One of the world’s top ranked women pool players is refusing to play against anyone who is not biologically female in professional competitions amid a bitter row over transgender competitors.
Alexandra Cunha, who is fifth in the international ranking for female pool players, took the stance after the rules of her sport were changed last week to allow men who identify as women to play in ladies’ tournaments that command thousands in prize money.
She is one of dozens of professional female players who are now rebelling against the growing number of trans players who are playing professionally in the women’s pool leagues.
These advantages include possessing greater upper body strength enabling them to make a more powerful initial ‘break’ of the balls which can dictate the direction of a game, the women say.
In addition, trans players are said to be able to play games at a faster pace and have an extended reach when taking shots due to their longer arm span.
The dispute is the latest upset in an ongoing debate over whether trans competitors should be allowed to compete into female categories, which countless sporting disciplines are grappling with.
Ms Cunha, who is based in the UK but is captain of the Portuguese women’s national pool team, told the Mail on Sunday: ‘I’ve been playing pool since I was 17 and I’m fifth in the world but I’m risking throwing everything away over this because I hate unfairness.
‘I recently played a transgender player and I was destroyed when I lost.’
She informed the organisers: ‘As we live in a free world and I will stand up for what I believe is fair, I will not play against any players that wasn’t born a woman independently of being a first round or a final.’
Ms Cunha said she offered to continue with the tour if her rules of play were accepted, but she was simply told that her entry fee would be refunded.
The controversy now rocking the top levels of women’s professional pool began on October 24 when the sport’s international governing body, the World Eightball Pool Federation (WEPF), changed the rules over trans players’ participation in female tournaments.
Initially, in August, with increasing numbers of trans players applying to play in women’s tournaments, the WEPF had put out a joint statement with its main sponsor the Ultimate Pool Group ruling that ‘these events will be exclusively open to individuals who are born female.’
But just eight weeks later there was a shock reversal in this decision, which a number of women players have suggested was made under pressure of legal threats from trans competitors.
They stipulated that they would operate a gender ‘self-identification policy’ for competitors, but added that they reserved the right to test that testosterone had been suppressed to the levels required of trans athletes by the International Olympic Committee.
Within a week of this announcement more than 60 professional female pool players joined forces through a WhatsApp support group to oppose the changes, the Mail on Sunday has been told.
One player, Lynne Pincher, said: ‘When I heard the announcement last week I spent most of the day in tears – especially because it came after the announcement eight weeks earlier that it was finally going to be a fair field.
‘I’m worried now about the future of the game for women. If next year we had eight trans player they would probably be in the top eight.’
Last night Olympian Sharron Davies, who has been a vocal supporter of women’s sports remaining single sex, branded the decision to allow trans players to play in female pool competitions as ‘heartbreaking’.
‘These organisations know their game is sex-affected. They know women need their own tournaments to grow female participation & opportunities. They must show courage and decency and stand up for women.’
* Original Article: