Election 2022: Transgender debate derailed by Katherine Deves’ remarks

The key point of Scott Morrison’s argument against transgender women playing competitive sport shouldn’t be dismissed because of the insensitive remarks of Katherine Deves.

In among the hot tempers and complexities of the current political barney surrounding the rights and treatment of transgender sports people, sits a very simple principal … fairness.

Sports-loving Australians demand to see fairness when they barrack for their children in junior sport, and they demand to see it, when they join the crowds at big sports stadiums and are entertained by the elite.

Whether it’s the salary cap in NRL, the draft in the AFL or the umpire’s and referee’s interpretations on field or court, we demand that the structures surrounding all sport are founded on fairness.

Which is why Prime Minister Scott Morrison is right to stand stoically behind his Candidate for Warringah Katherine Deves on this issue.

The central tenet of this argument, is physiologically, men who choose to take surgical and medical options to become woman, cannot lose all the physical traits of the man they were.

They should be respected for making that decision, they should be treated as the woman they identify to be and they should be allowed all the rights that come with being a woman, except the need to compete against other women or girls in competitive sport.

Fairness and inclusion are two very different concepts.

In 2020 a groundbreaking study on transgender athletes was published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine and it reaffirmed what most sports scientists had long suspected.

It found that trans women retained a 12 per cent advantage in running tests, even after taking hormones for two years to suppress their testosterone.

The advantages those women retained, as a result of changes to their body from puberty due to the impact of testosterone, gave those transgender women an “unfair competitive advantage” over biological women.

In short, women have every right to feel cheated when facing athletes whose bone and muscle size are superior, and derive from their former male physiology.

But these basic facts have been twisted and contorted because of the way this issue has been argued by Ms Deves in the past, and how highly charged Australia’s political atmosphere is right now.

To describe transgender children as being “surgically mutilated and sterilised”, and comparing her own fight on this issue as akin to standing up against the Holocaust, is way out of line.

But the central tenet of her and the Prime Minister’s argument cannot be cancelled as a result of those insensitive remarks…for which she has recently apologised.

NSW Liberal Treasurer Matt Kean has defiantly called for Ms Deve’s disendorsement from Warringah because “she is not fit for office”.

His criticism of Ms Deve’s insensitive language as being harmful to transgender girls and women, is a salient point in his efforts to include them in what is considered normal community pursuits.

But Mr Kean is yet to address the central tenet, does he support transgender women being allowed to compete against other women?

It seems as if Mr Kean himself is just as insensitive to the damaging brawl erupting on the issue between two big name Liberals, in the middle of a crucial election campaign.

To see two senior members of the same Party, both in Government, going at it hammer and tong, and not for the first time, is easy pickings for Federal Labor.

Mr Kean’s boss meanwhile, the far more collegiate NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet, has been busy today trying to hose down the division between his Treasurer and their Federal brothers and sisters.

Mr Perrottet put it succinctly in saying, “an insensitively expressed view should never distract us from the merits of the substantive issue”.

Various Coalition figures have been spruiking the line that Katherine Deves will not be silenced, using the trans sport battle as reaffirmation of our right to free speech.

It is certainly that but rather than Ms Deves remaining vocal on the subject, she has been as silent as any preselected candidate has been, in the first 11 days of the campaign.

Despite receiving countless requests for interviews from all sections of the national media, the newly minted Liberal has gone to ground, even cancelling previous plans for debates and appearances in the local area.

Much of the silencing seems to be coming from the candidate herself.

It may be the nerves and inexperience of a first-time aspiring politician, but her forthright views on transgender sport, even her apologies, would carry far more clout and conviction, if we saw it coming directly from her own mouth.

Adopting a more open media strategy, might even put Ms Deves in contention of beating sitting MP Zali Steggall and winning the seat.

Some might argue that defeating Ms Steggall is not the priority in that seat for the Liberals, that it could be the transgender policy itself, that’s worth the time and effort.

Watch the Chris Smith Tonight show at 6pm every Sunday on Sky News or stream on demand at

Originally published as Why the transgender debate shouldn’t be derailed by Katherine Deves’ insensitive remarks

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