Three members of an English women’s fishing team in England are refusing to compete at the world championships due to the fact that one of their own teammates is trans.
The Shore Angling World Championships will take place in Italy in November, and the board of the sport’s governing body, the Angling Trust, has said it will not prevent trans angler Becky Lee Birtwhistle Hodges from applying to compete.
One council member said the plus sign had to be removed due to his personal discomfort.
66-year-old team captain Heather told the Daily Mail that the team has already been “humiliated” with Hodges in their team. She claimed that the 2018 world championships “wasn’t a nice situation, mainly because all the other countries wouldn’t speak to us.”
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‘The managers wouldn’t speak to our manager. They were all against us. When we went up to collect our medal, nobody clapped and people walked out,” Heather said, adding, “Although Becky Lee would be an asset to my team, it’s unfair on everyone else. And if you win in a situation like that, you can’t enjoy the victory, because it feels like you’ve cheated.”
The Angling Trust has ruled trans women do not have an advantage over cis women in the sport, but Heather maintained it is wrong.
“Many of the Angling Trust board members don’t fish and don’t know the sport. A man can cast 150 yards, but I can only cast about 70 yards. Some of the girls can only cast 50 yards. Body strength plays a major part and it gives Becky Lee a lot more water that she can fish in.”
Trans women, of course, are not men and are often receiving gender-affirming health care that lowers their testosterone levels.
A statement from Angling Trust member Jamie Cook affirmed the organization would not change its inclusive policy unless the results of a mandatory review by Sport England require it.
“All sporting governing bodies within the Sport England family have been obliged to review their diversity and equality policies with regards to who is eligible to fish in the female category of international teams and to strike a balance between safety, fairness, and inclusion,” Cook said.
“This review is yet to be completed, and until it is our policy remains the same as the international angling governing bodies – CIPS and FIPS – and recognizes the gender of an angler based upon their passport or gender recognition certificate direct from a doctor if no passport is held.”
“Team selection is currently based on this policy but our ongoing consultation with women’s team members and managers, which will be a key part of our review, could see this change.”
Cook also pointed out that angling competitions are often mixed-gender.
“The fact is that the vast majority of competitive angling in this country is in ‘open’ competitions where male, female, and transgender anglers have the opportunity to fish head-to-head against each other in the same contest, that also goes for the vast majority of Angling Trust National Championships.”
“This is not the same in all other sports and I am confident that whatever the outcome of our review, competitive angling opportunities will continue to exist and the sport of angling will remain inclusive for all regardless of age, race, gender, or sexual orientation.”
Cook said the trust will also be sending out a survey to gauge how anglers across the community feel about trans inclusion.