A large majority of island teams have voted against transgender athletes competing in the open women’s events at the upcoming Cook Islands Games.
Two transgender athletes had registered to compete in the open women’s category at the Games to be held in Rarotonga next month. The decision to allow their participation was put to the 11 participating teams.
Owen Lewis, the secretary general of Cook Islands Sports and National Olympics Committee (CISNOC), said “a large majority agreed that the athletes in question would not be eligible to compete in the women’s events” at the Games.
However, Lewis said the decision does not stop them from competing in the mixed events.
Valery Wichman, the president of local LGBTI group Te Tiare Association, yesterday said they were disheartened by the decision and questioned how informed the islands were in making their decisions.
“This has highlighted many issues and the latent and overt discrimination that persists in sport and the general community as a whole. It also shows the lack of understanding on this matter,” Wichman said.
“I’m not sure if there is recourse to appeal the decision with CISNOC. This decision makes me question the Cook Islands Games 2020 vision statement of ‘Together as one, we move our Nation’.”
However, Wichman said they look forward to the dialogue on an inclusion in sports policy going forward.
Owen Lewis said: “We had received responses from eight islands and by a large majority they agreed that the athletes in question would not be eligible to compete in the women’s events.”
He said Wichman was given the chance to comment on the circular to the islands and make amendments she felt were important to raise, prior to the voting process.
“There was also agreement that the resolutions would be binding with all parties accepting the decision,” Lewis said.
The sports committee have relayed the outcome of the votes to the transgender athletes.
“It was obviously not the decision they wanted, but were supportive of working together to frame a policy that guides this process moving forward,” said Lewis.
In discussions prior, Lewis had advised Wichman that at present there was no policy in guiding the matter.
“But the guidelines being employed by the Olympics, Commonwealth Games and University Sport and our views were clear,” Lewis said.
“We will be guided by a process that safeguards rights of women, the integrity of women’s sport, the rights and inclusion of our LGBTQ community and rights of our sports federations both nationally and internationally without disrespecting the values and culture of the Cook Islands.”
Lewis also said any athlete who has not undertaken gender transition surgery can only participate in competitions in accordance with their sex as assigned at birth.
“The two registered athletes that have undertaken gender realignment surgery will be accorded due consideration by individual islands.
Olympic and other pertinent guidelines require athletes who have undertaken gender realignment surgery to provide monthly hormone testing results for at least the 12 months prior to competition.
“In this instance, due to the shortage in time, this was obviously not possible so we were willing to compromise. The compromise was to refer the decision back to the female athletes and islands competing as clearly by following the guidelines the two individuals would not be permitted to compete.
“There was agreement that this was a fair and appropriate process. I have thanked both athletes for their understanding, support and cooperation in working through this decision. I also thanked them for enabling the free and frank discussion with them both and for their appreciation of the many factors at play.”