Women’s sport weekly wrap: Hannah Mouncey’s ineligibility for the AFLW Draft

Mary Konstantopoulos Columnist

By Mary Konstantopoulos, Mary Konstantopoulos is a Roar Expert

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    There are some topics I am afraid to write about.

    I am someone that is passionate about diversity and inclusion in sport. When I write about sport, I want to make sure that I am coming from an educated, considered and respectful position. Hurting the sports that I am passionate about or making someone feel like they were not welcome in the Australian sporting family is the last thing that I want to do.

    In a world that is increasingly focused on diversity, when talking about issues of gender, LGBTIQ or race, conversation can be stifled and people can be afraid to speak up, lest they make a mistake with terminology or be called a racist, a homophobe, a sexist or a bigot for expressing a view in the wrong way.

    In the past when thinking about whether to share a view on a particular topic, sometimes I have just placed an issue in the ‘too hard’ basket, just in case I put a foot wrong.

    But today, even though it’s challenging, I want to write about Hannah Mouncey.

    When it comes to conversations about people who identify as transgender, I am certainly not an expert. But I’m going to raise some questions in the hope that this leads to an open dialogue.

    For those of you that also find this issue challenging, I encourage you to be brave enough to educate yourselves and to think critically about diversity and inclusion in our sports.

    Most importantly, there is a way to have difficult conversations in a respectful manner. Think before you comment on this article – derogatory comments are hurtful and harmful. Anyone who cannot express a view without resorting to name-calling is not someone I want involved in the sports that I am passionate about.

    Hannah Mouncey is a transgender woman who, on Tuesday, was deemed ineligible to participate in the 2018 AFLW draft.

    Mouncey had previously played for the Australian men’s handball team before transitioning and has also played in the ACT women’s AFL competition throughout the year.

    The reasons for her ineligibility in the draft were largely about her size and the disparity between Mouncey and some of the other women competing in the competition. Just to be clear, Mouncey is only ineligible for this year’s AFLW draft. She is allowed to nominate for future AFLW drafts and to register in other AFL competitions.

    For me, this decision raises more questions than answers and demonstrates that there is plenty of work to be done in this space – not just in educating sports fans, but also in making sure our sports have appropriate policies in place so the process for determining whether people are eligible or not is clear.

    Is it true that transgender women have a size advantage over other women in the competition? The easy answer, of course, is yes.

    But women come in all shapes and sizes. Is it possible that other women that are of a similar size to Hannah could already be in the competition?

    AFL Guidelines stipulate that in working out if a transgender woman is eligible for the competition, she must ‘demonstrate that her total testosterone level in serum has been below 10 nmol/L for at least 12 months prior to her first competition’. Mouncey’s last reading was well below these requirements.

    If she meets the guidelines, why is she ineligible to play?

    Why have I heard little but silence from other AFLW players? The competition has been a beacon for diversity. Images of players attending the AFLW Awards with their partners immediately come to mind, including the iconic image of Erin Phillips kissing her partner Tracy Gahan when she won the AFLW best and fairest award.

    Have the players been told not to comment on this issue? Or is Mouncey’s size and physical strength genuinely something that they were concerned about? Some people have compared her size to other athletes in the competition (for example, she is only one centimetre shorter than Phillips), but is it just about height?

    My other question is, if the AFL’s primary reason for deeming Mouncey ineligible was their concern about the disparity in size and strength, why has she been given the all clear to play in other AFL-affiliated women’s competitions?

    Do the same concerns not exist outside the elite level? Why is it okay for Mouncey to play against players below the elite level, but not against the women who do play in AFLW?

    What Mouncey’s situation demonstrates so clearly to me is that the AFL needs to think carefully about its own guidelines. In line with AFL Victoria Guidelines, because Mouncey has been through the gender reassignment process, she should be considered to be the gender set out on the Victorian state documentation. This is consistent with the IOCs approach to the issue as well.

    If the AFL doesn’t want to adhere to these guidelines, then why have them in place?

    Are the IOC Guidelines more appropriate for non-contact sports and, if so, why did the AFL not think critically about its policy?

    It’s not like this issue has only just arisen. The AFL first became aware of Mouncey wanting to participate in the draft back in June. The fact that they left a decision on this to the day before the draft (meaning she had no right of appeal) shows that rather than backing themselves on inclusion and diversity when it mattered, the AFL was more inclined to end the conversation.

    It’s very easy to change your logo to ‘yes’ and use words like diversity and inclusion and then back away when the issue becomes challenging or too hard. In light of the AFL’s decision, I wonder where transgender women fit into the AFL family if they want to play.

    Whether you agree with the AFL’s decision or not, the timing of the announcement was poor and done in a way so to put the issue to bed.

    On a topic that will become more relevant, not less, the AFL has lost an important opportunity to engage with its key stakeholders in an open and frank discussion.

    To Hannah, I hope you still feel welcome in the AFL family because you are welcome. I wish you all the best in your future endeavours and hope you are still given the opportunity to pursue the sport that you are passionate about.

    Mary Konstantopoulos
    Mary Konstantopoulos

    Mary Konstantopoulos is a lawyer, sports advocate and proud owner and founder of the Ladies Who empire, including Ladies who League, Ladies who Legspin, Ladies who Lineout and Ladies who Leap. You can find her podcast on iTunes and find her on Twitter @mary__kaye and @ladieswholeague.

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    The Crowd Says (82)

    • Roar Pro

      October 19th 2017 @ 8:23am
      Darren M said | October 19th 2017 @ 8:23am | ! Report

      I think the AFL has made the wrong decision here. She meets the requirements so there is no reason why she should be ruled out.

      Also, I think it shows that society, sport and AFL in particular have a long way to go, when you have to preface your article with an eight paragraph, 295 word disclaimer.

      • October 19th 2017 @ 8:51am
        I ate pies said | October 19th 2017 @ 8:51am | ! Report

        Maybe we can’t always get what we want. We’re living in a very mollycoddled society when one person not being allowed to play a game is painted as a big issue.

      • October 19th 2017 @ 8:53am
        Boris said | October 19th 2017 @ 8:53am | ! Report

        ‘I think it shows that society, sport and AFL in particular have a long way to go, when you have to preface your article with an eight paragraph, 295 word disclaimer’

        Spot on Darren. Yet we live in the era of outrage, if Mary didn’t lay out the disclaimer she is more open to being attacked as a bigot. Even if her views are rational and logical. The world’s gone mad.

      • Roar Guru

        October 19th 2017 @ 9:28am
        JamesH said | October 19th 2017 @ 9:28am | ! Report

        It’s a bit sad that a preface like that is still needed, isn’t it? But, given some of the toxic comments that have come out of this issue, it’s unfortunately understandable.

        This decision is riddled with logical inconsistencies and lacks any real transparency.

    • October 19th 2017 @ 9:02am
      Boris said | October 19th 2017 @ 9:02am | ! Report

      Mary I agree there’s too much ambiguity around this. It’s a difficult matter to handle because no two transgender people are the same. I think if Mouncey was a below average male athlete they wouldn’t have blocked her. But the reality is that Mouncey is a fair chance of totally dominating the WAFL and possibly hurting her opponents. When it comes down to it she’s a bloke and a quality athlete so I think the AFL are worried about reputational image. But it’s up to them to provide clarity on the issue of eligibility. How could Mouncey be ineligible this year but potentially eligible the following year? Not much would change in this time.

      • October 19th 2017 @ 9:23am
        Slane said | October 19th 2017 @ 9:23am | ! Report

        She didn’t even finish in the top 10 in her clubs best and fairest and would have probably not even been drafted. She isn’t likely to dominate any competition, let alone the AFLW.

        • October 19th 2017 @ 12:13pm
          Boris said | October 19th 2017 @ 12:13pm | ! Report

          Ah well, I dunno then

        • October 19th 2017 @ 12:16pm
          I ate pies said | October 19th 2017 @ 12:16pm | ! Report

          You don’t need to be a good footballer to hurt someone.

          • October 19th 2017 @ 4:10pm
            northerner said | October 19th 2017 @ 4:10pm | ! Report

            You don’t need to be a good footballer to hurt someone. True. You also don’t need to be a big footballer to hurt someone. And if her size really makes her a risk, why is she allowed to compete in lower level competition?

            • October 19th 2017 @ 8:13pm
              I ate pies said | October 19th 2017 @ 8:13pm | ! Report

              It certainly helps. I dunno, my guess would be that it’s not the same people making the decision; local footy and the AFL are poles apart.

        • Roar Guru

          October 19th 2017 @ 12:26pm
          Train Without A Station said | October 19th 2017 @ 12:26pm | ! Report

          But also, if she was not 190cm, she’d likely be no chance of being drafted.

      • October 19th 2017 @ 11:58am
        mdso said | October 19th 2017 @ 11:58am | ! Report

        Make no mistake about it, this is about OPTICS. Why is it she is playing in Canberra in a lower league under the very same rules and AFL approved? If we want to get into shape and size go back and look at Tony Lockett when playing he was enormous and could run through people and flatten them in a whisper. Aferall, AFL is not an Olympic or Commonwealth Games sport.

        There are women playing AFLW some of them are nearly if not as tall and weigh as much as Hanah Mounsey. Her Coach, Chris Rourke at Ainslie said, she has flattened or hurt no one in any of her games nor have their been any complaints about her or the way in which she plays. What’s the problem AFL? Be a leader in new territory.

        Jason Ball, a LGBTI advocate, writes in his editorial, that the AFL’s Tanya Hosch, who is General Manager for Social Inclusion, has no budget for LGBTI issues. OPTICS again, AFL get your act together and do it effficiently but not on the run for a good look.

        • October 19th 2017 @ 3:32pm
          RandyM said | October 19th 2017 @ 3:32pm | ! Report

          perhaps the AFLW is a womens competition and this person is not a woman. Just because they “identify” as a women, doesn’t make it so.

          • October 19th 2017 @ 6:09pm
            brendan said | October 19th 2017 @ 6:09pm | ! Report

            exactly. its a pity that this even has to become an issue, but if someone wants to compete it should be under the umbrella of their genetical gender. This is competition with money and rewards at stake, not a participation event where results don’t matter. The AFL and other sporting bodies should not be bending and changing just to accomodate someone and avoid social outrage.. i hope this guy finds fulfilment in something else but AFLW isnt the place for it

          • October 19th 2017 @ 10:22pm
            Oingo Boingo said | October 19th 2017 @ 10:22pm | ! Report

            I look forward to a time when people who identify as a cow or a dog can be entered in the Royal Easter Show.
            The future is thooooo exthiting.

    • October 19th 2017 @ 9:03am
      Aquila said | October 19th 2017 @ 9:03am | ! Report

      Perhaps it’s because the AFL considers that the AFLW is only for women whose genes based on XX chromosomes, not XY chromosomes. Or, in other words, not for women who are transgender. I’d suggest that the AFL had not even considered the possibility that a former man, now a woman, would want to play, when they set the comp up. This a perfect storm of identity politics mixed with sport and the AFL sat on their hands trying to figure out a response that would be the least worst, which, of course, would be from the AFLW players’ perspective. No one is a winner in this story.

      • October 19th 2017 @ 12:17pm
        I ate pies said | October 19th 2017 @ 12:17pm | ! Report

        “Perhaps it’s because the AFL considers that the AFLW is only for women whose genes based on XX chromosomes, not XY chromosomes”…what’s our world coming to?

    • October 19th 2017 @ 9:12am
      Nemesis said | October 19th 2017 @ 9:12am | ! Report

      Women’s Health Australia held its Annual Awards last night to celebrate Women in Sport.

      A Who’s Who of Women’s Sport in Australia gathered at Sydney’s ICC Ballroom.

      An eye-opener to realise just how many truly world-class women athletes we have in Australia. I’d hazard a guess we have a larger number of world-class female athletes, than male, currently in Australia.

      Football took out the 2 Blue Chip Awards

      Sportswoman of the Year: Sam Kerr
      Team of the Year: Australia’s National Women’s Football Team

      • Roar Guru

        October 19th 2017 @ 10:39am
        spruce moose said | October 19th 2017 @ 10:39am | ! Report

        Nemesis on a non-football tab?

        Quick, let me pull a Nemesis/Fuss and google a philosophical quote to respond to this. Today’s topic will be hypocrisy:

        “Liberty is the right of every man to be honest, to think and to speak without hypocrisy”. Jose Marti.

        • October 19th 2017 @ 1:26pm
          Nemesis said | October 19th 2017 @ 1:26pm | ! Report

          Mary’s Weekly Column is specifically titled: “Women’s Sport Weekly Wrap”

          But, I’m not surprised if you find this too difficult to comprehend. Maybe, find 11 kids from the local primary school to explain it to you.

          • Roar Guru

            October 19th 2017 @ 3:19pm
            spruce moose said | October 19th 2017 @ 3:19pm | ! Report

            On the AFL tab though.

            Clearly marked. Clearly tagged. The article and comments focusing exclusively on AFL. Not once did she mention Football – sorry, The Game. Should the Roar publish with the crayons next time?

            I’d ask you to leave, but then I’m ok with any anyone and everyone on any tab they want to be on. Judge not lest he be judged and all that…

            Isn’t there a under 19’s Guizhou province match you’re meant to be streaming right now?

      • October 19th 2017 @ 4:28pm
        Casper said | October 19th 2017 @ 4:28pm | ! Report

        Ash Barty should have won Sportswoman of the Year, going from 271 in the world to 23.

        It’s no coincidence that the best female soccer player is a former AFL player. Sam Kerr does show what could be possible for soccer in this country if the game started poaching elite AFL juniors.

    • October 19th 2017 @ 9:33am
      rock86 said | October 19th 2017 @ 9:33am | ! Report

      I applaud transgender people for having the guts to become who they feel they really are, but unfortunately this doesn’t alter one thing – genotype.

      You’re chromosome make-up is formed upon conception, and although people may ‘identify’ as a different sex, their sex genotype says differently.

      The reason this is an issue in sports is that people born as male will more often then not be taller and stronger. In some sports this won’t be an issue, but in contact sports such as AFL/Rugby/League it raises serious safety concerns when a transgender player possesses greater physical attributes then the vast majority of the other player in that competition due to the genotype when they were created.

      • October 19th 2017 @ 9:45am
        Objective said | October 19th 2017 @ 9:45am | ! Report

        You’ve nailed it, Rock.

        Whilst there is a huge variety of views on this topic, probably the majority feel some sympathy to the cause, hence the desire for inclusion – which of course is admirable, since no one should feel excluded from society.

        But that’s the emotional side of the discussion.

        The factual side is the unarguable scientific reality as described by rock86 above, and this cannot be discounted.

        Not as simple as some would like to believe.

      • October 19th 2017 @ 10:11am
        Boris said | October 19th 2017 @ 10:11am | ! Report

        Yep that is the reality

      • October 19th 2017 @ 12:02pm
        Slane said | October 19th 2017 @ 12:02pm | ! Report

        So how does that work for the many thousands of inter-sex people like Mouncey?

        • October 19th 2017 @ 12:19pm
          I ate pies said | October 19th 2017 @ 12:19pm | ! Report

          X + Y = male.

          • Roar Guru

            October 19th 2017 @ 7:11pm
            Cat said | October 19th 2017 @ 7:11pm | ! Report

            • October 19th 2017 @ 8:14pm
              I ate pies said | October 19th 2017 @ 8:14pm | ! Report

              *almost always, other than in very, very rare instances

              • October 20th 2017 @ 9:20am
                Oingo Boingo said | October 20th 2017 @ 9:20am | ! Report

                Yeah , coz you can bet ya ya big hairy x+y balls on that article being credible.

              • Roar Guru

                October 20th 2017 @ 9:29am
                Cat said | October 20th 2017 @ 9:29am | ! Report

                Science is science whether your knuckle-dragging self likes it or not.

      • October 19th 2017 @ 12:04pm
        mdso said | October 19th 2017 @ 12:04pm | ! Report

        Female Hormones over time will alter that. One would have thought the AFL would have done future planning on this important issue rather than wait until they get caught with their pants down and no policy except Olympic Policy. This will not be a one off.

        OPTICS will win the day when there is an undressed problem and no budget.

        • October 19th 2017 @ 12:15pm
          Boris said | October 19th 2017 @ 12:15pm | ! Report

          What is optics?

          • Roar Guru

            October 20th 2017 @ 8:26am
            mds1970 said | October 20th 2017 @ 8:26am | ! Report

            Optics = perception.

            She may qualify because after her hormone injections her testosterone levels are low. But is testosterone alone enough?
            The average reasonable fan in the grandstand or watching on TV won’t have access to testosterone readings. But they know a physical mismatch when they see one.

        • October 19th 2017 @ 1:23pm
          rock86 said | October 19th 2017 @ 1:23pm | ! Report

          No it won’t.

          For a good succinct explanation (better then I could provide) as to why this is the case, see Marie’s comment below at 1:11pm

    • October 19th 2017 @ 9:42am
      BennO said | October 19th 2017 @ 9:42am | ! Report

      Nice one, Mary. Regardless of the decision, the timing of it and the way they tried to end the discussion by delaying the decision until the day before is particularly damning. Naive too, because why on earth would they think this will issue will end with their decision?

      I can see they might have just been buying time by essentially kicking the can down the road til next year, so to speak. But they didn’t say as much so are left looking foolish.

      Different people have different natural advantages, as I read elsewhere yesterday, if Liz Cambage nominated for the AFLW draft, I’m sure they wouldn’t ban her because of her size and strength.

      • October 20th 2017 @ 4:21am
        Bill said | October 20th 2017 @ 4:21am | ! Report

        Um cause Liz was born a female…….

        • Roar Guru

          October 20th 2017 @ 9:30am
          Cat said | October 20th 2017 @ 9:30am | ! Report

          And Hannah wasn’t banned because of her gender status …

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