Should trans women compete in female sports?

Nicole Garmston

Fact Box

  • ‘Transgender’ is defined as “of, relating to, or being a person whose gender identity differs from the sex the person has or was identified as having at birth.” ‘Male-to-female transgender’ is interchangeable with ‘transgender woman’ or ‘transwoman.’
  • In 2015 the International Olympic Committee (IOC) relaxed the eligibility criteria for transgender females to compete in natal female sports. The requirement for genital reassignment surgery was removed and eligibility instead determined by reducing testosterone to 10 nM for at least 12 months.
  • About 0.58% of adults in the United States are trans. 
  • For those transitioning to females, muscle mass declines with HRT to become more in line with control women.

Elliot (Yes)

For about two decades, trans athletes have been allowed to compete at the Olympic level, and despite not winning the podium once, they are still the ire of the general public because of a perceived “advantage” they’ve been granted. Chris Mosier, a trans man, made Team USA in duathlon and was swamped with death threats. Rachel McKinnon was the first trans athlete to win a World Cycling Championship - a minor one for the 35-44 age bracket, but still - and was similarly swamped with threats. Knowing that 10,000 people competed for 5,000 medals in the Olympics, the stats seem to suggest you’d at least see some large, relevant amount of trans Olympic competitors winning maybe a few dozen medals between them. More, if they had an advantage. This doesn’t happen, because no such advantage exists. No trans woman has ever won an Olympic medal since they’ve been allowed to compete.

Most claims will come back to testosterone - that trans women have too much of it, namely. The thing is, Olympic regulations already require testosterone levels to be lowered, and the level keeps getting pushed down. This would require many cisgender women with naturally high testosterone levels to also take hormone-reducing drugs. Not only that, but there’s zero evidence that testosterone actually imparts a real advantage in competitive sport. The largest study to conclude so, a study by the IAAF published in the British Journal of Science Medicine, was universally criticized for its faulty methodology, faked data, and inability to be replicated. The “advantage” of trans women is mythical, and perpetuating it is a subtle act of prejudice.

Suzanne (No)

The sexes have long been separated in sport due to their innate and inherent differences. The sports world requires distinct sex/gender lines to keep competitions fair, prevent excessive injury to female players, and to allow elite female athletes an equal playing field. Recognizing the biological reality of sex, which carries with it innumerable practicalities between natal male and female players, is the solution.  

Testosterone, a heavily examined factor when evaluating biological sex differences in sports, is observable even in the womb. In the male embryo, high levels of testosterone transform gonads into testes and form the external male genitalia, observable by ultrasound. In puberty, males undergo another testosterone surge that is 10-40x what girls experience, resulting in permanent physical advantages such as: vastly greater muscle mass, enhanced bone density, increased lung capacity, higher oxygenated red blood count, along with larger and stronger cardiac and skeletal muscle. Moreover, a trans female athlete inhabits a body that had been so physiologically developed by testosterone that existing muscle memory allows them to still perform with strength, stamina, and speed well above that of even a female world-champion. Even after requiring transwomen to reduce their testosterone levels, these levels are still higher than the average female athlete’s. Simply put, the male body is optimized for physical performance

These exceptional biological distinctions show why female-to-male athletes pose no threat in male sport. Trans male athletes have shattered no world records, won no championships, earned no scholarships over their natal male challengers, and have damaged no other player through injury. Transwomen athletes have and continue to. Allowing male-born players with proven performance advantages to compete alongside females is discrimination against the female sex.

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