In part two of our look at the transgender participation in sport issue that has handed many governing bodies a major headache, snooker’s Jamie Hunter of Widnes gives a searingly honest interview to The Sportsman following her breakthrough success at the US Women’s Open in Seattle. The 25-year-old admits that the scale of the negative reaction in some quarters has been hard to stomach, opens a window into her own challenging journey and tries to allay the concerns of critics.
Jamie Hunter might have hoped that her victory at the US Women’s Open in Seattle would be hailed for what it was – a big breakthrough success on the women’s snooker tour. Instead it unleashed a torrent of debate and in many cases vile online abuse over her chosen identity.
Snooker has become just the latest arena to see the issue of transgender participation in women’s sport blow up. The 25-year-old Hunter, from Widnes, came out as trans in 2019 and began the transition process via medication a year later.
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Hunter has gone way beyond the current mandatory requirements from the WPBSA in providing blood tests every three months to ensure testosterone and estrogen levels are within the permitted range for women according to the IOC-based guidelines currently used by the game.
And though she understands the real issues for more physical sports, Hunter is struggling with the very personal and prejudiced nature of much of the criticism.
She said: “I am thick-skinned…but before last weekend I had only had to deal with maybe 20 bad comments if I won a minor event. And you could dismiss that.
“But even I have been taken aback by the chaos that has ensued following my win in the USA. It has been more than I could handle. At the same time, it’s not going to stop me playing. I have dreams, I won’t let some nasty people stop me doing what I love doing. My parents tell me to stop going on social media.
“I remind people that suicide rates in trans people are really high anyway. With what has happened in the last few days, with someone else you could be looking at a dead person. I am okay. Don’t get me wrong, it upsets me and it is difficult, but I won’t hurt myself. For others, it might be unbearable.
“In football or rugby there probably is an issue, because you don’t know the effect that the estrogen has, there are different effects on different people.
“But snooker isn’t a physical sport. And the argument that men concentrate better than women – there is no scientific basis for that. It’s not exactly a feminist argument. Personally, after taking my medication I can’t lift 30kg anymore, I used to bench press 100kg. I struggled with a 25kg suitcase to the USA.
“To be able to participate I had to provide document after document, I send blood test results every three months to the WPBSA to show my testosterone and estrogen levels are within female limits.
“I am only required to prove my levels are right once, 12 months before the start of the season. So I am going way beyond that to try and prevent some arguments.
“But if you’re really looking at it…say I wasn’t like I am, and open about it, and I’d had all the surgeries, my voice was higher, and I blended in…we wouldn’t be having this conversation.
“There might be people already on the tour that are like me, but we just don’t know. Even if they were blood-tested, that wouldn’t tell you what someone was born.
“There had been one or two that had gone to the governing body about me over the last year. But now I have won an event, a lot more people seem to have a problem. They weren’t bothered when I was making the numbers up, but now I’m challenging it’s changed.
“And those who appear to be genuinely upset that I am breathing oxygen? Yes, that is of course upsetting, there are no two ways about that. If people don’t like the fact I exist, that is upsetting.
“I would say to Maria [Catalano] or any other top player with concerns that I didn’t wake up one morning and decide to play women’s snooker because I wasn’t very good playing against the fellas.
“I never played competitive snooker as a man in the amateurs, I only played local league to go out for a drink with my friends. I have only taken it seriously for the last 12 months, and I have been a woman for nearly three years.
“There are also a lot of people who just don’t really understand it. If she or anyone else wants to talk about it, I am always willing to do that, and help educate people.
“I want the women’s tour to grow as much as anyone, because I love the sport as much as the next person. If Maria is upset it is disheartening and saddening, but I’m there to help grow it, not ruin it. I’m not there to tear it down, but to build it up. I want the tour to prosper.”