What is the point of non-binary marathon class if you can still flip-flop gender?

Glenique Frank talks to the BBC while competing in the female category in last year's London Marathon
Glenique Frank talks to the BBC while competing in the female category in last year's London Marathon - BBC

Marathon season is upon us once again, and two of the six most prestigious races, the World Marathon Majors, will take place in Boston on Monday and London this Sunday. Runners who complete all six majors are awarded the six star medal – one of the marathon world’s most coveted prizes.

Amongst the runners earning this special medal, on crossing the finish line in Boston, will be 55-year-old Glen/Glenique Frank, who identifies as a woman. Many will remember Frank being fawned over by a BBC Sport journalist during last April’s London Marathon, while competing in the female category and therefore causing unfairness for thousands of female runners. Despite Frank promising then to never run London again, that changed with an announcement in January declaring a return to London this month – just six days after Boston.

It is interesting to note that in completing the big six, Frank has competed once in the male category (New York 2022), twice in the female category (Tokyo and London 2023), twice in the non-binary category (Berlin and Chicago 2023) and well, it is anyone’s guess which category Frank will turn up in for Boston 2024. If Frank runs in the female category in London, it will be against UK Athletics rules – UKA banned all post-puberty males from the female category in licensed events from midnight on March 31, 2023 and London is a fully-licensed event.

All this raises the question: what exactly is the point of the non-binary category and who is it for?

Let’s go back to basics. We all know that sex (of which there are two, male and female) is relevant in running, and that how you identify – for example as non-binary, Catholic, flat-Earther, Communist and so on is irrelevant in running. These are basic facts of material reality, even if some people pretend otherwise to enhance their egos, bank balances or careers.

And yet, serious, clever and brave people have had to spend time and energy doing research which shows that sex matters in running, even within the non-binary category. Gender identity ideology in general makes such absurd and mendacious assertions that people living in the real world have had to do work to prove what we have all known for centuries. The bottom line for the non-binary category is that everyone in it is either male or female, and males will outperform females since males run, on average, 10 per cent or more faster than females.

The non-binary category has been sold to us as being for those who do not identify with the “gender binary”, whatever that means. I’ve run in shorts all my life but weirdly am still female. It is all pure self-ID so is impossible to define, let alone prove or disprove one way or the other. Frank’s forays into the non-binary category last Autumn appear to be the runner seeking a haven to bolt to after being criticised for running in the female category, rather than because Frank had suddenly decided to no longer be woman, but instead be non-binary. I wonder what the ‘true’ non-binaries make of that.

Treating categories like pick’n’mix buffet

One poor race director in America had to issue a warning last year after some naughty non-binary impersonators entered their non-binary category after the male and female categories sold out. The runner-up in London’s non-binary category last year (male, predictably) raced repeatedly in the male category before and since. Is he a man or non-binary? Coming 2nd sure sounds more impressive than 2,486th which is what he would have come in the male category.

This category-surfing, or treating categories like some kind of pick’n’mix buffet has been done by other male runners, including Kae Ravichandran, the winner of the 2023 Boston Marathon non-binary category. Like Ravichandran, who retweeted “f--- terfs”, Frank does not like women who speak up in defence of single-sex sports, taking the trouble to private message me on Facebook to tell me I am “evil”. Funny how dismissively telling a woman “she could’ve called me personally” after you’ve labelled her “evil” doesn’t work terribly well.

We often hear defenders of the non-binary category arguing that if it keeps men out of the female category, surely that’s a good thing. Well, no, it doesn’t do this, as Frank and others have shown. Another trans-identifying male who has repeatedly raced in the female category, Sian Longthorpe, does not want to be classed in the non-binary category. New York Road Runners operates self-ID across all three of its categories: men, women and non-binary. I have never seen any rules instructing trans-identifying males who cannot bring themselves to run in the correct category for their sex – male – to run in the non-binary category. If they exist, I stand corrected. Having managed to run London 15 times in the male category, it is a mystery why Frank suddenly seems incapable of doing so again.

Besides the actual evidence, the notion that races should provide a non-binary category to placate and accommodate rule- and boundary-breaking males, rather than making those males follow rules which exist for good reason, echoes everything we see elsewhere with gender identity ideology – this is an almighty mess created by men for men and men need to fix it. Women are the collateral damage for men’s failures to bring their fellow men into line.

Many people seem to think the non-binary category is an Open category. Well, no. If it were, then why are races calling it “non-binary” instead of “Open”? An Open category should be open and welcoming for all, but, as the examples above show, the non-binary category is not that. Besides, if it is an Open category, why is it offered in addition to, rather than instead of, the male category?

Any third category is a second male category, as touched on recently by World Athletics president Lord Coe. Why should men have two categories but women only one? The NYRR Gridiron race in February 2023 saw the top-five runners (all men, all winning prize money) spread across the male and non-binary categories. For all the blah about “inclusion”, men will outperform women in the non-binary category and therefore it is indirect sex discrimination.

This is most glaring in races which offer prize money in the non-binary category. Predictably, this has been won overwhelmingly by males thus far, in most cases running modest times which would have won them nothing in the male category. It is mostly women who suffer from gender ideology in sport. But there are signs that fast men winning nothing seeing slow men behind them winning good money have clocked this grift and are not happy about it.

Fast men also suffer

Fast men also suffer from the Boston Marathon’s qualifying times. Nearly everyone has to qualify for Boston and a Boston Qualifier or “BQ” is widely and deservedly respected. But Boston has set its non-binary qualifying times the same as the women’s times, which are 30 minutes slower than the men’s times across all age groups. So non-binary males can run 30 minutes slower than their fellow males in the men’s category and still get a coveted BQ. Meanwhile, non-binary females get no such luxury and have to run the same times as their fellow females in the women’s category to qualify. Why should men with no special identity, and all women suffer like this, just to indulge the beliefs of those who say they are non-binary?

A further concern which seems to have been overlooked is that the non-binary category draws men and women out of the male and female categories. Therefore, the men and women who remain in these categories no longer know how they fared amongst all others in their sex class. This was a very special piece of data which runners previously had and many enjoyed – now gone. And all for what?

Further, all the men and women who remain in the male and female categories get bumped up the finishing order as others move across to the non-binary category – results inflation for no extra effort. Since the non-binary category is fair to males and unfair to females, it seems likely that more males than females will join it. So this inflation effect will surely be greater in the male category. Men win all round – what’s not to like?

The numbers currently running in the non-binary category are small, but increasing. If they continue increasing, where will we be in 10 or more years’ time? It seems likely, based on what has happened thus far, that the non-binary categories will be mostly full of men, but how will the races even know if they are not collecting sex data on their non-binary runners? If female runners brought a sex discrimination case against them for not providing a second category for women, how will they defend themselves if they have no sex data on the composition of the non-binary category?

Where will this all end? The Dublin Marathon’s non-binary category in 2023 had only three finishers, predictably all of them male, and all won prize money. This has not deterred the organisers from offering non-binary prize money again in 2024, though it would be more accurate if they renamed it “easy money for men with special identities who run slowly”.

Tokyo is so far the only World Marathon Major not to have adopted a non-binary category.

Will another jaw-dropping BBC interview bring the whole nonsense crashing down? One of the key figures in the New York non-binary running scene, Justin Solle, is apparently running London and tweeted “f--- these terfs” about Maya Forstater, the director of Sex Matters. Perhaps the BBC will give Solle a fawning interview, and pique another few million people’s interest in the impact of gender identity ideology on sport.

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