Should transgender athletes be allowed to compete against women in sport?

(Photo: Getty/iStock)

At the moment, the Liberal candidate for Warringah, Sydney, Katherine Deves, is the most famous woman in Australia.

If you were to look at what is trending Down Under, particularly in the lead-up to our Federal Election next month, you will be hard pressed to find anyone apart from the Prime Minister or the Opposition Leader who is more talked about.

Ms Deves's crimes were, I admit, making insensitive, maybe even foolish remarks about an issue which preoccupies her time – that is, transgender women in sport. In her view, women should only have to compete against other biological women and she has called transgender people "surgically mutilated and sterilised", and compared her push to stop transgender athletes from competing in women's sports, to standing up against Nazis in the Holocaust.

The response has been ferocious, with Ms Deves claiming that she and her family have been forced to temporarily leave their home amid death threats following the media firestorm that has broken out over her inflammatory remarks.

It has split politicians and the party ranks, with many even inside her own Liberal party and former Prime Minister and Liberal leader Malcolm Turnbull calling for her disendorsement as a candidate.

But she may also have stumbled on a potential election issue as the support from the Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, may have resurrected his own election chances.

For what it's worth, he said she would make a "great member of Parliament" if elected, and that he believes she is "standing up for women and girls".

"I'm not going to allow her to be pushed aside as the pile on comes in to try and silence her.

"I will stand up with her, my team is standing up with her, and we will make sure that she won't be silenced."

She also has support from two of Australia's greatest Olympians, Emma McKeon and Dawn Fraser, who both agree that it is unfair to have trans women compete against females. Four-time Olympian Emily Seebohm has said "male-born women have a genetic advantage over women".

Further support has come from the NSW Premier and even the Federal Opposition Leader.

On balance, I feel they are simply articulating what the vast majority of Australians believe.

Going back to Scott Morrison, on 20April, he said Australians are "sick of walking on egg shells" around the issue of trans women in sport, and I believe that to be true not just with this issue but others too.

Many Australians are terrified to say what they really think, especially with a library of anti-discrimination statutes ready to be thrown at them for expressing a personal view.

While I feel we should respect the sensitivities of minorities and the nuances, needs and challenges they might face in society, I don't believe we should be caving into them on this issue.

As Christians, we of course need to be sensitive to the needs of people who struggle with their gender and their sexuality but we in no way should compromise on fairness.

As a Christian my preference is that all of us embrace the gender we are given at birth, but I understand that there are those who feel the need to transition. That is a person's right to decide what is best for their wellbeing.

However, when it starts to compromise the fairness and the rights of others, then there is a problem.

A trans woman may well have reduced testosterone levels, but there is little doubt that the muscular, skeletal and physical features that come with being born male already puts them at an increased advantage over a biological woman.

You only have to look at Lia Thomas, who was ranked 462nd when competing as a male in college swimming over in the US. After transitioning, Thomas competed in the women's event and beat two Olympic silver medallists by a blistering margin. In any other area of life, this would be seen as a man taking advantage of a woman, and that is an injustice.

I am truly sorry if a person has identity issues but that does not give them a free pass to commit an act of injustice against women.

What has disappointed me the most about this debate is that it's not even the issue that is being talked about, but rather how Deves has framed it and her reference to the Nazis. Deves has admitted she made mistakes, but surely the issue at hand is more important than how well she put it?

Morrison's support for Deves could well win him this election but the issue is bound to come up again and I think as purveyors of truth, we need to be prepared to say what that is regardless of the cost.