Michael Shermer argues that transitioning to the female gender after puberty is equivalent in sports to “doping”

March 20, 2022 • 11:15 am

Is his latest Substack column, skeptic and science writer Michael Shermer takes up the hot-button issue of  transwomen competing in athletics against biological women—a topic engendered by the latest NCAA victory (there could be two more) of transwoman Lia Thomas. Thomas turned in respectable but not outstanding performances as a biological man competing on men’s teams, but since transitioning to the female gender (after puberty) and joining the Penn women’s swimming team, Thomas has racked up victory after victory.

I’ve discussed this at length, emphasizing the unfairness to biological women of competing against biological men who changed gender after puberty. We now know that the changes in physiology, musculature, and strength of transwomen, even after several years of hormone-restriction therapy, don’t make them equivalent to biological women. They remain superior.

Lia Thomas may be only the first big example, and people say “why beef?—this is just a one-off”, but that’s hard to believe given the number of men transitioning to women (far more than the other way around). This problem will recur, with transwomen having an undeniable athletic advantage over cis-women, and it’s best to address the issue now. Shermer does in the article below, and pulls no punches, as you can see by his title.

Shermer was, by the way, a competitive “ultra-biker” for many years, and knows something about athletics and doping. As the relevant bit of his Wikipedia bio reports:

Shermer has written on the subject of pervasive doping in competitive cycling and a game theoretic view of the dynamics driving the problem in several sports. He covered r-EPO doping and described it as widespread and well known within the sport, which was later shown to be instrumental in the doping scandal surrounding Lance Armstrong in 2010

Click the screenshot below to read; it’s free (but subscribe if you read often). The title alone is guaranteed to bring down the wrath of the internet on Shermer, but the analogy isn’t that far fetched:

First, a photo below, which is captioned:

ATLANTA, GEORGIA – MARCH 17: Transgender woman Lia Thomas (L) of the University of Pennsylvania stands on the podium after winning the 500-yard freestyle as other medalists (L-R) Emma Weyant, Erica Sullivan and Brooke Forde pose for a photo at the NCAA Division I Women’s Swimming & Diving Championship on March 17, 2022 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images)

This is one picture that says a thousand words. Why should I write more?

What do you suppose those three runners-up are saying with this pose? Clearly that Thomas’s victory was fundamentally unfair: all biological women are relegated to positions well below Thomas’s #1 slot. Note that they are not on the Penn team, and thus have no reason to support Thomas as a teammate.

Some quotes from Shermer’s piece.

According to Swimming World Magazine, since she transitioned from male to female, and subsequently transitioned from the men’s division to the women’s division in swim meets, Thomas has been “crushing the school records” and “is even rising in the all-time rankings: her 200 free performance makes her the 17th-fastest performer in history, and she is less than three seconds off Missy Franklin’s American record. In the 500 free, she ranks 21st all time.” She’s #1 now among current collegiate swimmers.

This isn’t fair and it has to stop. Athletes who are busted for doping are punished, banned, and in some cases disgraced for life. Trans dopers deserve the same treatment. Not because they’re trans but because they’re dopers.

This is not a trans rights issue. Trans rights are human rights and as such trans people should also be protected from discrimination, and for the most part already are. But blocking a biological male from entering a biological female division in a sports competition isn’t discrimination. It is enforcing Title IX legal protections of discrimination against women, and if not enforced it becomes an assault on the hard-won rights of women in the name of progressive woke ideology masquerading as social justice, equity, and inclusion, which in practice is actually injustice, inequity, and exclusionary. As I concluded my prior analysis of this issue:

Given the centuries-long history of women fighting to be treated equally and to enjoy the same rights and privileges as men, including and especially the hard-won Title IX laws that protect women’s sports, it seems clear to me that we should and must continue to support the rights of biological women unless and until scientific research and athletic performance evaluations make it crystal clear that the two bell curves perfectly overlap, and/or until there are enough transgender athletes to comprise their own athletic divisions.

No, it isn’t really a trans “rights” issue, for whence comes the “right” to compete against biological women over which, as a man who’s gone through puberty, you already have a demonstrated athletic advantage? Saying “trans women are women” does not settle this issue, because they are not equivalent to biological women in this area. And we have no idea how to “level the playing field.”

This is one of those issues where “progressives” are forced to embrace a position that is palpable nonsense, because they must adhere to the “trans women are women” mantra in every sense. If they don’t, they they violate the dictates of trans activism. In this kind of ideology, there is no room for heterodoxy.

But how do you balance the empathy we have for someone who feels they were born as the wrong sex against the unfairness that that such a person can perpetrate on many other people (at least three in the picture above)? The only sensible solution is to either create a third category or have an “open” category in which all trans athletes compete against biological men.

As I’ve said before, this clash of “progressive values” (respect for trans people versus women’s equality à la Title IX) resemble a similar clash: respect for women’s moral and legal equality versus “respect” for the misogyny of Muslim societies, which regularly treat women as second-class or even third-class citizens (much less denigrating LBGTQ people). Women are declared minorities, but so are Muslims, who are seen as “people of color.” And as MacPherson’s Dictum says, “whenever women’s rights clash with other dicta from the Progressive Left, the women will lose.”

And so Shermer concludes that transwomen under no circumstances should a post-pubescent transfemale compete against biological women:

There is a certain game theoretic logic behind the use of Performance Enhancing Drugs (PEDs) in sports (for a full explanation see my Scientific American analysis on “The Doping Dilemma”). What I am arguing here is that being a post-pubescent male—even with the NCAA required one-year of hormone treatment—in a female sports division is a form of doping. Puberty is a Performance Enhancing Drug. The difference here is that when a post-pubescent MTF trans enters the women’s division in a sport, none of the other competitors has that same advantage of puberty as a PED. And short of allowing women to start doping in order to compete with biological men, the playing field is not—and never will be—level.

I understand that the costs of speaking out against this blatant unfairness are high in a culture itching to cancel anyone who isn’t properly woke, and that’s it’s easy for me—a former professional athlete who knows exactly how it must feel to confront such injustice at an un-level playing field—to propose a unified front among athletes, coaches, and especially sports’ governing body administrators to boycott any competition that allows trans doping, but this is precisely what must be done to put an end to this charade. Just refuse to compete and, if it comes to it, watch Lia Thomas swim in the pool alone and collect her unearned trophy at the end and stand alone on the podium as the only competitor in a rigged game.

In the end, he’s right, for the fundamental unfairness is overwhelming. Of course we should treat trans people of any gender with respect, use,the pronouns they prefer, and avoid discriminate against them morally or legally. But there are a few caveats, and sports is one of them. It’s time for us to stop being cowed by fear of being deemed a “transphobe”, and stand up for the three women on the right in the picture above—and all the women athletes they represent.

It is not transphobic to call for this kind of fairness. Although Shermer (and I) will get opprobrium for this, that comes with the territory. The unfairness won’t stop until people stop being cowards about the word “transphobe” and stop praising Lia Thomas’s victories as a sign of her courage. While her transition was courageous, her victories are the sign not of courage but of male puberty.

(Shermer has an earlier column on the same issue, concentrating on the ethical issues.)


h/t: Steve

97 thoughts on “Michael Shermer argues that transitioning to the female gender after puberty is equivalent in sports to “doping”

      1. We might be jumping to a conclusion that Thomas announced his sex change simply to win medals, but it is an entirely possible and reasonable conclusion. I’m frankly sick of the whole shebang. This is a fad that did not exist a few years ago, and the very tiny percentage of people who suffer from real gender dysphoria must be grossly embarrassed by it all. I am getting to the point where I am changing my approach to it: if I believe you to have actual persistent gender dysphoria, demonstrated from an early age and persisting into adolescence, and all you want to do is transition and quietly get on with your new life, I will be as polite as I can be about pronouns and names. We shall pretend you never were anyone other than your new identity. You shall be treated by me as warmly as my gay friends are. Anyone else, and in particular those who wish to impose unagreed speech and beliefs on the rest of us normies gets referred to by their actual sex and name. I am not playing your games any more.

  1. It only remains for the Farrelly brothers to use the Lia Thomas episode as the basis for a movie. An earlier film of theirs was described as follows by Roger Ebert: ” “The Ringer” is a comedy about a man who poses as mentally disabled in order to fraudulently enter the Special Olympics. Yes, it’s connected to the Farrelly brothers, specialists in bad taste…”

  2. The current NCAA rules would seem to allow a natal female with athletic skills to use performance-enhancing hormones pre and post pubescently as long as she abstained from these treatments for the required period of time before competing. I wonder if the transactivists would be ok with this scenario?

  3. Well there’s no point in me pointing out you’re a transphobe, since you clearly already know. Instead I’ll ask whether you’ve seriously reflected on why you are suddenly deeply invested in women’s swimming. Trans women have been competing for a decade, so that’s not it, just fyi.

    1. Here was have one of those mushbrains who automatically sees those debating a question of potentially great portent to women athletes as “transphobes.” Sorry, “tranderson,” but I completely reject your epithet. I wrote about this issue for the same reason I wrote about many issues of knee-jerk wokeism, because it is not only unfair and unthinking, but it jeopardizes the left.

      As for trans women competing in college sports and perhaps the Olympics for a decade–and I mean biological males that transitioned to the gender of women, I don’t know of any. Perhaps you’d give us a list.

      If I’m a transphobe, you’re a thoughtless jerk.

  4. Sigh. I keep coming to the rather uncharitable thought: a**holes are why we can’t have nice things. Why does Lia compete? Why not just swim for fun? Does she need scholarship money or something? Her persistence will do the trans community more harm than good, I think.

    1. “Her persistence will do the trans community more harm than good, I think.” Indeed – and in the meantime a deserving female student will potentially lose out on that scholarship money.

    2. Nail hit directly on the head. Trans people are in a unique position, and some trans female athletes seem unable to accept the idea that they might reasonably be asked to make a personal sacrifice to accommodate the need for fairness to others. In the world of the trans activist, accommodation and fairness are one-way streets.

      1. Yes, Thomas’ wish to achieve her dreams apparently trumps the desires to do the same of all those left in her (almost literal) wake.

        1. I cannot fathom why Thomas does not feel excruciatingly embarrassed and ashamed every day for pushing this con. At some level, I can’t help but feel that Thomas must have some pang of conscience. But perhaps I’m wrong. Where is the pride in doing what Thomas is doing?

          1. As other commenters have noted, Thomas is probably surrounded by a huge number of supporters encouraging her every move. When she was interviewed after her race, she seemed to place herself outside any controversy. She must be aware of it, of course, but she can easily dismiss it as just the ranting of transphobes. Her fellow athletes either follow the Woke agenda and are supportive or smart enough to keep quiet in order to avoid being labeled transphobic.

  5. I have a lot of sympathy and good will for trans people like Lia Thomas. I don’t agree with Shermer that this is cheating. Maybe a different word is needed: cheating is intentional and requires awareness of the deceit, whereas Thomas from all reports is sincere in her belief that she is doing the right thing by competing as a woman. She may be doing the wrong thing without being a cheat.

    Other women’s sports organizations do recognize that testosterone is a PED and regulate its use wrt trans athletes. The National Women’s Soccer League embraces gender diversity and welcomes trans athletes, but trans men (e.g., Quinn) may only compete if they are not taking testosterone supplements as part of transition.

    OTOH the NWSL welcomes trans women who have benefitted from natural testosterone for many years during puberty, and only require them to suppress testosterone levels (using the outdated 10 nmol/L standard) to be eligible.


    This seems to conform to MacPherson’s Dictum: female athletes who want to compete as men can’t medically transition using testosterone; but male athletes who want to compete as women are encouraged to medically transition and also get to keep the beneficial effects of pubertal testosterone on size and strength.

    1. If not consciously cheating, it still is a remarkable lack of empathy, re the problems it will foreseeably cause for the bigger picture of Title IX. Lets’ see how upper division soccer looks for biological women in 10 years if this thing becomes more common.
      That isn’t quite MacPherson’s Dictum, but it is still a relevant point. I don’t know why trans men can’t dope with testosterone, except maybe its because they could dope to an extent that goes beyond what is normal for men.

      1. If I am not consciously cheating but sincerely believe that I am Tsar of the Russian Empire, and insist on being treated accordingly, does the sincerity of my delusion: (1) make it so; (2) make it
        sort-of alright or worthy of sympathy; (3) cancel out the unfairness to others, such as all my putative subjects who must defer to me as Ваше Императорское Величество?

      2. I think the rules are that XXs who identify as men can still compete as women provided they aren’t taking testosterone. This recognizes that they are still biological women. The rule applies I know to NCAA swimming, where at a recent meet a woman who was undergoing transition to male phenotype—at the podium she proudly pulled down the top of her maillot to show her breast amputation scars to much ooh-ing and ahh-ing—but hadn’t yet started to take testosterone swam with the women. I think @Michael Hart is saying the same thing about women’s soccer: you can be XX-trans and can still compete as a woman provided you aren’t doping with testosterone, same as for any woman athlete.

        We were being compelled through threat of violence to pretend that XYs identifying as women weren’t really biological men anymore, merely because they suppressed their testosterone for a year or two. When that ruse fell through it has been used against fairness to argue that even with unsuppressed testosterone XYs are now not biological men just because they say they aren’t. The removal of the testosterone rule has actually made things worse.

        I don’t think any XX would ever want to compete as a man in a strength sport under any circumstances even if she was allowed to take testosterone. (She wouldn’t be, because she would fail the doping test. If there is pharmaceutical testosterone in your blood, you are doping, never mind what gender you say you are.) That wouldn’t make sense as she would be at a permanent disadvantage not having had male puberty. A beard and a bigger clitoris do not make you a male soccer player. Certainly a woman who was able to hold her own with men would be making an incredible achievement. The question is why would she want to settle for holding her own when she could medal as a woman? But if an XX was skilled enough to contribute to a men’s soccer team, more power to her. And she wouldn’t have to amputate her breasts to do it.

    2. Michael,

      “… whereas Thomas from all reports is sincere in her belief that she is doing the right thing by competing as a woman …”

      Wonder what definition for “woman” Thomas has in mind that justifies him thinking he qualifies as one. Has no one pointed out that by the standard definition – “adult human female” – he just doesn’t qualify?

      Sad commentary on the state of education, or intellectual honesty in general, if he hasn’t been so informed.

      Hard not to see the phenomenon as a case of outright delusion, whether he’s “sincere” in that or not.

  6. This sounds like a good way to approach the issue. Most sports require athletes to compete with what genetics gave them at conception. They can improve their performance only by working out, good diet, good training, and lots of practice. Drugs, as well as genetic and surgical enhancements, should not be allowed. None of these restrictions have anything to do with civil rights. They are simply to ensure a level playing field.

  7. “Maybe a different word is needed…” It seems to me that semantic turd-polishing is at the root of this problem. The endless word juggling accomplishes nothing but a further obscuring of the reality that mental states and sexual biology are distinct categories. Sport is about sex, not gender, and the principle of “sympathy and good will” isn’t much evident in the world of the trans women athletes. God forbid these narcissistic a**holes (to borrow Yazikus’ word) just acknowledge that there are some aspects of their existence that aren’t all about them.

    1. I guess this is a response to me @5? Sure you could be right about all that, including my semantic turd polishing. I thought of it as generosity but ok. For me it’s too easy to assume bad faith on the part of people like Thomas so I have to work hard not to do that. IDK what she is thinking. She is certainly doing the wrong thing by competing as a woman, but I don’t see what’s gained by ascribing bad motives to her until there’s evidence of bad faith, or by labelling her a narcissistic asshole (no need for the euph**ism).

      1. I would suggest that there is ample evidence of bad faith. He only has to compare his success rate when competing against males to his success rate when competing against women to realise that his male body gives him a huge and unfair advantage. If he doesn’t realise that then he’s delusional.

        I was about to add something like “sorry for being blunt”, but, no, I’m not sorry for being blunt. His competing against women is blatantly unfair to them and blatantly wrong, and we need to say so clearly and bluntly. And if that hurts his feelings then aww diddums.

        1. Maybe, but we have to take into account the very strong support for the Gender Identity narrative (which Lia probably believes), and thus the strong support Lia is getting from others.

          Part of that narrative says that being trans is just like being gay or being black. When people try to exclude you from the gender/sex activity you know you belong in, it’s like homophobia & racism. It’s motivated by ignorance and hate.

          Lia probably imagines Lia is in the same position as Jackie Robinson: naturally talented, but unfairly scorned. Being trans is hard; Lia is making it harder for Lia. Lia thinks it’s courage.

          And Lia is constantly being told Lia is very brave woman.

          1. “Part of that narrative says that being trans is just like being gay or being black.”

            One big difference is that a trans woman is not born female but makes a conscious decision to transition at some point. We do not believe that being gay or black is a conscious choice.

            1. I agree, but they’ve already worked around that by claiming that transwomen are born women, have transcended the gender binary, and don’t require hormones or surgery to be a woman. They’re also saying they’re born female. It keeps creeping.

      2. I’m less charitable than you vis a vis bad motives. The sport thing is transparently in need of a carve out in the interest of fairness. I refuse to believe that a community so steeped in demands for accommodation could be too narcissistic to accept that they themselves might have to make a sacrifice or two.

  8. About a week ago, alas I didn’t save the link, I saw an analysis of a swim race with Lia Thomas. The analysis gave timings for all competitors in the race at 15 meter (maybe 10) markings, etc.

    What the analysis showed was Thomas held back in contrast to other swimmers. In other words, swam hard enough to win, but not so much as for her time to be outlandishly ahead of other competitors. In a race yesterday, Thomas came in 8th place.

    So, is it possible that Thomas is purposely manipulating performance so that, one the one hand, there is triumph frequently enough, but also throwing underperfomance/losses so that those who believe that Thomas deserves to compete against biological women can say, “Well, she does not always win….See?”


    1. As M. Hart might argue, it is possible that this is a sign of empathy from her, and is not a crass attempt to create a false narrative. I know that if I was competing against significantly weaker rivals, I’d hold back a bit too.

      1. So the whole thing is fixed, then. Like professional wrestling before they admitted what everybody knew.

        1. While I wont pretend to know how to read minds, if Lia is holding back due to empathy… Well, she has enough empathy to realize how unfair it is to the women competing against her, but not enough empathy to do the right thing and stay out of a category obviously not designed to protect her. IMHO, that would be worse than many of the alternatives.

  9. How did the Woke go from telling white males to check their privileges to supporting the most prominent white male definitely not checking her privilege?

  10. Good article for the most part, but I would advise treading with caution when using opposite sex pronouns for transpeople. I agree that sometimes it’s okay to do it for the purposes of civility and courtesy, but as soon as we call a man ‘she’, or condone a man calling himself ‘she’, we are currently giving immediate permission for that man to enter any women’s spaces and sports.

    1. Agree. That’s why I won’t do it, not in connection with any issue where fairness to and safety of women hangs in the balance.

      The only reason to is tactical. Mr. Shermer might wish to appeal to the part of the spectrum that feels they ought to believe that trans is a thing but is still deeply troubled by Lia Thomas. By indulging him the feminine pronouns Shermer could be trying to avoid being written off as a bigot by people who might be persuadable. They might read his piece sympathetically and get to thinking.

      To move to issues that matter (to me) more than intercollegiate athletics, the Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter lost their municipal funding a few years ago because they would not agree to the City’s demand that they allow access by “trans-women”, i.e., men. Victims of domestic violence are often marginalized in a variety of ways, recently traumatized by men. We can’t expect them to be up to speed on the latest woke fad that tough-looking people with big hairy fists who look just like the men who beat them up are really women just like them. If the VRRWS had been desperate for city money, they might have written a brief expressing their sincere support for trans rights as human rights and using all the correct pronouns in hoping to persuade the City to see rape shelters as a special case deserving an exemption. (Maybe they initially did, for all I know.). But in the end they told the City to get lost, stuff your pronouns, and have been able to thrive with donations from people like me.

      I confess I couldn’t care less about women’s (or men’s) athletics. But a lot of people do. I’m hoping that if we can win this highly public battle involving a cast of attractive well-off dare I say white people, we’ll be a step closer to keeping violent men out of women’s shelters and prisons and other places that the NCAA doesn’t trouble itself about.

  11. Right, so how about enforcing the “holding back” by ensuring that Thomas always swims under handicap? Horse racing, so I’ve read, lives with weight handicaps. They can manage it, so why not the swimming associations and the XY “females”?

  12. I’m going to push back a bit here – I agree with Benjamin Wittes (cofounder of Lawfare and parent of a trans child) that the problem of trans women competing in women’s sports is a small problem with no easy solutions. This stands in distinction to that of bathroom access, which is a big problem with an obvious solution (access according to gender identity). And second, while genetic sex is in fact a binary (presence or absence of a Y chromosome in mammals), physical attributes are not. Yes, Lia Thomas is 6′ 1″ and 155 lb, but Missy Franklin, a championship swimmer who is a biological woman, is 6′ 2″ and 165 lb/. And of course Brittany Griner, a star women’s basketball player (and currently languishing in a Russian jail) is 6′ 9″. Sally Jenkins, the superb sports columnist for the Washington Post, addressed these issues a couple of days ago (https://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/2022/03/17/lia-thomas-ncaa-swimming-championships/ ). And of course, since we all love data, Ms. Jenkins points out that “Transgender people have been allowed to compete in the Olympics since 2004 and have yet to medal, much less blot out women.” In other words, 20 years of experience at the elite level puts the size of the problem – small – in perspective.

    1. How long something has been allowed doesn’t really mean anything without also knowing the frequency.

    2. This isn’t pushback at all. Arguing one way or another based on Lia Thomas’s height and weight seems like a non-starter to me. It has nothing to do with the issue. Similarly for the fact that no transgender person has won an Olympic medal. It is also not a problem as significant, say, as the war in Ukraine. It is a huge problem for a non-trans woman who will have to compete against trans women in future athletic events.

    3. But the point here – some (biological) women are bigger/heavier than most trans women – could also be used to argue that we might as well have no sex distinction in sports at all (since some women are bigger/heavier than some men). This argument for allowing trans-women to compete in female sport could be used to argue for allowing men to compete in female sport. Is that what you mean?

      1. Relevant fact: Matching for height and weight wouldn’t solve the problem. If you look at weight lifting records, you can line up several of the weight classes, and show that men’s record lifts are substantially higher than the record lifts of women who weigh the same.

  13. The return of Fascist aggression to Europe, in Russian form, puts the heart-rending travails of the transgendered, in regard to pronouns and sports competition categories, in proper perspective.

  14. Has a control experiment for this been done?

    For instance have XY males competed in the same thing – concurrently – at the same time in the same exact particular game as XX females? Like a basketball game of men v. women in some proportion on the same court.

    1. You mean like in soccer?

      Where the FC Dallas under-15 boys squad beat the U.S. Women’s National Team 5–2.

      And the Australian National Women’s team lost 7–0 to the Newcastle Jets 15-yr-olds boys team.

      And the Brazilian National Women’s team lost 6–0 to the 15-yr-olds boys team of the Gremio club.

      And where results like this are fairly typical (the top women’s soccer teams often play boys’ teams, because there’s a lack of other good women’s teams to play).

      1. Ah – I did not know that.

        I assume by “under-15” that applies to both teams in one game… so they’re the same age – but then I wonder about discrepancies in maturation..

        1. No, we’re talking about the national women’s teams (adult women) of the top-ranked nations (US, Australia, Brazil) playing against 14- and 15-yr-old boys teams from local clubs.

          As a general rule, 14- to 15-yr-old boys are better at most sports than adult women. E.g. https://boysvswomen.com/#/

          [There are a few exceptions, such as ultra-long-distance endurance running.]

        2. ThyroidPlanet,

          It’s interesting to me that you question whether the best female soccer players lose to talented teenage boys. Have you played the sport at a high level, and do you have an athletic background? Do you watch the sport…do you for example see no distinction between the level of play and athleticism on display in the men’s world cup versus the women’s world cup?

          The US women and other top national sides, the best female soccer players in the world mind you, have for years played boys teams for just the reason that Coel gave…namely, these boys represent a real challenge to the women that they rarely get from playing other women’s teams.


          “…The women’s national team sometimes practices against under-sixteen boys’ teams—and loses. “They just boot it over our heads and run past us,” Kate Sobrero, the national-team and Boston Breaker defender, told me….”

          It seems that 14-15 year old boys is the sweet spot…any older and it would be too much of an advantage to the boys. When Pia Sundhage was in charge of the US women, she had them play the U-17 boys national team, and the lads put 8 goals past them.

          This is also why I don’t expect to see women competing with men in sports like football (all kinds), basketball, rugby etc. in my lifetime. These ultra-elite women footballers are usually technically superior to the amateur boys teams that they play in these scrimmages, and yet they still lose because of the gap in pace and raw athleticism.

          Could you imagine what it would be like for these women to go up against adult men who play football (soccer) for a living? I doubt they would get the ball out of their own end.

          1. “It’s interesting to me that you question whether the best female soccer players lose to talented teenage boys. ”

            The original comment _I_ wrote asked :

            “Has a control experiment for this been done?”

            I never asked … whatever it is you are claiming I asked… Must’ve been someone else.

            1. Joe and Coel both gave you examples of controlled experiments. Top-ranked women’s soccer teams by definition beat lesser women’s teams but struggle to match 14-15-year-old boys and cannot match 17-year-old male youths.
              Thus there is even a dose-response curve.

              1. I do not understand the scrutiny all of a sudden

                Someone said I “questioned” something – as if I was _disputing_ something.

                I was not disputing anything. Maybe someone was – I am not paying exquisite attention.

                I was satisfied with whatever Coel said. And someone else – I bet PCC(E) posted it before, so now I know. It was simple information-acquisition on my part.

    2. Kind of. At the 2016 Olympics, the top three finishers in the women’s 800-meter track and field event were all biological males: Caster Semenya (gold), Francine Niyonsaba (silver) and Margaret Nyairera Wambui (bronze). All three have tested XY and possess internal testicles that produce male levels of testosterone. The IAAF (International Association of Athletics Federations) rules on female testosterone levels came into play three years later.

  15. There are no nuances here, it is science and common sense. I don’t care what body dimension you”re packaged in, biological females do not need more barriers to equality OFF or ON on the sports field. Sure humanity has come some way but along with other forms of inequality this is not the time to drop the ball.
    It is ironic that female (and male) sport administrators should grow some balls and slap this down and sort it.
    Trans female athletes should be given avenues to compete just not with biological females, as I have already suggested (previous post) that the above trans athlete has dropped her moral compass and for what?… glory. A hollow one if you ask me, she should recognize the long history of the suffragette and female rights movement and fight FOR her chosen gender not against it. Without even competing she would be a winner.

  16. In the main picture of Shermen’s article, there are four athletes on the podium stage – including the 4th place finisher. Is that typical in swimming, or where they trying to send a message?

    1. This picture was cropped. It was a much bigger podium with levels for the top 8 finishers. So it was easy for 2nd-4th to gather together to celebrate, and yes I think they were sending a message.

  17. Hmmm.
    Maybe we should abandon our historic preconceptions. The paradigm we have been supporting is unsupportable.
    New assumption: trans women ARE women. In every sense of the word. Full stop.
    Thus they WILL, on occasion, dominate a women’s (in the old sense) sport.
    This deconstructs the male/female dichotomy, and perhaps DOES require that the colonial/misogynist/inherited/’naturalistic’ separation of the sexes is put to bed (insert dad joke here).
    There is only one class of humans – and the fact that men will dominate in many areas (let’s confine ourselves to sport here) is merely an objective truth. The sooner women realise they ARE inferior physically (on average), the better for them – they can concentrate on more feminine pursuits (such as neuroscience, astronaut, mathematician, astrobiologist, lawyer, and needlepoint).
    On reflection, satire is a dubious pursuit online. And I refuse to append with /s (oops, dammit!).

    I’m torn – I know trans and non-binary people, and I have 100% respect them, their decisions, their self-identification. Of course, I have questions regarding the ideology that underpins it all (which I cannot speak of, as ‘transphobe’ and ‘cis white male’ lurk to quash me).
    I feel an outrage at the plight of the women swimming against Lia. I come down in exactly Mr (for clarity!) Coyne’s position.
    But my one pause is that if the people I know were to suddenly compete as Lia has, I KNOW they are genuine, and ARE women, and really want to live a full and meaningful life. They ALL suffer from anxiety now (because of the opprobrium directed their way), and the choice to compete is not easy. How could I not support these people I actually know?
    Objectively, I do not support Lia.
    Subjectively, I would support the people in my life.
    I know they would swim with no malice, no sense of just winning, no want of the limelight…merely to self-fulfil.
    Thus my dilemma.

  18. Jerry,

    “… since transitioning to the female gender …”

    I wonder what you mean by “female gender”, and how you might differentiate that from the myriad of other ones on tap – Facebook had listed 56 of them at one point, but as they’re little more than personalities, one might argue, with Sagan, that there are billions and billions of them.

    Generally, “female” as a gender is, and/or should be, seriously deprecated if not anathematized; there’s really no coherent definition of “female” as a gender, but only as a sex. Google’s/OED’s definition as a sex is really the only one that makes any sense, Merriam-Webster’s as a gender being a dog’s breakfast of circularity:

    “Google/OED: of or denoting the sex that can bear offspring or produce eggs, distinguished biologically by the production of gametes (ova) which can be fertilized by male gametes.”

    “MW: having a gender identity that is the opposite of male” – and their definition for “male” says “having a gender identity that is the opposite of female”; what a bunch of anti-scientific claptrap, what a bunch of cretins, poltically motivated ones at that.

    You may wish to check out the late Justice Scalia’s take on the issue, one of the more coherent, cogent, and illuminating analogies on the issue that I’ve run across, even finds its way into the Wikipedia article on “gender” (see the note on page 157):

    “gender is to sex as feminine is to female, as masculine is to male”


    By which token, Lia Thomas has only “transitioned” into the feminine gender – whoopty-do; hardly qualifies him to compete against actual females, more or less.

    Don’t think it helps in the slightest to be muddying the differences between sex and gender – which is exactly what that “female gender” boils down into. Shermer is likewise guilty with his blathering on about a “male-to-female trans swimmer” and “MTF”, even if he seems to recognize that Thomas is still a male. Although I still wonder whether he knows of and understands the differences, what uniquely defines and differentiates males and females – of all sexually-reproducing species.

  19. I think it is important to remember that. at the most basic level, we are talking about someone with serious mental illness. So issues of motives and “lack of empathy” should be seen through that lens.
    From the perspective of a parent of a trans kid, the trans folks deserve compassion.
    If my kid believed he was Napoleon, as a random example, and someone gave him an army, with cavalry, infantry, and artillery, and facilitated their transport to lay siege to Moscow, my anger when it turned out badly would be directed at the facilitators.
    That would be doubly true if there was a network of teachers and therapists working to convince confused kids that all of their issues stem from the fact that they are not really confused adolescents, but great military leaders and strategists from the past.

    But as to the subject at hand, no rational person believes that Lia is a woman (For one thing, others on the team report that Lia has a large schwanzstucker.) But Lia is not rational. However, there are people facilitating, even instigating this whole situation who don’t have that excuse. And others who pretend to believe out of fear or political motivation.
    Someday, I hope to sit in court and listen as my kid’s affirmation therapist and physician explain under oath what their motivations were in regards to my child’s treatment.
    My personal impulse would be to do that interrogation myself, with the assistance of a hammer, and possibly a blow torch. But that would be uncivilized.

  20. Wow.
    In most other dicussions there is balance and insight and critical thinking and empathy.
    I think Maori myths should be studied, but not in science.
    I think freedom of speech is imperative, and freedom of thought more so (and cancel culture is a real thing).
    I think Lia competing is a disservice to other female swimmers.

    But the level of hate, fallacious thinking, prejudice (insert other pejoratives) in this thread concerns me. I mean, it’s always the same people, so maybe it’s not surprising.
    But certainly not worthy of this website, and the seriousness and sophistication I have come to expect.

    And the self-UNawareness of actually writing those things – and thinking it is okay, sound, persuasive, interesting, moves the converstaion forward…

    God – trans are all mentally ill, and I identify as an attack helicopter…wow, just wow…I can only assume we are being inundated by trolly 14 year olds. No critically thinking mature adlt would write this, or use this as an argument.

  21. “Of course we should … use,the pronouns they prefer…”

    Why? Unless it’s some made-up nonsense like ‘ze,’ I suppose that I’d normally go along just to avoid conflict. But this really seems to verge on compelled speech. We’re required to adopt a particular ideology and bend our natural language usage IOT to accommodate it. Seems like a form of bullying.

    1. So:
      Trans-women consider themselves women. Please use ‘she/her’ they ask. But no, we say, you are not REALLY women, and so we will not use that pronoun – you’re a guy. You’re a minority, looking to be who you are, and it is a bit of a culture shock, but no, I just can’t call you a ‘she’ because I feel bullied and change is hard. And I know better than you. You’re a guy. Hey, why are you crying, you’re the one bullying me…

      Non-binary people do not feel as if male/female fits. Please call us ‘they’, they ask. But no, we say, ‘they’ is plural. I will not be forced to call you anything but what I want. ‘What will you call me then”? ‘Well, you LOOK like a girl, so you are a ‘she”. Can you at least call me a ‘he’ – no, we say, I’ll call you whatever I think you look like to me. So ‘she’ it is. Hey, why are you crying, you were oppressing me with your need for a single word change. My whole world is a lie if I call you ‘they’.

      So, we’re not women if we are trans-women. Not ‘they’ if non-binary…can you call us ‘ze’ then – so you don’t have to use a plural, and it will make it clear we are different?
      No, we say, I will not use ‘ze’ – stop your attempt at world domination. The 0.5% of you worldwide are a threat to peace, free speech, free thought, and my existence. Stop your hate – you are a ‘she’ whether you like it or not.
      Why are you crying…

      1. “…we say, you are not REALLY women, and so we will not use that pronoun – you’re a guy.”

        And I would also say that language doesn’t function that way.

        “…I just can’t call you a ‘she’ because I feel bullied…”

        Poor mind-reading. I’m inclined not to call you a ‘she’ simply because you aren’t. That’s all.
        IOW, your status as a biological male is why I’m inclined to call you a ‘he,’ and bullying is simply not a sufficient reason to do otherwise.

        “…and change is hard.”

        Again, poor mind-reading.

        “And I know better than you.”

        No, it’s more a matter of how language works. For all of human history, up until now I guess, language usage was something consensually agreed upon. It was never the case that someone could create their own private reality and then demand that everyone else go along with it. Pronouns in particular are part of a closed set, and you can’t just shuffle their assignments with every encounter, as if they were mathematical variables.

        I’m fully sympathetic with someone who’s unhappy with what they were born as. Aren’t we all to at least some degree? Be who you want, but don’t expect the whole rest of the world to care or take note.

        “…why are you crying, you’re the one bullying me…”

        Indeed, you alone are the one who’s indulged in the insults, implying that I’m narrow minded and unsympathetic.

        And the rest is basically repetition, yes?

        1. “Language consensually agreed upon” – so it’s changing now. It’s not like there’s a vote and it changes. It is changing now. Just not to your liking.

          How do you know they are a biological male? Did you check? Or they ‘look’ like one. See how that works? (You just ‘know’).

          “Be who you want, but don’t expect the whole rest of the world to care or take note.” I was born with no arms and legs, and I’m so glad no one cares.
          Or better – I was born as ‘Jamie B’ – and I’ll post about how I’m being bullied by non-binaries – but why should the world care (hint: we don’t).

          And finally: your words betray you. I posited a scenario. You feel butt hurt. More bullying? Victim much?

          Perhaps we could disuss this as skeptical mature adults? More nuance, less strawmen of trans/non-binary?

          Don’t worry – rhetorical only.
          Da roolz will intervene and save you the effort…

        2. jamie,

          “No, it’s more a matter of how language works. …. Pronouns in particular are part of a closed set, and you can’t just shuffle their assignments with every encounter, as if they were mathematical variables.”

          Exactly – more or less. One can similarly “shuffle” definitions around, but, as with equations in algebra and logic, if you wind up with a contradiction then, Houston, we have a problem.

          Illuminating case in point being provided by a recent article, in the March 13 Sunday Times article (archived) by Caroline Wheeler, about UK Labour leader Keir Starmer “boldly” asserting that:

          “A woman is a female adult, and in addition to that trans women are women …”

          So, a woman is a female adult, and a transwoman – who’s in fact a male adult – is supposedly also a woman, a female adult. Which means that male adults are also female adults, that males are also females. A contradiction in terms, an oxymoron. As the Wikipedia article on the principle of explosion puts it, “ex contradictione [sequitur] quodlibet”; from contradiction anything follows.

          But that’s the rank insanity that is precipitated by the ridiculous concept of “self-identification”.

          1. Yeah, above Deni Pasani said: “trans women ARE women.” I was tempted to ask what that even meant.

            1. I think it means that, once a person has decided that they’re a woman, everyone else is supposed to regard them as a woman in all respects. They object to anyone even pointing out that they were born male. It’s an example of a common thread among the Woke. They rank social issues and relationships as more important than facts.

              1. Paul,

                “I think it means that, once a person has decided that they’re a woman …”

                I really don’t think that people can just arbitrarily “decide” that they are, for example, a teenager. That’s part and parcel of the idiotic concept of “self-identification”.

                There are objective criteria to qualify people for any given category – being 13 to 19 in the case of “teenager” – or that category is entirely subjective and thereby mostly useless.

                The standard definition for “woman”, the only coherent one, is “adult human female” and according to Helen Joyce – author of the recently published “Trans: When Ideology Meets Reality”, and writing in a Quillette (She Who Must Not Be Named) – “female” is such a category with those objective criteria for category membership:

                “The problem is that ‘female’ is not something you can identify as. It’s a word with an objective definition [like ‘teenager’] that holds right across all of biology, and hardly any of the things it refers to are capable of identifying as anything. It *means* ‘of or denoting the sex class that produces large gametes (ova)’ ….”

                No ova, neither a female nor, thereby, a woman.

              2. Paul,

                True. But glad we agree on “idiotic” 🙂.

                Though I think it kind of helps to understand exactly WHY it is that. Don’t think it’s sufficient just to say the word by itself and then ride off into the sunset – “who was that masked man?” 😉

                Think it’s far more important for everyone to be aware of the *reasons* behind that judgement – which I think Helen Joyce underlined, as befitting a PhD in mathematics, in no uncertain terms. Quite a good essay of hers, BTW, over at Quillette.

              3. Yeah, but what does ‘woman’ then mean? It no longer seems to be moored to anything.

              4. jamie,

                “Yeah, but what does ‘woman’ then mean?”

                That category is solidly anchored and “moored”, joined at the hip, to the definition for “female”; the standard definition for “woman” is “adult human female”. It’s endorsed by many dictionaries, particularly the Oxford English Dictionary, which Google uses when you search for word definitions, and Merriam-Webster. And, as you seem familiar with Wikipedia, that definition is also front-and-center on their article on “woman”; it’s their lead sentence in fact.

                It’s also the definition that “Posie Parker” – AKA Kellie-Jay Keen – emblazoned across the UK on various billboards and billboards in letters 10 feet high. The modern day equivalent of mene, mene, tekel, upharsin – the writing on the wall in more ways than one; interesting Biblical (Torah?) story behind the phrase.

                But you might look for her YouTube channel on which she has been gamely championing that definition for some time – a going concern, deserving of Time’s Person of the Year, if not decade. She recently posted a video about being at a Lia Thomas’ competition where she called out “cheat”; a Daily Mail article on it if I’m not mistaken.

            2. jamie,

              Rather large number of transactivists seem to think that repeating their “trans women are women” mantra often enough – like repeating “2+2=5” – will somehow, eventually, make it true or acceptable.

              But I noticed that Jerry, quite commendably, used the compound word as in “transwoman Lia Thomas” – bravo; the more if not only rational and coherent construction.

              You might be interested in looking at the “usage note” for “trans woman” [adjective noun pair] in Wikitionary:

              ” ‘Trans woman’ is often spelled with a space, with trans as an adjective modifying the noun woman, similar to Asian woman, tall woman, fat woman, etc. The unspaced spelling transwoman is sometimes used interchangeably, including by a few transgender people. However, it is often associated with views (notably gender-critical feminism) that hold transgender women are not women, and thus require a separate word from woman to describe them. For this reason many transgender people find transwoman offensive.”

              A rather fraudulent and ideologically biased accusation to suggest that it’s just those “gender-critical feminists” who are the sticks-in-the-mud.

              However, the problem with the “adjective modifying the noun” is that “tall woman” doesn’t lead to a contradiction – an “adult human female” can be tall or short or any height in between – whereas “trans woman” clearly does. But not quite sure how “transgender people” manage to think that being offended should cut any ice at all; Stephen Fry would certainly disabuse them of that notion.

      2. I just want to know why a man cries when I won’t call him “she”.. Explain that to me and we’re half-way to agreement. Maybe.
        If he uses his male fists to beat me up or calls the police to accuse me of a hate crime, that I can understand. It’s politics carried on with different means. But crying?? What’s that going to win him?

          1. Deni,

            “They just want to ‘be’. …”

            Who’s stopping them?

            Nobody is trying to “erase” them, just denying that transwomen – compound word like “crayfish” which ain’t – qualify as “adult human females”. You seriously think that Lia Thomas is an actual female?

            1. I see the confusion.
              I am with Jerry on biological males identifying as the (socially-constructed) female gender.
              Merely asking ‘is Lia an actual female’ removes all the precepts and goes to a false dichotomy (pun intended).
              I do think there is an issue with Lia swimming. My beef was with the vapid one-dimensional non-arguments put forth.

              To be clear: as with Jerry, there is a serious dialogue to be had here about the intersection of biological ‘truths’ and social constructions (which must NOT be confused or conflated with ‘non-truths’ – for social constructions guide as ALL and are vital and are real).

              To engage in this dialogue, is not to denigrate the individual as if they are the embodiment of an ideology, NOT to ‘mindread’ their motives (I looking at YOU Jamie B), not to invalidate a gender identification (because one thinks it weird, or one does not understand it’s significance) – but to tackle the nuance of the situation as a data point for the broader implications.

              It may very well be that Lia herself is grappling with these very issues. Maybe she can’t see how to live a fulfilled life, which involves her love of swimming at a high level, without being the villain. Yeah, she could ‘just not swim’ – a selfless act that benefits everyone except her. It is no easy thing to be the butt of hate. It would be too easy to ascribe self-promotion and fame to her motives…let’s be empathetic and steel-man her position and motives…and see where that takes us.

              It may be we are all wrong and it IS valid for her to swim in women’s races. Let us explore this also.

              But the immediate attack that labels her and other trans people as mentally ill, delusional, self-aggrandising, engaged in compelled speech, bullying etc – does not serve the dialogue. It does not move us forward.
              It merely exposes the writer.
              And on this site (I would NEVER engage on Twitter etc) I expect more – you guys are my peeps! On other issues there is such depth of thought – I write down comments sometimes because they are so profound.
              But this topic seems to be populated with narrow-mindedness and fear. (To be fair – my favourite commenters have NOT weighed in – and so I hold out hope that only the feeble engage in ‘attack helicopter’ type arguments).

              BTW – not directed at you – just moved to express my frustration.

          2. Deni (relative to and drawn from your comments later in this section): “I am with Jerry on biological males identifying as the (socially-constructed) female gender.”

            As I pointed out in my earlier comment (#21):

            “Generally, ‘female’ as a gender is, and/or should be, seriously deprecated if not anathematized; there’s really no coherent definition of ‘female’ as a gender, but only as a sex.”

            Deni: “… vapid one-dimensional non-arguments put forth”

            Can’t say that that judgement is entirely applicable in this thread, but it seems to have some merit applied to the “blogosphere” in general. Most commentators don’t seem to have a clue what they’re talking about or about the definitions, terminology, science, or philosophy in play; a case of the blind leading the blind, everyone riding madly off in all directions, largely because they’re working from contradictory or self-serving concepts and definitions. It would be funny – like watching a dog chasing its tail – if it weren’t so enervating, counter-productive, and quite depressing.

            Deni: “It may be we are all wrong and it IS valid for her to swim in women’s races. Let us explore this also.”

            Don’t think so – on either account. The only thing necessary to “explore”, or the first thing to explore, is the question of whether “woman” is a sex, or is, more accurately, based on being a member of a sex – i.e., “adult human female” – or a gender – i.e., any one “colour” in a broad and well-populated spectrum based on a myriad of personalities, behaviours, cultural attributes, and stereotypes manifested by actual “adult human females (sex)” or that are typical of them. Sexes have more or less easily defined, detected, and quantified “hard edges” delineated and defined by functional gonads of two, and only two, types; genders are so vague as to be almost entirely useless – why Facebook has 56 of them, why other sources have even more, and why one might reasonably say “billions and billions” of them. The whole concept of “gender” is almost a joke, a sad commentary on the profoundly anti-scientific and anti-intellectual sentiments that are typical of much of both feminism and the so-called “social sciences”.

            But a big part of the problem is that so many are unclear on the precise differences between “sex” and “gender”, and wind up conflating what are quite distinct categories, often for rather self-serving if not egregiously political and ideological objectives. And that isn’t helped at all that so many ostensibly or supposedly credible dictionaries like Merriam-Webster endorse, in effect, the argument that “man” and “woman” are genders – see their usage note on gender – while at the SAME time promoting, for example, the definition of “woman” as “adult human female (a sex)”.

            “woman” and “man” simply cannot be both a sex and a gender, at least simultanenously, as “sex” and “gender” are two quite distinct and incommensurable categories – even if there’s often a great deal of correlation between elements of both. But the conflation of those two categories, intentionally or otherwise, has created the bottomless pit that so many have fallen into, including Keir Starmer who seems to have taken most of the Labour party with him.

  22. Two things. First, I have frequently seen the argument: “C’mon, why such a fuss about just one transgender athlete?” But consider the SEVERAL women disadvantaged by Lia Thomas’s participation. Women displaced from relay teams because of slower times. The woman with the 17th fastest time in the qualifying rounds, who therefore did not qualify for the finals. The woman who would have been declared national champion but for Lia’s participation. The women who do not qualify for the US Olympic team because Lia has swum faster. The women’s whose national or world record times fall to a biological male. Second thing: as a lifelong swimmer who also coached age-group swimming for several years in my younger days, I cannot for the life of me understand why Lia obtains ANY satisfaction out of blowing away a field of biological female swimmers. Sex differences in swimming times start BEFORE puberty and accelerate massively after puberty, and there is nothing to be proud about in her claiming victory over women whose bodies haven’t developed under the influence of testosterone. It is especially galling that there is evidence she has held back in some races so that she didn’t win by too big a margin. A core value in swimming is to compete with one’s personal best as well as against the competition. It is just weird that she is holding back.

    1. > I cannot for the life of me understand why Lia obtains ANY satisfaction out of blowing away a field of biological female swimmers.

      My fuess is fame. She has a movement cheering her on and proclaiming her “brave,” (whatever the heck that’s supposed to mean). As for detractors, she can just tune them out and believe her own PR.

    2. “It is especially galling that there is evidence she has held back in some races so that she didn’t win by too big a margin. A core value in swimming is to compete with one’s personal best as well as against the competition. It is just weird that she is holding back.”

      If memory serves me, the NBA will fine any player (perceived) not trying to do his best (for that nice chunk of change he is being paid). Fan/Customer Satisfaction, etc.

  23. Pardon my naïveté, but does Lia still have his testicles? Forget doping. Do what they do before they confirm a new pope in Rome: put him on an elevated chair without a seat and grope under his robes to check things out. (They check for eunuchs, not females).Don’t just rely on their testimony (pardon the pun but i couldnt resist).

    1. Lorna,

      🙂 But see Max_Blancke’s earlier comment:

      “But as to the subject at hand, no rational person believes that Lia is a woman (For one thing, others on the team report that Lia has a large schwanzstucker.)”

      Though Helen Joyce’s oldish article – “Speaking up for female eunuchs”, January 2020, at Standpoint (though the site now seems defunct) – would suggest its broader applicability – more or less a synonym for “sexless” which can apply to both XXs and XYs, and variations thereof.

      But speaking of a sense of humour, and those who might be deficient therein, Twitter in particular, I see that the Babylon Bee’s account has recently been “locked for violating Twitter’s rules”. The egregious transgression in particular:

      “The Babylon Bee’s Man of the Year is Rachel Levine” … 😉

    2. So far as is known, Lia Thomas is a fully intact man, according to anonymous reports to the Daily Mail from annoyed female members of the Penn swim team with whom he shares the locker room.

  24. You wrote, “Lia Thomas may be only the first big example, and people say “why beef?—this is just a one-off…” – It is not a one-off. See here for an extensive list of how many males are competing in women’s sports, even taking awards: https://savewomenssports.com/males-in-female-sports-1

    And please see this twitter thread for extensive examples of how these males benefited in their ratings and winning awards, after transitioning: https://twitter.com/ripx4nutmeg/status/1400344909182345216

  25. I just saw an Adidas ad on ESPN making a virtue of “competing as a trans woman”.

    These two pieces make it clear to me the problem here. Never saw it before.

  26. I can’t find any statistics to support the claim that there are far more transwomen then transmen. Not saying you are wrong but the numbers seem fairly close based on my research.

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