blythin, saying that the ECB has clear guidelines on the subject of trans sportspeople and defending her trans teammate. This takes us a step closer to the truth, since it confirms that Blythin is transgender. She was not born female. I covered my views on the fairness of her competing in women’s sport in the previous blog. It is surprising, though, that Beaumont thinks that the ECB guidelines are clear and that she is, in theory, happy to play with and against men in women’s cricket. It is also odd that she sees not advantage to a woman being a man in a sporting context.
2/3 ECB have a clear policy on trans sportspeople. If you have an issue with that policy then that is up to you, but don't take it out on individuals. As far as I’m aware there’s no conclusive proof of any 'advantages' of being a trans woman in cricket.— Tammy Beaumont (@Tammy_Beaumont) November 6, 2019
The ECB is letting everyone down
The ECB is letting everyone down here. They’ve let women’s cricket down by leaving it wide open to sharp practice and they’ve let Blythin down by allowing her to wander into this storm and become the poster girl for a wretched debate. They’ve even let Beaumont down by allowing (encouraging?) her to Tweet nonsense on the subject.
The ECB is burying its head in the sand and hoping that this issue goes away. As the governing body and protector of the game it needs to implement some rules around this subject as a matter of urgency. It would protect the integrity of women’s cricket and protect individuals from the firing line.
ECB, over to you… I’m not holding my breath.