“Back when I was a teenager I had no money to play so I would sit on a chair all day and just watch, for hours and hours. When I did pick up a cue, the men would shout at me that I wasn’t welcome and that I should go home and do some laundry,” she recollects.
“Within five years I could beat them all. I still play men, but in open categories. I will not play against anyone who has an Adam’s apple in a female category.”
Women’s pool is simply the most recent sport to have fallen foul of a militant transgender foyer that has pushed for gamers who are biologically male to compete against women on the grounds they “identify” as female.
The controversy started on October 24 when the game’s worldwide governing physique, the World Eightball Pool Federation (WEPF), modified the foundations over trans gamers’ participation in female tournaments.
Initially, in August, with growing numbers of trans gamers making use of to play in women’s tournaments, the WEPF had put out a joint assertion with its most important sponsor the Ultimate Pool Group, ruling that “these events will be exclusively open to individuals who are born female”.
But simply eight weeks later there was a shock reversal on this determination, which plenty of women gamers have prompt was made below stress of authorized threats from trans opponents. The WEPF and Ultimate Pool issued an replace on “competition eligibility for transgender and non-binary players” stating that there could be no discrimination on the grounds of gender id and that they might function a gender “self-identification policy” for opponents, whereas reserving the correct to check gamers’ testosterone ranges.
Within per week of this announcement greater than 60 skilled female pool gamers joined forces by means of a WhatsApp help group to oppose the change. And in Norwich, Cunha – an enormous identify within the sport – instantly contacted the Ultimate Pool Group to say she wouldn’t play against anybody born male within the women’s league and would as an alternative stay in her seat.
“I naively thought they would speak to me – instead all I got was a request for my bank details so they could return my 2024 fee,” she says. “It was shocking. I felt angry but also sad that things had come to this in the sport I love.”
After Cunha introduced her stand, her shut pal Lynne Pinches, 50, sister of established snooker player Barry Pinches, vowed to do the identical. As probability would have it two weeks in the past she drew against Harriet Haynes, a vastly profitable transgender player, within the ultimate of the Ladies Champion of Champions nationwide match in Denbighshire, Wales.
Pinches, who additionally lives in Norwich, declined to play and as an alternative shook Haynes’s hand and walked out of the packed taking part in corridor, forfeiting the match. She cried all evening. The story went world.
“I’m so proud of Lynne,” says Cunha. “She’s not ranked as high as I am and it was only her fourth ever final so it was a huge sacrifice but we all believe it was worth it. Some principles are worth more than money, titles or trophies.”
For her half, Haynes issued an announcement through her attorneys stating that cue sports activities akin to pool, billiards and snooker are classed as “precision sports” by the International Olympic Committee and are thus unaffected by gender, including: “All the protest this past weekend has done is to show that bigotry is alive and well and that misinformation regarding the situation has run rife.”
According to Cunha, there’s a big misapprehension in regards to the “multiple” benefits that gamers born male retain. She freely admits she herself had no thought in regards to the big differential till she watched trans gamers within the women’s league.
“At first I thought it was no big deal but then when you see the superior strength, the muscles, the muscle memory, the difference becomes clear,” she says. “Players born male have longer arms and a longer range; in 32 years I have never witnessed any biological woman with anything like the power and velocity when it comes to the break shot.
“When you get to a certain level of play, how you break is the key to success. Biological women have other issues too that affect us; hormonal fluctuations and the menopause have a tangible impact but that’s fine when you are competing against your peers. We laugh about it. Trans players don’t face any of those hurdles.”