Female pool player Lynne Pinches refuses to play transgender opponent and walks off
A pool player has forfeited her chance to win a top national title in protest at the sport allowing a transgender woman to compete against natal females.
Lynne Pinches told Telegraph Sport she has turned down an invitation to turn full-time professional amid her despair at a “U-turn” in international rules.
On Saturday, Pinches was cheered by spectators as she packed up her cue and refused to play as the final of the Ladies Champions of Champions got under way. Her opponent, Harriet Haynes, reacted with bemusement before later picking up the trophy by default.
“Walking out was the toughest thing I’ve ever had to do in the game in my life,” said Pinches, 50, from Norwich. “I have played 30 years and I’ve never even conceded so much as a frame, never mind a match. This was only my fourth final ever but the trophy or money meant nothing to me without fairness, and that’s what I said to the tournament director afterwards.”
Pinches, who still received £500 as tournament runner-up in the English Pool Association event, is among a host of female players left devastated in recent weeks after a redrafting of restrictions. Players claim they had received assurances that transgender women or non-binary players would be stopped from competing against females. However, the World Eightball Pool Federation and Ultimate Pool Group instead stated last month in new guidance that “transgender and non-binary players will be able to participate in the women’s series”.
“The devastation I have felt, I can’t even explain,” said Pinches, whose son, brother and father all played pool or snooker at elite levels. “I didn’t eat or sleep properly for two days. I was crying until 3am. I was devastated. My son Tommy, who plays on the Ultimate Pool Challenger Series, messaged me and said, ‘I know you must be absolutely devastated mum, because I know that you’ve you’ve hated this since the beginning’. He really wanted to write it on his Facebook but he was worried he’d get banned. And that’s what pushed me over the edge to be honest. I thought ‘you’ve silenced me for years. You’re not silencing my child as well’. I’m not putting up with that…
“I don’t care about the money or the title or the trophy. I care about fairness. If they hadn’t done that U-turn, we wouldn’t be here now. We were all so elated when they originally said they were going to have a strict category for biological females.”
Pinches says she has transgender friends and her protest was not “to cause any hurt feelings”. “I would never ever do that to embarrass anybody but no one cares how humiliating it is for us as women,” she added.
English Pool Association guidance states “any trans person (male or female) is permitted to participate fully, i.e. train, play in informal matches or play in pool competitions, in their affirmed gender”. “Verification of their sex should be no more than is expected of any other player,” the rules add.
The updated World Eightball Pool Federation and Ultimate Pool Group says: “Providing regulatory conditions are met…. transgender and non-binary players will be able to participate in the women’s series across World Eightball Pool Federation and Ultimate Pool Group events.”
Pinches described how she has been in the form of her life since going teetotal around three years ago. Having made a top 20 ranking on the Ultimate Pool Tour, she was offered a professional spot for next year.
“That’s the first time in my career that I’d been asked and I’d paid £200 for the spot, but when they did the U-turn, I got my money back,” she added. “My trust has just gone out the window.”
More than 60 professional female pool players are said to have joined forces through a WhatsApp support group. Alexandra Cunha, who is fifth in the international rankings, also vowed never to play transgender players in protest at recent rulings.
Players calling for tougher restrictions claim transgender women often have greater upper body strength enabling them to make a more powerful initial break.
Sharron Davies, the Olympian swimmer and campaigner for women’s sport, told Telegraph Sport that pool was another example of a sport failing to put safety and fairness first.
“Both UK Government and UK Sport have told sports NGBs, based on the peer-reviewed science, that they ought to prioritise safety and fairness for females first,” Davies added.
“It’s simply sex discrimination after decades of women’s sport being treated badly. It’s having a huge effect on the mental health of female sports women who are being told by their sports federations their right to fair sport just doesn’t matter. I’m keen to ask Governments to do more than just ask NGBs to do the right thing then be ignored. It’s time for sports women to take action together and also for Government to remove UK sport funding from those sports that just don’t care about their female athletes.”
Athletics, cycling and swimming have all changed their transgender policies in the past 12 months, while both codes of rugby have also moved to protect sport for biologically-born women.
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