Study on trans athletes in sport shut down after researcher calls biological males 'males'

The university’s ethics panel rejected his application due to equality and diversity concerns, which Armstrong believes is an attack on his academic freedom.

Mia Ashton Montreal QC

Research on transgender athletes has been shut down because one of the professors called biological males that identify as women “males.”

Dr. John Armstrong, a professor at King’s College London (KCL), applied to conduct a survey of elite athletes and volunteers to investigate opinions on whether trans-identified males should be allowed to compete in female track and field categories as well as whether people felt they could freely express their beliefs on this issue, reports The Telegraph.

Last month, the university’s ethics panel rejected his application due to equality and diversity concerns, which Armstrong believes is an attack on his academic freedom.

“The language is not sensitive and the misgendering of athletes is not appropriate... there is obvious bias in the language and there is very little scientific reasoning underpinning the hypothesis,” read the rejection letter.

The university had reportedly taken exception to Armstrong’s use of the word “males” when referring to trans-identified males.

“The principle aim of the project is to find the views of athletes and volunteers on the question of when males should be allowed to compete in the female category in athletics,” was the wording of Armstrong’s application.

The panel said there “is a risk that some participants might be unhappy or distressed by the questions that are being posed to them” and asked Armstrong to “please contact the Equality, Diversity & Inclusion team to seek input on the wording used.”

King’s College London is a Stonewall Diversity Champion. Organizations that sign up to the Diversity Champions Scheme are rated on their adherence to Stonewall’s rigid ideological view of the world. The scheme pushes gender identity ideology into all areas of UK society, including policing, education, and healthcare. Institutions are rewarded for removing all gender-based language and opening up women’s spaces to males, and punished for use of accurate language or protecting women’s rights.

“They appear to be trying to prevent me from using the concept of sex at all. I am not misgendering any individuals, I am just accurately using the terms male and female,” Armstrong told The Telegraph.

“I’m being blocked from conducting research and it’s impacting upon my academic freedom.

"No serious work has been done by the various federations to try to find out the opinions of people in athletics, both at the grassroots and elite athletes.

“By refusing to allow people to conduct research that doesn’t meet certain activist viewpoints, that undermines the credibility of research in general,” he added.

“Female voices in sport have repeatedly been silenced, ignored and intimidated,” former Great Britain athlete Mara Yamauchi told The Telegraph.

“Research like Dr Armstrong’s is therefore valuable, necessary and important. It is disappointing to hear that it has been blocked. This is yet another example of academic freedom being diminished.”

“Sport is organised by birth sex - male and female. If we can't refer to that, we can't have women's sport. Do these people think we shouldn't have sport for women, just mixed sport? All sport would be dominated by men and boys,” said Fiona McAnena of Fair Play For Women in a statement to The Telegraph.

“While we can’t comment on individual research applications, we are strongly committed to ensuring that the research carried out by our staff and students is consistently of the highest quality and to the most rigorous standards,” said a spokesperson for King’s College London.

“This is important to instill confidence in academic communities, funding bodies, and crucially the public that the data, findings, and results produced by our researchers are sound and trustworthy.”


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