Olympian accused of transphobia after 'binary sex' comments

Francesca Specter
Yahoo Style UK deputy editor
Sharron Davies attends the Team GB Olympic Ball at The Royal Opera House on September 9, 2015 in London, England. [Photo: Getty]

A retired Olympic swimmer has sparked a transgender debate after stressing: “Binary sex matters”.

Sharron Davies MBE took to Twitter to share her views yesterday afternoon.

The 56-year-old, who retired from professional sport in 1994, spoke about the importance of acknowledging “binary sex”, making reference to men and women’s distinct roles in reproduction.

However, her views have sparked a backlash on social media.

Some people are accusing Sharron of transphobia – defined as having a dislike of or prejudice towards transsexual or transgender people.

Others simply called her views “stupid” and criticised her use of a bonkers hypothetical situation – which would necessitate incest – to make her point.

The transgender debate in sports

Davies has proved an outspoken critic on the idea of male-to-female athletes competing in women’s events. Her comments have proved particularly controversial amid the raging debate over the role of transgender athletes in the sporting world.

Back in April, she defended the decision of RAW Powerlifting to strip transgender Mary Gregory, who had been born a man and was in the process of transitioning, of her world records.

And she isn’t the first athlete to land herself in hot water over these views.

Earlier this year, tennis player Martina Navratilova was accused of transphobia following an op-ed in which she called the idea of male-to-female athletes competing in women’s sports “insane, and it’s cheating”.

Gender vs Sex

To understand the full impact of Davies’ comments, it’s crucial to appreciate they were made about biological sex, rather than gender – as she highlights in a later tweet.

Gender is used to refer to the social and cultural definitions of male and female, and the distinct identities associated with them.

Meanwhile, sex is a biological form of categorisation.

The impact of gender within the sporting industry is a separate, but also important, conversation.

READ MORE: Sam Smith reveals he identifies as non-binary

Over the weekend, Davies also spoke about allowing children to act outside of gendered stereotypes.

In a similar vein, campaigns such as Nike’s ‘Dream Crazier’ have aimed to counteract the notion that women should feel limited by gender stereotypes in their sports careers.