The Women’s Sports Policy Working Group suffered a notable defection recently when Toronto Six president and head coach Digit Murphy announced that she was withdrawing from her role as a cis athlete supporter.
Murphy was originally revealed as a supporter on the Working Group’s website last month. In response, several NWHL fans and transgender rights advocates leveled criticism against Murphy and the Six for her involvement with them.
At issue was the Working Group’s stated goal to find a “middle ground” approach to allowing trans athletes to compete according to their gender identity.
According to Sportsnet.ca’s Marisa Ingemi, Murphy revealed that the pushback she received forced her to get introspective about what truly mattered:
“Me, my team, my staff, we had to do a deep dive of what it really means to be inclusive. We did some training, we did some stuff with Athlete Ally, and it really opened my eyes about sport and trans people and how sport plays a role and what a huge problem it is from the standpoint of kids not being allowed to play sports and not being able to get health care. Discussing the whole issue and how we’re handling it as a society opened my eyes.”
The Working Group has made some changes with a nod in the direction of inclusion such as changing their slogan to “Affirming Girls’ and Women’s Sport While Including Transgender Athletes.” But it’s clear from Murphy’s decision that their commitment to the middle ground philosophy and terms such as “biological sex” continue to be problematic.
As inclusion advocates Pat Griffin and Helen Carroll told Outsports regarding their conversations with the Working Group, “the likelihood that we could find a compromise policy acceptable to all is slim.”
And if the Working Group is unable to come to terms with transgender allies, it should not be a surprise to see some of its supporters follow Murphy’s path and eventually choose to side with the trans athlete community.
Outsports reached out to members of the Working Group and its spokesperson for comment on Murphy’s defection, but have not received a response as of press time.
Former CWHL player Jessica Platt — the first openly trans professional women’s hockey player on the Toronto Furies roster — told Sportsnet.ca she had hoped to play again, for the Toronto Six, and had a conversation both she and former GM Mandy Cronin described as “great” about her prospects. When she didn’t hear from Murphy, she concluded it was because the coach was a member of the Working Group.
“I can’t help think of that possibility that I wasn’t a choice to begin with for one reason or another,” she told Marisa Ingemi. In response, Murphy disputed Cronin’s version of events and she’s since reached out to Platt, but as far as we know the two have yet to speak.
According to the report, Murphy will remain in her role as president and head coach and faces no discipline.
However, there is one other issue regarding transgender players still unresolved: The NWHL’s testosterone-based policy for out trans players is under review, acccording to Sportsnet.ca. The NWHL issued this statement to the site:
“The NWHL is committed to creating safe and inclusive spaces while maintaining competitive equity in professional women’s hockey.
We are also committed to education and evolution.
All league policies and bylaws are subject to review and modification in accordance with the rapidly changing world we live in. Our policy regarding the participation of Transgender Athletes will be reviewed ahead of the 2021-22 season.”
Harrison Browne, the first out trans player in the league, told Sports Illustrated in a recent interview with Britni de la Cretaz he would still be playing if not for that policy.