Image :screenshot courtesy Twitter
Controversial former Australian rules footballer and TV host Sam Newman is facing a backlash for mocking trans athletes.
In a now deleted video posted to his Twitter account on Monday March 4, Newman wears makeup, a scarf and hat and jokes about transitioning to win athletic competitions as a woman.
Also in the video are journalist Mike Sheahan and former St Kilda coach Grant Thomas.
“I think I’ve run my race as an older male, and I’m thinking of transitioning,” 73-year-old Newman says.
“I think I could feel comforted by being an older female, and it’ll work well because my partner is thinking of turning herself into a boy. It doesn’t change we’re still man and woman.”
“Are you going to the Olympics?” asks Sheahan.
“I’m going to clean up on world titles as a woman, an older woman,” replies Newman.
Facing a storm of criticism on social media, Thomas asked Newman to take the video down, whilst also defending Newman for highlighting “those men that transition to women for personal gain in sporting events.”
Newman went on radio on Tuesday, explaining himself to Tom Elliott from 3AW.
“I’m pointing out the ludicrous proposition where transgender athletes can choose their gender to compete on some sort of contrived footing with other binary biological sportspeople,” Newman said.
“It is absolutely ridiculous and will bedevil world sport unless the authorities come down on some very strict guidelines.”
“It is a nonsense. It’s arrogant and selfish and it is presumptuous of people — men, biological men — to think they can transition into being a woman and then compete in sport with other biological females. It’s nonsense.”
The controversy comes weeks after tennis legend Martina Navratilova wrote a column for the UK’s Sunday Times newspaper, strongly criticising the inclusion of trans women in female athletic competitions.
“Shortly before Christmas I inadvertently stumbled into the mother and father of a spat about gender and fair play in sport,” she wrote.
“It began with an instinctive reaction and a tweet that I wrote on a serious forum dealing with the subject. “You can’t just proclaim yourself a female and be able to compete against women,” I tweeted. “There must be some standards, and having a penis and competing as a woman would not fit that standard.”"
“I promised to keep quiet on the subject until I had properly researched it…well, I’ve now done that and, if anything, my views have strengthened.”
“To put the argument at its most basic: a man can decide to be female, take hormones if required by whatever sporting organisation is concerned, win everything in sight and perhaps earn a small fortune, and then reverse his decision and go back to making babies if he so desires."
“It’s insane and it’s cheating.”
“I am happy to address a transgender woman in whatever form she prefers, but I would not be happy to compete against her. It would not be fair.”
”I also deplore what seems to be a growing tendency among transgender activists to denounce anyone who argues against them and to label them all as ‘transphobes’."
“That’s just another form of tyranny. I’m relatively tough and was able to stand up for myself in my Twitter exchange...but I worry that others may be cowed into silence or submission.”
Under current International Olympic Committee guidelines, trans women must show that their testosterone level has been below a certain level for at least one year before their first competition.
“Simply reducing hormone levels – the prescription most sports have adopted – does not solve the problem,” wrote Navratilova.
“A man builds up muscle and bone density, as well as a greater number of oxygen-carrying red blood cells, from childhood.”
In the article, Navratilova singled out trans cyclist Rachel McKinnon because “at 6ft tall and weighing more than 14 stone, she appeared to have a substantial advantage in muscle mass over her rivals.”
In a statement to the Guardian newspaper, McKinnon described Navratilova’s article as “disturbing, upsetting, and deeply transphobic.”
“She trades on age-old stereotypes and stigma against trans women, treating us as men just pretending to be real women. She seeks to deny trans women equal rights to compete under the rules.”
“And the current rules, such as the International Olympic Committee since 2003, explicitly welcomes trans women to compete at the highest levels. I suppose it’s too much to ask for Martina to simply do the same.”