Once again: transgender women in women’s sports

November 30, 2020 • 1:45 pm

Reader Steve called my attention to an article I wouldn’t have otherwise seen, as it appeared at The Daily Maverick, a South African news website. It’s about the recurrent and polarizing problem of what to do about transgender women, born as biological men, who want to compete in women’s sports. The piece seems quite fair to me, certainly not demonizing transsexuals, but also calling attention to the conflicting issues of fairness in sports towards transsexual women on one hand and towards biological women who haven’t undergone medical transition on the other.

Click on the screenshot to read.

I’ve written a lot about this issue before. I’ve arrived at only one firm conclusion, and that’s that biological men who declare that they’re women, but haven’t undergone any hormonal or medical treatment, should not be allowed to compete in women’s sports. Given the average sex differences in bone and muscle mass, and in strength and speed, this simply wouldn’t be fair to the competing women. But several places, including the state of Connecticut, do allow that, so that unaltered biological men who identify as women are allowed to compete in women’s sports. The results are predictable—the women-identifying men clean up the prizes. I doubt that there are many people who think this is fair, though the ACLU has defended those men when women’s athletes brought a lawsuit.

For intersex people, or for those who have undergone surgery and/or hormone treatment, the issue is much stickier.  For one thing, even with those treatments you don’t lose all of the differential muscle mass that a male gains at puberty. Further, the testosterone titers of a transsexual woman below which she is allowed to compete, as in the Olympics, are purely guesswork, with no research behind them affirming that such titers completely remove the physiological differences that result in different sports performances of men and women.

What is new about this article, which is largely about rugby, is its claim that there is research on the effects of hormones and surgery, but that it doesn’t show what the advocates want. Rather, it shows that the male/female differences are not effaced by hormones. (World Rugby has banned all transsexual women from competing in women’s rugby, with their rationale being safety, since, as they claim, one can hurt someone quite badly with a more robust physique.)

The article first highlights the differences that justify keeping men’s and women’s sports as separate categories:

Simply, [World Rugby’s policy’ argues that a women’s category “protects” the integrity of the result for biological females and in some instances, the safety of its participants. Biological females do not possess the same physical attributes as males and many of these male-bodied attributes have profound implications for sports performance.

So, while the women who win Olympic medals and world titles would outperform most men in most sports, they are vastly outperformed by the males who win the equivalent Olympic medals and world titles.

In the comparison group that matters, there is literally no contest. Take for instance the fact that the best women runners in history are outperformed every year by hundreds of boys younger than 18, and by many thousands of adult men.

The gap between the respective champions in most track and field disciplines is 10% to 12%, and thousands of biological males fit into that space. As a result, if women’s sport did not exist as a category, women would vanish entirely from elite track and field.

Consider next that a 10% to 12% difference is actually relatively small. In weightlifting, the difference is 30% to 40%. For tasks like serving in tennis, it is 20% and for punching power, the male advantage has been measured at 160%.

These differences are enormous and within a relevant comparison group (like Olympic athletes, or high school athletes competing for scholarships), they are insurmountable.

This is not to say that female athletes do not possess extraordinary abilities, as well as technical and mental skills that are necessary in champions. But male-bodied physiological advantages are so large that all attributes unrelated to biological sex, the ones that should actually matter, are drowned out by things like muscle mass, strength, power, body shape and speed.

This creates the moral dilemma of conflicting fairness:

Now, with all those principles and concepts in mind, consider the dilemma for sport. There are individuals whose biological sex does not match their gender identity. Biological males undergo puberty driven by testosterone, but identify as female. What is their place in sport?

A decent and progressive society accepts them. But can sport accept them into the protected, closed category for women? Given the biological realities, if self-identification or gender identity were the sole criteria, women’s sport would become “open”, and its purpose negated.

This then sets up what is basically a “colliding rights” issue, where the rights of females to have a sporting space of their own collides with the rights of other individuals to identify as they wish. Sport finds itself in the middle of that collision. It becomes, effectively, a question of how various priorities are balanced. Those priorities are inclusion, fairness and, in some sports, safety.

Historically, the approach to this issue has been relatively simple – it tried to “fix” the problem by relying on medication or surgical intervention to lower the testosterone levels in trans women.

Given what we described above regarding testosterone’s crucial role in creating the male-female sporting divide, the premise is that if testosterone is lowered or removed, so is the sporting advantage.

The lowering of testosterone can be achieved either through surgical removal of the testes that produce it, or, as per the most recent Olympic transgender policy, medication that lowers the testosterone below a target level for a period of 12 months.

But this approach is controversial for obvious reasons. Compelling an otherwise healthy individual to use drugs as a requirement to participate, which may have serious side effects, is straddling an uncomfortable ethical line.

Even if the athlete accepts this approach, the acid test, then, is whether the outcome is true. Does the suppression of testosterone take away those differences that women’s sport excludes?

It then summarizes the scientific data, of which I was unaware. It appears that these data apply to body differences related to rugby success, but they must also relate to many sports:

The sport then has to make a choice and prioritise them. It can choose inclusion at the expense of fairness and safety, or it can choose safety and fairness, with a resultant compromise on inclusion.

That is the situation World Rugby found itself in during an expert consultation process early in 2020. The scientific evidence, while limited, is consistent and relatively clear. There are no studies that have shown that suppressing testosterone for 12 months makes a meaningful dent in male physiological advantages relevant to rugby.

All the studies that do exist strongly suggest a retained advantage that makes the testosterone suppression policy ineffective at achieving its objective of fairness.

A dozen such studies have found that strength, muscle mass, and muscle volume decrease by between 5% and 10% when testosterone is lowered. Given that the original male vs female difference is between 30% and 50%, the implication is that a significant part of the original advantage remains when trans women are compared to a matched group of biological females.

There is one study suggesting that male endurance advantages in distance runners are removed entirely, which might allow some sports to balance inclusion and fairness, but for sports where mass, size, strength, power and speed matter, the evidence all points one way, in the direction of retained advantage and the necessity of a prioritisation of those imperatives.

Now I wish I had a list of such studies, as it’s usually claimed that we know very little about the effects of hormone treatment on sports performance. (To be sure, this is based on physiological effects supposedly related to success, not what we really want to know—the effects of treatment on sports performance itself.) Apparently, though, we do know some things. The lack of endurance in distance running is interesting, but again, I’d like to see the data. If there’s no effect of testosterone treatment on performance, one might, say, combine men’s and women’s marathons, though the world’s record times for that distance are still about 15 minutes lower for men than for women.

The only solution, if you wish transsexual women to compete in women’s sports, is first to only consider people who have been treated to reduce testosterone, and THEN you must find out what reduction of testosterone can equalize the average performance of transsexual women and of biological women. Doing that experiment seems nearly impossible since it involves measuring not physiology, but actual performance, and correlating that with testosterone level. It may be that no reduction after puberty can equalize performance, and in that case we must do what World Rugby did.

Finally, there’s the option of creating a third category of competition for transsexual men and sex-intermediate people. I can see many people would object to that, too.

 

85 thoughts on “Once again: transgender women in women’s sports

  1. Or I suppose trans athletes in the relevant categories could just accept that their particular situation might require they quit acting like spoiled children and consider other people for a change.

    1. Exactly, but in this era of personal entitlement and that the world does owe us all a living such notions seem totally foreign to many.

  2. Given the biological realities, if self-identification or gender identity were the sole criteria, women’s sport would become “open”, and its purpose negated.

    Welllll…maybe not open in the traditional sense of welcoming athletes of all genders, since I don’t think there’s any study showing that there’s significant “cheating” (i.e. a male identifying as a female solely to win competitions) going on. But yes, it would put the very small minority of people who are both excellent athletes and trans women at a big advantage.

    One option Jerry that you didn’t explicitly mention is to make as many male sports leagues ‘open.’ For some like rugby that might not be an option, but for pretty much any non-contact sport, perhaps one part of the solution to this problem is to make trans women (well, pretty much all women) feel more welcome in traditionally male leagues and competitions. If there’s no social stigma or shame or assumptions about gender that go along with a woman competing in a predominantly male event, then maybe trans women would be content competing in open but predominantly male events.

    1. I don’t think there’s any study showing that there’s significant “cheating” (i.e. a male identifying as a female solely to win competitions) going on.

      It would only take 1-in-100 males (maybe 1-in-1000) to be willing to do this and they would dominate women’s sport. Would 1-in-100 men do that, in order to obtain the fame and monetary rewards of being a winning sportsperson? I think yes. Men can be rather narcissistic.

      1. Or let’s imagine a following scenario: in an educational system that offers athletes a smooth track to and through college, young biological males say that they feel like females, blow away the pathetic biological females in athletic competitions, take their slots and scholarships, graduate with flying banners, and then rediscover their inner male.

      1. It probably varies but I wouldn’t make that assumption. IIRC skiier Lindsey Vonn petitioned multiple times over a couple years to be allowed to compete against men in the downhill events, and her requests were denied over and over again.

        Now, I’ll admit I don’t know if she was eventually successful. Maybe she was. But I think if we want trans women to compete with men in sports like this, these sorts of barriers have to come down. No petition required for any woman (let alone a multiple-time world champion!), no permission needed for any woman, she just enters the previously-men-but-now-open events as a regular competitor and that’s it. Because as long as such events aren’t open to women, the rules and society are telling trans women in a backhanded way that they aren’t women. Much better to just say women welcome to these events.

    2. “If there’s no social stigma or shame or assumptions about gender that go along with a woman competing in a predominantly male event, then maybe trans women would be content competing in open but predominantly male events.”

      Unfortunately, that would not solve the problem. The problem, as I understand it, is that transgender women don’t want to play with men regardless of how the league or division is described. They want to play in the category specifically designated for women because they believe that’s part of their right stemming from being a woman. They believe that it’s part of their right to be fully recognized as a woman in every aspect, be it social, societal, or governmental. Playing with men would be a recognition or admission that they’re not like women who were born female.

      The “men’s” leagues in most professional sports are already technically “open.” The NFL, NHL, MLB, and NBA don’t have any rules against women playing, and there have been some over the years who have tried to make it. There are only “women’s” leagues for some of these sports because women want to play professionally, but they could never come close to making it onto the roster of a professional team in a league where men play.

      1. It may not, but we shouldn’t let perfect be the enemy of good. If we build a consistent framework which is fair while being more recognizing of trans issue, that’s an improvement, even if it doesn’t satisfy every trans person.

        Moreover, sometimes just changing the way we speak and write about categories can make a difference, even if the substantive changes are minor. Right now associating ‘men only’ with male sex seems unnecessarily insulting.

        So, I’d suggest changing the current categories:

        1. Men (implying male sex) only
        2. Women (implying female sex) only

        to:

        1. All sexes and genders.
        2. Female sex, all genders welcome.

        (Again, for non-contact sports.)

        1. But the point that transgender activists are making is that there is no distinction between them and someone who is “female sex.”

          Regardless, nobody ever called the NBA or NHL “men’s” leagues until women’s leagues were created so women had a place to play professionally. Even now, I still never hear them called “men’s leagues,” nor the MLB or NFL. They’re just called “pro hockey” or “the NHL,” etc. The only time sex/gender is referred to is when referring to women’s leagues, and that’s what the activists are after. If they are denied access to the women’s league — even if you call it the “female sex league, all genders welcome” — that won’t solve their contention that they have the same right as someone who is of the “female sex” to play in a league for people of the “female sex.” The entire point is to break down the idea of there being two sexes that can be distinguished and cannot be changed.

          Recently, I saw a commercial for an anti-HIV drug. The commercial said that the drug is not effective for “people assigned female at birth.” That’s been something transgender activists have been trying to get for awhile: making it so no sex is assigned at birth because doing so doesn’t allow the person who was just born to choose what they are. The idea is that they aren’t defined at all by the myriad dimorphic differences in body structure in any way. The idea is that there is no binary in the first place.

          So, considering what the demands are, the only viable option is to continue to allow anyone to play in the leagues where men play, while limiting the women’s league to people who are biologically female.

          1. As I said, I argue for my position not in an attempt to address every trans person’s demands no matter how extreme, but rather to improve the system we have now so that it’s more inclusive and welcoming than it currently is. You keep bringing up the set of trans people who will not be satisfied by any distinction at all, who wish to erase the very notion of biological sex. I agree that those people (probably? I’ve never met one) exist. I think the difference between you and I however is that if we make our systems more inclusive and many trans people are happier but those folks still aren’t happy, I think that’s a win and worth doing, whereas you seem to think that that result is not worth doing.

            considering what the demands are, the only viable option is to continue to allow anyone to play in the leagues where men play, while limiting the women’s league to people who are biologically female.

            We do not substantively disagree. Renaming the categories IMO is a useful symbolic means of welcoming trans people in a way that “Men’s sports” and “Women’s sports” may not. It’s going to grate on a trans woman to be constantly doing the former, and it’s going to grate on a trans man to be constantly doing the latter. Changing the labels neither picks my pockets nor breaks my leg, so it brings a little happiness to other people, why not do it?

            1. ERIC / “Renaming the categories IMO is a useful symbolic means of welcoming trans people in a way that “Men’s sports” and “Women’s sports” may not. 

              “Changing the labels neither picks my pockets nor breaks my leg, so it brings a little happiness to other people, why not do it?”

              “I agree that those people (probably? I’ve never met one) exist.”

              Such people do exist, and many spend a great deal of time harassing and outright threatening lesbian separatist groups, and women in judo competitions and other martial arts.

              I am far more concerned with women being denied equal opportunity in sports, than “symbolic” language.

          2. Well, the transgender activists are wrong. Everybody knows it, probably including them. That’s why their tactics are geared towards silencing opposing voices rather than engaging with them.

    3. It would not be possible for any study to compare transwomen who are sincere with men pretending to be transwomen unless the roles were somehow set up in advance. There’s no way to distinguish between the two groups. Even if you had a recording of a man laughing with friends about gaming the system, he could explain that he was lying to them out of fear of rejection, and be believed.

  3. Years ago I read on a feminist blog a proposal to eliminate sex segregated sports and introduce weight classes. The writer was of the opinion that there were no differences between the sexes other than genitalia. I scoffed, but now I think the idea (of integrated sports) has merit. Once female athletes near professional extinction feminists will have to accept that there is more to sexual dimorphism than genitalia.

    1. There are different categories of feminism. No Radical Feminist would argue that there’s no more to sexual dimorphism than genitalia. You probably read something written by a Liberal Feminist.

  4. I predict that this will follow what usually follows….fairness for women will be superseded to the other group’s fairness not unlike asking women to take seats away from Haredi men in airplanes.

    1. As a female commenter here wrote on a different post a couple days ago, trans activism in some respects (like this one) is the patriarchy on steroids.

      1. Seems like just a fancy way of saying some people are assholes and will take advantage of any opportunity to screw other people. Sport authorities need to grow some balls and fight them. Spectators need to boo and laugh.

    2. Yes. It is always women who must acquiesce. Imaging how M2F trans will react when they really are treated like a women, and he is the one who is expected to give up that seat on the plane. (And a possible pay cut at work.)

    1. Nooooo! Use Medline for goodness sake! Do you need me to teach you how to do a proper literature search?!
      This is sport plus testosterone, then one particular article…

      Finnish readers may like to comment on Mäntyranta…

      https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/?term=Sport%20testosterone&sort=date

      https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/bioe.12827
      A local criterion of fairness in sport: Comparing the property advantages of Caster Semenya and Eero Mäntyranta with implications for the construction of categories in sport

      1. Since PubMed changed its appearance, I admit its search function is all but unusable to me! I’ll never understand why Web services feel compelled periodically to replace something that works well with something that doesn’t.

  5. “If there’s no effect of testosterone treatment on performance, one might, say, combine men’s and women’s marathons, though the world’s record times for that distance are still about 15 minutes lower for men than for women.”

    The problem isn’t so much the difference in time, it’s the number of men who fall within that difference. In the last Olympic games the winning woman, Jemima Sugong, would have finished 91st if competing against men.

    1. On the other hand, some sports which are divided by sex ought not to be. In the Olympics shooting, sailing and archery, for example, have men’s and women’s divisions. Recently a mixed division has been added to both sailing and archery but, for some reason, individual events are still segregated. Framed by the arguments we have here, these make little sense.

      1. Sailing depends a lot on strength and power in almost all categories.
        Any boat with a trapeze for example. Working the tiller in heavy weather for another. Getting the spinnaker up quickly, and so on.
        It might only need the most minute difference to affect a result.

        I don’t know anything about archery but once again surely strength would be an asset.

        1. I think you are correct about archery.

          I’m not sure whether there are any special rules for the Olympics, but in standard archery the individual chooses a bow with a particular draw weight.
          In the UK they are (for instance) 28lb, 35lb, 42 lb etc (i.e. they tend to be so many stones (and a half)).

          For shooting at a distance (say 80m which I believe is the Olympic standard), the higher the draw weight the greater the accuracy, potentially, and men in general would have an advantage with greater shoulder muscle mass.

          Having said that, I have met a couple of women who can draw a greater weight than I can, but I’m not an elite archer.

        1. Yes, mixed teams, in the Low Countries the sport ‘korfbal’ (a precursor of basket ball) is traditionally played by teams consisting of three females and three males. And we have the mixed doubles in tennis.
          Of course that does nothing to help ‘individualistic’ sports. Nor should it allow a trans-female (biological male) to register as a female member of such a team.

          I would say that regardless of gender or hormone tampering, the presence of a Y chromosome should condemn the poor athlete to be excluded from female events. ‘Inclusiveness’ be damned.

          In rugby, the ‘big bruisers’ and the ‘tall fast ones’ (remember Jonah Lomu? He was both) are generally accepted to be the best, although players like Cheslin Kolbe (who nailed SA’s victory over England in the 2019 word cup final) appear to contradict that. Note that he’s not a scrum half (no 9) who are often smaller. I’m a great fan of Kolbe: small, but very fast and extremely agile, slippery, as his opponents would say, and smart. (But he’s certainly not transgender). No I can’t resist:
          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jBcTEXvWMng

      1. Also, body fat. Explains why women are faster swimmers than men before puberty and can win long-distance swimming competitions as adults.

  6. But trans activists will never accept a fair assessment of data.
    About a year ago a certain such advocate posted an interesting graph that showed the range of athletic performance between men and women (I think it was based on speed), and it showed two broad bell curves with lots of overlap between the mens and the womens. ‘See?’ He said, ‘the claim that men do better than women is false!’ And he is a biology professor.
    What he would not see is the simple point that the subject was about athletes, and especially about elite sorts of athletes (college level on up). There, of course, one is comparing the highest performing men with the highest performing women. No overlap there, of course! Although elite women athletes did quite well in comparison to couch potato men.

    1. Yes, totally agree. Jere Longman and other sports reporters at the NYT are often guilty of this sleight-of-hand, and ignore the stark differences between elite male and elite female athletes. Their published articles about biological males competing as women against females (including Caster Semenya, who is physiologically male but not trans) are often thoroughly ridiculed for this by the NYT commentariat.

      1. Yes, Caster Semenya is different. (S)he is a male pseudo-hermaphrodite, a male whose testosterone receptors are not responsive to testosterone, at least not at everywhere and at the pertinent times during development. In male pseudo-hermephrodites the external genitalia are female (vulva and vagina), but the internal ones are not, no womb, no fallopian tubes, no ovaries, but undescended testes..
        If we refrain from looking inside her/his underwear, (s)he looks like a male, broad shouldes, narrow hips, no breasts, she sounds like a male (the first time I heard her/him on radio I assumed it was her trainer speaking), and (s)he’s married to a female.
        Now I do not think (s)he is a cheat, (s)he grew up as a female, not knowing any better. Very different from these Connecticut trans-runners.
        And yet, if you toggle the letters of her/his name you get “Yes, a secret man”. ( 🙂 ).
        I think that the personal disappointment and distress of those rare pseudo-hermaphrodites (let alone ‘trans persons’, and even more ‘non-transitioned’ ‘trans persons’) should not outweigh the disappointment and distress of the much larger group of biologically female athletes. A kind of unitarian approach?

              1. Still no edit button for me. Is it schmeil or schmazel? Oh well, same as it ever was. Why should WEIT be any different

      1. I think I know who the idiot biologist is also. He once showed two very overlapping bell curves and said it proved that homo sapiens and Neanderthals were two different species.

        Women bell curve. MtF transgenders bell curve. Women and MtF transgenders together do not bell curve. Two different demographics. If nature sorts them into different categories so can sports organizations.

          1. I think it means that the distribution of women and MtF performance taken together is not a bell curve. Intuition says the distribution should have two peaks.

            I don’t know if any of the above is true, but I think that is what he is saying.

  7. To me, this is fairly simple. Were there is strong doubt as to fairness, the rules must favor fairness and exclude those who are outside the gender-norm for the sport. I don’t feel this is a grave violation of rights. It is simply accepting facts. Ideally, you’d want a system where transgender could form their own league, although due to the low numbers, that might be impossible.

    1. You are putting your finger on the issue. It’s not about fairness at all. It’s about politics. The radical woke agenda is that there is no difference between men and women. No difference. So you are whatever you call yourself. Which is why they hate J. K. Rowling and anyone who objects to any trans woman participating in women’s sport.

      1. I fully agree, stronger, I even think there are quite a few MtF trannies that are just trying to play us.
        This is just an impression, and I might be wrong, but I get this feeling that many (no, not all) trans-persons are ‘trans’ because it is fashionable , not to mention darker motives (eg. like in prisons: access to more women to rape).
        I think these radically woke -and obviously fake- trans-persons, insisting they should compete in female competitions do the actual trans-people a disservice.

        1. While there is likely a social fashion aspect to the trans movement I don’t know that there is any evidence for the “fake- trans-persons” you posit. Can you provide some?

  8. I am shocked, SHOCKED! that World Rugby claims there are such things as biological sexes. In our enlightened times, enlightened Progressives all understand that you are what you self-identify. For example, I self-identify as Tsar Иван Неизвестный of Russia, and expect the world, including sporting organizations, to treat me as such. This includes both correct pronouns (plural) and the appropriate form of address, which is Ваше Императорское Величество.

    1. And I self identify as a billionaire, and I demand that all retail establishments allow me to obtain their wares accordingly!

  9. At the risk of being non-PC, I am reminded of a recent podcast where the guest remarked that men always want to invade every space and dominate the conversation. And it’s no surprise here that (former) men who are now women want to dictate what the rules are over the voices of feminist leaders.

    This tendency of political fads to upstage the previous ones means the end of women’s sport in the present case. Which would be a huge loss for everyone (except transwomen).

  10. Unless I’m mistaken (what!?), PCC suggested this remedy quite a while ago: have two sports categories.
    1. biological women
    2. Other
    And speaking as a racing sailor who has lost to women skippers many times, if a woman skipper WANTS to compete in the Other category, go for it!

    1. You may have lost to women skippers but have you lost consistently to an all female crew.
      I would be happy to be shown to be wrong but my understanding of a lot of sailing is that it can be very physically demanding.

  11. The World Athletic Championships in Doha, 29 September 2019. The 4×400 mixed relay final (2 men and 2 women per team) sees Poland, with a female runner, start the last leg with at least a five-second lead. Around 50 seconds later, FOUR men have cruised past her to leave Poland finishing 5th

  12. I’d like to offer my perspective. In my late teenage years and my early twenties, I was an elite athlete, representing my country internationally many times. To reach that competitive standard takes a level of commitment that is hard to explain to people who haven’t been there. The drive required is enormous; for 5-6 years every decision I made prioritised my mental and physical fitness for sport and competition. Nothing would get in the way – I never partied or drank alcohol and I controlled what I ate in forensic detail. I would gladly rise at whatever time I was supposed to, even in the middle of winter, and do whatever horrible exercise or drill I was instructed to. If there wasn’t an official training session, I would do my own, knowing that my competitors would be at home and cosy in bed. It’s difficult to convey the feeling, but I HAD to win – the need was overwhelming. My commitment was absolute, because experience taught me that commitment worked – it differentiated me from others. Many were more gifted than I was, but I was able to overturn their advantage through effort and determination.
    In this situation, you know you only have a few years to be at your best, and you’re acutely aware of it. You also realise that the natural talent which makes some people excel in high school, isn’t enough when they move to the next level. In nearly all circumstances the differentiators are commitment and self-belief, but there are exceptions. No matter what your mental approach is, you’ll never compensate for the superlative talent of a Messi, Ronaldo, a Mike Tyson, Muhammad Ali, or a Usain Bolt. But they are the extreme outliers.
    This is all a prelude to my main point. Allowing male born athletes to compete with females is analogous to making every average male club sprinter compete against many thousands who are as good or better than Usain Bolt. As a club athlete, you will never come close – you’re wasting your time.
    As a teenage female athlete, how would you feel if you had committed your life to your sport (and to be at the top you HAVE to), just to see those years of sacrifice, single-minded effort and hope amount to nothing because you have to compete against men? I find it hard to find the words to express how I would have felt, but crestfallen, devastated and utterly disillusioned would be a good start.
    For females who compete at the top of their sport, introducing biological males is not just unfair, it’s cruel and unethical in the extreme. It erases their years of dedication, their total commitment in working towards a goal that is within their reach. As soon as male born athletes are introduced to their event, they know they can NEVER compete. The years of effort and dedication, their sporting goals, disappear in a flash.
    This subject really grinds my gears, I know how severely the introduction of male-born competitors will affect many female athletes and I find it unconscionable.

    1. Just wanted to say I enjoyed your description of your commitment. As a hockey and tennis fan, listening to the even just “good” players at the highest levels reveals the insane amount of time and effort they put into their sports over their entire childhoods and teens. If a player wasn’t skating, he was practicing his stickhandling in the basement or his shot against a wall. Every moment of every day was committed to being better.

      A few make it to the middle of the pro ranks by having extremely exceptional ability and a lesser work ethic, but they never achieve greatness and they could have been far better. I often look at someone like Karsten Braasch, a man who was usually ranked in the low 200’s in tennis rankings during his career, but he was also someone who drank and smoked heavily and tended to take the day off to play golf, rather than work on his game. How much better would he have been if he had the dedication of the top 50?

      (To make the last couple of sentences relevant to this post: that guy still beat both Williams sisters in one day, having first played nine holes of golf and gulping down a couple of beers. And they were both exceptionally athletically gifted and dedicated their entire lives, from the age of three on, to playing tennis)

      1. “As a hockey and tennis fan, listening to the even just “good” players at the highest levels reveals the insane amount of time and effort they put into their sports over their entire childhoods and teens.”

        Makes you wonder if it is worth it. Even if a player makes it as a well-paid pro, it is a short career relative to their lifespan. And then what do you do? All that time spent with the racket in hand, a ball at one’s feet, in the pool or what have you…what did the child miss out on? What other skills could they have been developing at that time that would have the potential to serve them well throughout their entire lives, and not just their youth?

        Professional sports seem like a bizarre and extreme distortion of what should be enjoyable activities that promote health and social connections.

      2. Thanks, I’m glad you found it interesting. I should add that those were by far the happiest days of my life. The sacrifices didn’t bother me, even though I was at university at the time and my friends were always at parties. I felt a purpose in life that these days eludes me.

        Tennis is great for examples of how committment can make more ordinary talents world beaters. Dyokovic and Andy Murray have unremarkable talent for their level of success, but they also have an almost superhuman drive to be the best. That drive has taken them both to multiple grand slams, while superior talents have fallen by the wayside.

        BTW – I should have included Federer in my list of super talents above. At his peak he was peerless and beautiful to watch. He’s also driven to succeed and an abosolute gentleman in defeat. A true role model, and a sporting hero of mine.

        But as you say there are many who have squandered their talent. Paul Gascoigne had talent approaching Messi’s, he could have been of that stature in the game, but in the end he was ‘merely’ a great player for England. Same goes for Wayne Rooney – England’s top scorer, but could have been a Messi.

        Rooney and Ronaldo were peers at Man U, both were amazing but Ronaldo had total committment to football, became one of the best EVER footballers and at 35 is playing at a spectacular standard, recently moving from Real Madrid to Juventus. He also still has the physique of a Greek God. Rooney had the talent, but lacked the drive and never really improved after the age of 18. He is player-managing for 2nd tier Derby County and no longer even looks like an athlete. So, even for the very best, committment is almost always the differentiator.

    2. I don’t really understand the dilemma. There are many biological females who play Women’s Rugby; there are a tiny number of trans women who play Women’s Rugby. If it’s a choice between inclusion and safety (as it appears to be) we *have* to choose safety. Which also happens to be the option favouring the overwhelming majority of Women’s Rugby players, namely biological females. I just don’t see the ethical dilemma.

      I’m 6’4” and 250lb. I want to be a ballerina. Should I be allowed to, for the sake of inclusion and fairness? (Spoiler alert: No. I’d break the boards)

    3. As a teenage female athlete, how would you feel if you had committed your life to your sport

      That’s easy to answer. There wouldn’t be any teenage female athletes, or at least none prepared to take it up as anything more than a hobby.

      This is where trans women being allowed into women’s sport ends up, with no biological women bothering to take part.

    4. “I’d like to offer my perspective. In my late teenage years and my early twenties, I was an elite athlete, representing my country internationally many times. To reach that competitive standard takes a level of commitment that is hard to explain to people who haven’t been there.”

      This perspective needs more visibility, great comment!

    5. “For females who compete at the top of their sport, introducing biological males is not just unfair, it’s cruel and unethical in the extreme. It erases their years of dedication, their total commitment in working towards a goal that is within their reach. As soon as male born athletes are introduced to their event, they know they can NEVER compete. The years of effort and dedication, their sporting goals, disappear in a flash.”

      That’s why I like this forum. There’s always someone who says it so much better than I can.

  13. This is not fair for us girls! The men can hurt one of them! Check out my blog it has tips on how to improve your weak foot if your into soccer. Hopefully we find a way so females biologically wont get hurt

  14. My solution is two categories: Women’s (open only to biological women and maybe, at some point, when it can be determined, sufficiently transitioned trans women) and: Open. Open is open to all comers.

    1. That would result in more women overall participating than men, particularly in team sports that inherently place limits on the number of competitors participating in the contest at any one time.

      For example, take two basketball teams, men and women, each with a roster size of 12. Under a strict male/female division system, we have 12 men and 12 women involved. Even-Steven.

      Suppose however that two of the women are good enough to play on the men’s team. If they were to be ranked out the 24 athletes, these women would be 4th and 9th best, respectively. That means that under an “Open” division system, one of these women will now take a starting position away from a male player, and the other will take significant playing time away from the current male “bench” players.

      As the effective roster size is 12, that means really that 2 male players will have to make way for the 2 female players. These inferior male players will not be allowed to play “down” (in the women’s division), even though they probably could contribute and even start for that team. Put differently, the spots on the women’s team that were vacated by the elite women who moved to the open division can only be filled by women.

      So in this example, out of the 24 athletes, we would now have 10 men and 14 women participating. Is that a fair system?

        1. Explain. It seems to me to be the opposite of fair. The males in this situation have neither equal opportunity (they only have one team to play on rather than two) nor is there equal outcome. As long is there is some overlap in male and female ability, this “Open and Women” divisional scheme is guaranteed to skew participation in favor of females.

          We would not proclaim such a system fair if it was set up to increase male participation at the expense of female participation, so why is the reverse fair?

          Are you advocating some kind of primitive retribution against males as a group (because for years women were shut out of sports altogether)…is that what you mean by “fair”?

      1. If you are talking about low level club sports, then this could occur. And if so, I think that’s OK. For almost all of human history, women simply didn’t get to do sports at any organized level. If a few guys get bumped, well, good for the women who bumped them and either had greater talent or worked harder.

        A friend’s wife would enter mountain biking (club level) races and beat all the men, typically, except for the top 4-8 men. And she could never penetrate further. These were up AND down races.

        I think it’s pretty obvious, with very few exceptions, that at elite levels, men will always clean up. Even high school boys will clean up on women Olympians (top world athletes, with the best training, etc. in the world) in athletics: http://boysvswomen.com/#/

        And to answer your question directly: Yes I think it’s fair. There are no quotas in these things. I think an example of basketball and more women making the team than men is quite unrealistic. And if a few women could make it, good for them!

        For instance, the US Women’s Soccer team (about as elite as one could choose) has been beaten by high school boys teams. Soccer is a pretty analogy for basketball.

  15. I think the way to look at is to imagine the situations for your hypothetical daughter.
    1. You have a daughter who has dedicated her life for years to be good in a sport but misses out on some goal (state champion, college scholarship, club) because several transgirls are physically better.
    2. You have a transdaughter (with no medical therapy) who cannot compete in women’s sports but can compete with her biological peers.
    3. You have a transdaughter (with medical therapy) who can no longer compete competitively in sports because she has a biological advantage over other woman but a disadvantage against men.

    All may strike you problems but which are the worst?

    Number 2 is barely an injustice because it allows fair competition for everyone. IMO, number 3 seem less bad than 1 because it was a decision your daughter made and it affects fewer people. But perhaps I am biased because I have seen my daughter compete against a transwoman. She did not look particularly athletic but was stronger than almost every other women.

Leave a Reply