Cambridge Uni’s boat race rowing team had biological male on women’s squad

One of the rowers in the Cambridge University women’s reserve crew for the 2015 annual Boat Race was a biological male, it has emerged. In a 2018 Stonewall brochure Sarah Gibson was hailed as “the first openly trans person to compete in (the race’s) 187-year history”.

Gibson’s selection stopped a biological woman from rowing in her place and becoming a Half-Blue and a lifetime membership of the Cambridge University Rowing Club.

Gibson said to Stonewall: “I wanted to take part in the Boat Race since I was a small kid and I was delighted when I got the chance.

“The club and coaches were very supportive.

“I wouldn’t have been able to enjoy it or reach my full potential without such an inclusive environment.”

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Gibson reportedly went to an elite boys’ school, and identifies as non-binary.

One source told The Telegraph: “Gibson already knew how to row, having learned to row at an elite boy’s school.

“The university thought they had to accept people exactly as they declared themselves to be.

“Gibson only had to say: ‘I’m a woman, I’m eligible for this crew.’

“There was no mechanism for proving testosterone levels.

“Cambridge thought they had to be inclusive, and so they just accepted Gibson at face value.

“Everyone knew Gibson was biologically male.

“But they thought they weren’t allowed to ask personal questions about testosterone levels, or being legally female, or surgery.

“They believed that was far too personal and intimate.

“Nobody thought that they could challenge.”

The 2015 Boat Race was celebrated as a victory for equality, when the women’s crews raced on the same route as the men’s teams.

Between 1953 and 1974 the women’s race did not take, when the Oxford University Women’s Boat Club dissolved.

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Women had waited since 1927 to race, when the Varsity fixture was just a time trial due to racing being deemed ‘unladylike’.

The source said: “It was a big celebration.

“It was decided not to display the schools the women had attended, because they didn’t want to draw attention to the fact that Gibson’s school was a boys’ school.

“In the end, some young woman missed the chance to have her university colours, and to be in the university rowing club for the rest of her life.

“Gibson stated it was a childhood dream to appear in the race.

“Yes, for you and a lot of other people.

“There’s a big dinner every year now after the Boat Race.

“This year, there were 400 people, and the oldest woman there was over 90. It was huge.

“And some young woman wasn’t there, because she didn’t get her chance to row in that boat after someone born male claimed to be a woman.”

Recently-retired rowing coach Jane Sullivan said on The Telegraph’s Planet Normal podcast: “When you’re in Blondie or one of the top boats, you’re part of an exclusive club. You’re allowed to get your Blondie blazer.

“It gives you access to this club of Blues and Half-Blues, and that stays with you for life.

“The woman who missed out in 2015 will never have her place in history. She won’t be part of that club. And I think that’s a shame. I feel for her.”

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