The SWFL East league on a late summer Sunday afternoon does not tend to draw more than a cursory bat of the eye.

But Peffermill’s 5G pitches found themselves the focal point of a social media argument that encompassed all the emotional furore of the trans debate this week.

In short, the opening afternoon of the Edinburgh season opened up what has been an increasingly inevitable can of worms within Scottish women’s football.

A parent of one of the players contacted a now retired women’s football writer to express concern after a trans woman had hugely influenced the outcome of the game; scored two, set one up.

The complaint did not surround the goals or the individual’s performance but rather the safety element of players competing in a physical, contact sport against a biological male.

When this conversation was relayed via social media it sparked an inevitably polarised debate, a microcosm of a global argument that has become prevalent across all sports. 

Firstly, there are no easy answers when the competing rights of all cannot be accommodated to the satisfaction of everyone concerned.

Secondly, there is also a suspicion at times that there have been arguments - largely from males - around transgender players competing in women’s sport that have often sounded like barely camouflaged prejudices wrapped up in the rights of female sport.

These voices have been conspicuously quiet when it comes to the wider promotion of women’s sport across the years.

Equally, there is a strong suspicion that the process of transitioning, the trauma which may go before it and the genuine unease which underpins the decision is not done on a whim or simply to find an elevated platform in women’s sport.

It would be a gross disservice to those who have struggled with such issues to palm them off so cynically.

But, ultimately, when it comes to competing there is compelling evidence that testosterone reduction does not negate the physical advantages between a biological male and a biological female.

There has been a danger when this discourse has presented itself to reduce the discussion as “anti-trans”. For many, however, this is an issue which essentially boils down to fairness within women’s sport and women’s space. This is not a question of identity but of more base physiology.

The suggestion that voicing this belief equates to an anti-trans sentiment has muted players for fear of being shouted down or, worse, passed off as bigots. It has not been unusual to hear of threats about removal from the team for speaking out against trans players, of threats concerning the removal of sponsorship and, even, threats about university places.

Interestingly, the parent of a female gay player revealed that her daughter’s own sense of identity came through the community of female football and sport, a place where she was able to find her tribe. Having competed against a trans player she felt ill at ease with directly competing against a biological male - and uneasy that there is no safe space for her voice to be heard. 

Studies show that after male puberty, men are taller, heavier, have wider shoulders, bigger hands and feet, more substantial muscle mass. They have greater lung capacity, narrower hips and firmer tendons. 

The reduction of hormones cannot influence or reduce these pivotal changes. Aside from the advantage this offers, it underpins the very real question of physical safety in a contact sport.

The SFA’s current policy allows for transgender players to compete so long as testosterone levels are within an accepted range. How this is monitored, particularly in the lower leagues, is difficult to ascertain.

It is a policy which has been due for renewal this year.

The first step in that process is to canvas opinion from current players via an anonymous survey with this feedback providing the foundation from which new legislation will be based.

It is not clear just how that will be shaped if there is a clear division within the replies.
Scotland captain Rachel Corsie used her own newspaper column recently to suggest that she would be happy to play both with and against a transgender player; this was echoed by USWNT player and arguably the most globally recognised female player Megan Rapinoe just before this summer’s FIFA Women’s World Cup.

Interestingly, both are approaching the end of their respective playing careers.

In rugby there has been legislation to allow players to compete only if they were assigned female at birth with safety at its core.

Regardless of the noise around a highly politicised topic, football should follow. 


Mason Greenwood looks certain to make his return to Manchester United if the mood around the club is to be read correctly.

How did it come pass, however, that the Old Trafford side are awaiting the consultation of their female players, three of whom are in Australia and New Zealand for the World Cup, to pass judgement on this issue?

It shows a lily-livered board attempting to stage-manage the PR around a player who should be nowhere an elite level football club. 


Motherwell are a fabulous club with the needs of the community at its core.

It was depressing, then, to feel that the club has regressed back into Life On Mars territory with the removal of the women’s bathroom in the press room.

The message it sends out bucks the ethos of what the club is about.