Canada's Danielle McGahey is set to become the first transgender cricketer to play in an official international match. McGahey has been included in Canada's squad for a qualifying tournament on the pathway to the 2024 Women's T20 World Cup in Bangladesh.
The 29-year-old opening batter has fulfilled all of the eligibility criteria the International Cricket Council (ICC) has for male-to-female transgender players before the event in Los Angeles from 4-11 September.
Canada's Danielle McGahey is set to become the first transgender cricketer to play in an official international match.#BBCCricket
— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) August 31, 2023
This development unfolds against the backdrop of other sports—such as athletics, cycling, swimming, and both codes of rugby—where transgender women are barred from participating in elite women's competitions.
A spokesperson for the Women's Rights Network (WRN), an organization dedicated to safeguarding the sex-based rights of women, pointed out that transgender women possess a "significant advantage" over athletes biologically classified as female at birth. The WRN criticized the ICC's policy, deeming it "unfair and unsafe."
Having relocated from Australia to Canada in February 2020, McGahey embarked on her social transition to womanhood in November 2020, subsequently commencing her medical transition in May 2021.
Speaking with BBC Sport, McGahey expressed her deep sense of honor: "I am absolutely honored. To be able to represent my community is something I never dreamed I would be able to do."
The ICC's player eligibility guidelines, established in 2018 and amended in 2021, outline the conditions for trans women aspiring to partake in international women's cricket. Notably, they mandate that a trans woman must maintain a serum testosterone concentration below 5 nmol/L continuously for at least 12 months and provide a written declaration affirming her gender identity.
McGahey shared insights into her arduous journey, explaining, "In order to determine [my testosterone levels], I've been doing blood tests every month now for over two years. I also have to put in my player profile who I have played against and how many runs I've scored." She revealed that her medical information and history were meticulously reviewed by the ICC's dedicated medical officer.
Despite concerns raised by WRN spokesperson Jane Sullivan, who advocates for separate sporting categories based on birth-assigned sex, McGahey's exceptional cricketing skills earned her a place in Cricket Canada's women's inter-provincial tournament through gender self-identification. Impressed by her performances, national selectors facilitated her participation in four international T20 matches in October 2022 during the South American Championships.
However, it's important to note that these matches did not possess official T20 international status, enabling her to compete without adhering to ICC criteria.
McGahey's presence in Canada's squad for the ICC T20 World Cup qualifying tournament was officially confirmed on 27 August.
— Female Cricket (@imfemalecricket) August 31, 2023
In a statement, the ICC declared, "We can confirm that Danielle went through the process as required under the ICC's player eligibility regulations and as a result has been deemed eligible to participate in international women's cricket on the basis that she satisfies the MTF transgender eligibility criteria."
Cricket Canada's spokesperson stated, "Danielle's selection was based on ICC's player eligibility regulations for male-to-female transgender players. Danielle sent through her application to the ICC and Cricket Canada followed the process as per the ICC rules, which made Danielle's selection to the Canadian team possible."
Canada, a nation where approximately one in 300 individuals above the age of 15 identifies as transgender or non-binary, is no stranger to trailblazing transgender athletes. Canadian footballer Quinn, who came out as non-binary in September 2020, made history as the first transgender player to participate in a Fifa World Cup.
Canada won its first gold medal in women's soccer on Friday at #Tokyo2020, making one of the team's starters, Quinn, the first openly transgender and nonbinary athlete to win an Olympic medal. https://t.co/ab9ipOaAx6 pic.twitter.com/BA4KhPPk6d
— The New York Times (@nytimes) August 6, 2021
While Fifa currently operates under regulations tied to sex assigned at birth, they are undergoing a comprehensive review of gender eligibility rules with guidance from legal, scientific, and human rights experts.
The landscape varies across different sports, with some like World Rugby, Fina (swimming's governing body), International Rugby League, and World Athletics enforcing bans on transgender women's participation. The ICC's regulations draw inspiration from the framework set by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), which emphasizes inclusion but also contends that a transgender athlete's advantage in women's events isn't automatic.
Tommy Lundberg, an expert from the Karolinska Institute, shared insights into the evolving landscape of transgender athlete regulations: "Since then, however, several sports such as swimming, cycling and athletics have gone in the direction that World Rugby has gone in, and prioritised fairness."
He further highlighted the complexity, stating that while cricket aligns with the fairness principle, it inevitably grapples with the inherent advantages conferred by male puberty.
While the ICC's decision is praised for fostering inclusion, the WRN remains steadfast in its conviction that fairness and safety for female players must not be compromised. The organization worries that these policies could discourage girls from entering cricket, thereby undermining the sport's grassroots and subsequently, its national teams.