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.

 

A groveling apology from a professor who simply called for more college football, which is apparently racist

September 30, 2020 • 10:15 am

What follows is one of the most ridiculous and embarrassing instantiations of wokeness I’ve seen anywhere, much less in colleges.

If you want to see the equivalent of a full, self-abasing confession in the religion of Wokeness, then read the second article below from Inside Higher Ed. When I initially read it, without reading the forerunner article, I thought it was a joke—so over the top and groveling was it.

But it wasn’t at all a joke. It was from a professor who had written a pretty innocuous article (with a grad student co-author) on the education website, an article that simply called for college football to resume (with proper pandemic precautions) as a way of bringing people together. Though I’m not a fan of college football, it didn’t ruffle my feathers a bit, as I know many people—especially Ohio State fans—are rabid addicts to college football.

It turns out, though that the first author, Matthew Mayhew, must have been inundated with emails and social-media posts, as well as a letter to Inside Higher Ed by another professor (below), all claiming that Mayhew’s position was blatantly racist. It was not.

But read the pieces in order, starting with his pro-football editorial (with Musbah Shaneen). Click on the screenshot below. Here’s the description of the authors:

Matthew J. Mayhew is the William Ray and Marie Adamson Flesher Professor of Higher Education at Ohio State University. He has published more than 75 peer-reviewed articles in journals and is a co-author of How College Affects Students: Volume 3. Musbah Shaheen is a Ph.D. student in higher education and student affairs at Ohio State and a research assistant in the College Impact Laboratory.

In their article, Mayhew and Shaheen simply argue that football is something that can bring diverse people together in a time of trouble. For example:

Although many concerns remain about the health and safety of players and spectators, we happen to agree: college football may be an essential element of our functioning democracy. Here’s why.

That’s way over the top, for democracy in America would do just fine without football, but Mayhew really means that football narrows the divisions between people:

Essentializing college football might help get us through these uncharacteristically difficult times of great isolation, division and uncertainty. Indeed, college football holds a special bipartisan place in the American heart.

At a time when colleges and universities have been placed under extreme scrutiny, many people are questioning the very value and purpose of higher education. College football reminds many Americans of the community values that underscore higher education and by extension America itself. One Wolverine does not have to know another one by name — but the sight of maize and blue accompanied by “Hail to the Victors” unites anonymities through these shared experiences.

. . .This election season has demonstrated how stifled, polarized and dangerous our political differences have become, and college football can remind us of respect — even in the wake of deep disagreement. We can root for different teams, scream at the players, argue with the refs and question the coaches, but win or lose, at the end of the day, we leave the stadium, watch party or tailgate with a sense of respect for the game and the athletes that train so hard, leaving it all out on the field every time. Indeed, if a player is injured, the entire stadium usually applauds, not just fans from one team.

Deep difference doesn’t have to lead to disrespect.

The authors add that athletes shouldn’t risk their lives to entertain fans, and that strict enforcement of pandemic guidelines are needed.

And that’s pretty much it. Nothing is said about black people or race save for this statement that isn’t racist at all:

In addition, football players become beloved community figures beyond the boundaries of the stadium or campus. Football gives players a platform to make statements about issues they care about. We have seen student athletes taking part in protests and making demands for racial equity. We have seen student athletes kneel to protest police brutality. Colleges and universities should take many more steps to empower athletes to engage with the community. Depriving them the opportunity to play doesn’t accomplish that goal.

In other words, canceling football deprives players of the chance to make statements against police brutality and for racial equity. In what sense is that racist?

Yes, the original article is a bit silly, and pretty anodyne, and should have passed in silence. But something happened, and Mayhew immediately tendered a long and groveling apology on the site, castigating himself repeatedly as a racist. Read his ludicrous, back-whipping apology and see if you can figure out how the first article got him canceled:

Some of the apology (it embarrasses me to even reproduce Mayhew’s statements, but this is only a small bit of his groveling:

I recently led a piece in Inside Higher Ed titled “Why America Needs College Football.” I am sorry for the hurt, sadness, frustration, fatigue, exhaustion and pain this article has caused anyone, but specifically Black students in the higher education community and beyond.

I am struggling to find the words to communicate the deep ache for the damage I have done. I don’t want to write anything that further deepens the pain experienced by my ignorance related to Black male athletes and the Black community at any time, but especially in light of the national racial unrest. I also don’t want to write anything that suggests that antiracist learning is quick or easy. This is the beginning of a very long process, one that started with learning about the empirical work related to Black college football athletes.

Rather than make excuses, I should talk about which facets of the article that I have recently learned are harmful — through my students, wider social media community and distinguished academics like Donna FordJoy Gaston Gayles and Gilman Whiting.

I learned that I could have titled the piece “Why America Needs Black Athletes.” I learned that Black men putting their bodies on the line for my enjoyment is inspired and maintained by my uninformed and disconnected whiteness and, as written in my previous article, positions student athletes as white property. I have learned that I placed the onus of responsibility for democratic healing on Black communities whose very lives are in danger every single day and that this notion of “democratic healing” is especially problematic since the Black community can’t benefit from ideals they can’t access. I have learned that words like “distraction” and “cheer” erase the present painful moments within the nation and especially the Black community.

Then the self-castigation begins, and oy, is it embarrassing!

Upon such beginnings of reflection, I have also learned that my love for Black athletes on the field doesn’t translate into love within the larger community — that I have been dismissive of Black lives in moments not athletically celebrated. I have learned that I have taken pleasure in events that ask Black athletes to put their bodies on the line and take physical risks. I have been entertained by Black men who often are conditioned by society and structural racism in ways that lure them into athletics where the odds of making it are slim to none.

I am just beginning to understand how I have harmed communities of color with my words. I am learning that my words — my uninformed, careless words — often express an ideology wrought in whiteness and privilege. I am learning that my commitment to diversity has been performative, ignoring the pain the Black community and other communities of color have endured in this country. I am learning that I am not as knowledgeable as I thought I was, not as antiracist as I thought I was, not as careful as I thought I was. For all of these, I sincerely apologize.

I know it’s not anyone’s job to forgive me, but I ask for it — another burden of a white person haunted by his ignorance. To consider the possible hurt I have played a role in, the scores of others whose pain I didn’t fully see, aches inside me — a feeling different and deeper than the tears and emotions I’ve experienced being caught in an ignorant racist moment.

It goes on way beyond this, with thanks to those who helped professor Mayhew understand his racism, and his “plan for antiracist change”. My response: nobody was harmed by your fricking words. If they said they were harmed, they were either lying or need help. 

Reading the original letter again, I still couldn’t understand this wailing, weeping apology, but then I found that Andrew McGregor, a Professor of History at Dallas College, had written a letter to Inside Higher Ed called “Mythic, misguided view of college football.” McGregor happens to be white, but that’s no bar to virtue-signaling, which McGregor does big time in his letter. Sure, Mayhew was over the top in claiming that college football is an essential part of American democracy, but McGregor whips him over and over again by asserting, falsely, that college football is instead “a symptom of the deep-seeded issues that have contributed to political polarization, racial unrest, the devaluation of education, and prolonged devastation of the COVID-19 pandemic.” (By the way, the term is “deep-seated,” not “deep-seeded”.)

But how did college football become so nefarious?  McGregor argues that the lucrative nature of football has debased the intellectual mission of colleges, and that some college coaches, like Dabo Swinney, make unfounded statements about science and history. Well, I won’t wade into that morass, and can’t be arsed to look it up anyway, because that argument is irrelevant and can’t explain Mayhew’s fulsome apology.

No, McGregor argues that football by its very nature is racist because it demands that black athletes put their lives on the line to entertain white folk:

Amateurism and the very structure of college athletics is caught up in the United States’ system of racial capitalism. The problems of COVID-19, police brutality, and the policies currently being enacted by our political leaders all have a disproportionally larger impact on racialized folks. So too does college football. As the recent decision by a grand jury in Louisville reminds us, the status quo does not value Black Lives above apartment walls. For the Power Five, and apparently the authors, Black Lives Matter insofar as they are on the field playing an inherently risky game. In this regard, they are right: resuming college football is in line with America’s “democratic” tradition.

. . . Black athletes are embraced on the gridiron and in the community as a way to assuage white guilt.

WTF? Assuage white guilt?

And that’s about it.  No matter that both blacks and whites play together on college teams, that a football scholarship is a way for disenfranchised minorities to get an education, and that it’s also one of the only routes to becoming a player in the National Football League: a way to get success and big money in sports. Sure, most college players don’t get that call from the NFL, and we can argue about whether college players should get paid for their efforts and how much “education” football players really get. But none of that is relevant to McGregor’s accusations of racism against Mayhew. McGregor is just spouting off to show that he’s a deacon in the Woke Religion.

Here’s a photo I got when I Googled “Ohio State football team 2019). The team won against the Washington Huskies in that year. The team looks pretty integrated to me, though clearly black players are represented in a proportion higher than among the general population (and surely than among students).

It’s not clear how much pushback Mayhew got from other people, but I’m sure he was inundated with emails and social-media criticism. McGregor’s letter alone doesn’t seem sufficient to elicit such a bout of groveling and tooth-gnashing.

Had I been Mayhew, I wouldn’t have responded to McGregor at all, as no response was needed. Instead, Mayhew has crumpled, spouting mea culpas as he goes down. Like so many, he was so stricken when called a racist that he immediately confessed to Father Kendi.

The rest of us should pity Mayhew. The whole affair is laughable, save that Mayhew has been devastated and, indeed, may have had his career derailed. We shall see. But so long as people like Mayhew grovel, truckle, and beg for forgiveness for an innocuous statement, then so long will the Woke continue their tactics of demonization. As John McWhorter said, it’s time to either ignore or mock these jokers (I’m referring to McGregor, not Mayhew).

Matthew Mayhew, now toast

h/t: Eli

 

Readers’ wildlife photos

September 17, 2020 • 7:30 am

Please send your good wildlife (or people) photos in, folks; I am getting a bit nervous. Yes, that’s my default state, but I do need photos.

We have three contributors today, the first being from Joshua Lincoln, who contributes a lovely fly:

I was looking for dragonflies and butterflies by the Otter Creek near Middlebury, Vermont, back in August and saw this tiny fly which I photographed and when I downloaded the photo it was a beautiful fruit fly Euaresta bella (I believe).

From Joe McClain:

This is a specimen of Arigope aurantia  [JAC: the “yellow garden spider”] that has taken up residence in our flower garden. My wife and I (mostly Helen, as she does most of the gardening) have been working around this striking lady. I’m pretty sure it’s a lady, because I’ve read that the females make this characteristic “zipper” web. The zipper is called a stabilimentum. The Wikipedia entry for this arachnid lists a number of common names, but not “zipper spider,” which is what I call them. I was amused to see that “Steeler spider” is among the names listed. I grew up a fan of the Steelers (which of course is pronounced “Stillers” in fluent Yinzer), but never heard this appellation, clearly based on the team colors. If you look closely in the near upper right, against the green roof of the Ladybug Loft, you can see that there is a meal there.

And from Grant Palmer of Oz. (All readers’ captions are indented.)

Two species for you:

First the Australian magpie (Gymnorhina tibicen). These photos are from my backyard, where I have a tiding of the subspecies  G. tibicen tibicen. There are nine subspecies. This subspecies is found along the east coast from South Queensland down to the NSW and Victorian border. Like most Australian native wildlife, it will try to harm you if it gets the chance. It is a wonderful songbird and can mimic a wide variety of birds and also dogs and horses (although I do not recall ever hearing it do that) and emergency vehicles. The best description of their call is by one of Australia’s best poets Thea Astley, “They roll the morning around in their throats.”

In a readership poll run by the Guardian in 2017 it won the title of Australian Bird of the Year just ahead of the Australian White Ibis (This bird is referred to as the Bin Chicken)

The second species is Homo sapiens enjoying the surf at a local beach in Newcastle NSW. The beach is the result of a pier that was constructed to make the entrance the the port of `Newcastle safer for shipping.

Two Italian girls who played quarantine tennis meet and play with their idol, Roger Federer

August 9, 2020 • 1:15 pm

When I posted this video on Twitter, showing two Italian girls who were huge fans of Roger Federer, and also played “quarantine tennis” between rooftops before they met him, I got pushback that it was a fake video: a commercial proposition for advertising Barilla pasta (Federer does promote the company). But I still think this is genuine: the girls have no idea that they’re going to meet Federer. I doubt that the company would have made the whole thing up as a bit of acting.  And even if it’s semi-commercial, it’s still heartwarming.

Here’s the YouTube description:

During the lockdown, Carola and Vittoria, two teenagers from Finale Ligure, in Italy, found a creative way to play a ‘socially distanced’ tennis match: each standing on her own roof. Roger Federer and Barilla saw their video and decided to surprise the girls right in their home in Finale Ligure. Here, Roger Federer, Carola and Vittoria played a spectacular and unusual match, and even ended up sharing a memorable day under the sunny Italian sky! Pasta and sport do indeed bring people together.

Here’s a “behind the scenes” video showing how the one above was made:

h/t: Jon

World Rugby considering banning trans women from women’s rugby

July 20, 2020 • 9:15 am

As I’ve said before, trans people should have every civil right that “cis” people have, and I think it’s only decent to honor their request about what pronouns they use.  But this does not mean that trans women should have every right that cis woman have, as there are circumstances when equal treatment is trumped by other considerations. That does not make one transphobic, despite the claims of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and others, who defend trans women’s rights to participate in, say, sports—the hardest case to make for trans rights.

The reason is, of course, that even with hormone treatment and surgery, the data so far suggest that in terms of muscle mass, bone density, and upper-body strength, a biological male who transitions to female gender still retains male-like traits, even after hormone treatment and especially if they transition after puberty. And in some cases neither surgery nor hormone therapy is required: all that’s needed to compete in women’s sports is the simple declaration that you’re a women.

In a disheartening move, the ACLU has joined on the side of the defense in a suit brought by three Connecticut girls who claim that the state’s policy of allowing transgender women to compete in women’s sports is illegal.  What makes this case easier than usual is that Connecticut has a state law saying that your gender is whatever you say it is, which means that surgically unaltered and hormonally untreated biological males can still declare that they’re women and then compete in women’s sports. Naturally, they’ve cleaned up in that state (and elsewhere), especially in track and field and weightlifting. Nevertheless, the ACLU claims that challenging the Connecticut law amounts to discrimination against transgender women.  They don’t mention that it also amounts to discrimination against cis women, who have to compete on a tilted playing field.

As I wrote in 2019 about hormone replacement therapy (HRT), which the Olympics allows as a way for biological males to compete in women’s sports, so long as they’ve had HRT for a year and testosterone levels are below a threshold level.

From the Guardian:

If you start HRT after you’ve already developed the musculature and bone structure of a biological male, and then transition to female, you don’t lose all that bone and muscle. It seems clear that this gives many transgender women a leg up in women’s sports.

This seems to be the case for the weightlifter Laurel Hubbard, who, competing for New Zealand, transitioned from male to female in her thirties, and then won two golds and a silver in three women’s heavyweight categories at the Pacific Games in Samoa in early July. (I believe she’s undergone HRT.) There were objections from other weightlifters and Samoans (they had their own local favorite), just as Connecticut non-transgender women who compete in track and field have begun to object to what seems a palpably unfair way to interpret “women” when it comes to high school athletics. (Three of those women have filed a federal anti-discrimination lawsuit against Connecticut, claiming that the state’s policy denies them the opportunity to get college scholarships that come from winning races.)

Now, according to this article in the Guardian, World Rugby, after commissioning a study, is considering banning trans women from women’s rugby. The reason: precisely because trans women are on average stronger than cis women, and risk injuring the latter in a rough-and-tumble sport like rugby. Read about the issue by clicking on the screenshot below. Uncharacteristically, the woke Guardian doesn’t take the side of trans women here, though it often injects opinion into news reports:

Here’s the gist of the argument:

The Guardian can reveal that in a 38-page draft document produced by its transgender working group, it is acknowledged that there is likely to be “at least a 20-30% greater risk” of injury when a female player is tackled by someone who has gone through male puberty. The document also says the latest science shows that trans women retain “significant” physical advantages over biological women even after they take medication to lower their testosterone.

As a result, World Rugby’s working group suggests that its current rules, which allow trans women to play women’s rugby if they lower their testosterone levels for at least 12 months in line with the International Olympic Committee’s guidelines, are “not fit for the purpose”. The draft proposals are likely to be seen by women’s groups as an important new approach towards the sensitive issue of trans inclusion, one based on biological sex and the latest science rather than how someone identifies.

While the draft proposals may not get such a positive welcome from trans rights groups, the draft document acknowledges that the working group will consider its position if the scientific evidence changes. It also recommends that trans men should be allowed to play against biological men, provided they have undergone a physical assessment and have signed a consent form.

The draft proposals, which have been sent for feedback to individual unions, are a result of a wide-ranging consultative process that began with a ground-breaking meeting in February with leading scientists, medical and legal experts as well as representatives of trans and women’s groups in an attempt to create a consensus around the latest research while also considering player welfare and inclusivity issues.

Crucially the draft proposals, which have been seen by the Guardian, accept that anyone who has gone through male puberty retains a significant physical advantage after their transition. It also recognises that the advantage is so great – and the potential consequences for the safety of participants in tackles, scrums and mauls concerning enough – it should mean that welfare concerns should be prioritised.

“Current policies regulating the inclusion of transgender women in sport are based on the premise that reducing testosterone to levels found in biological females is sufficient to remove many of the biologically-based performance advantages,” the draft report says. “However, peer-reviewed evidence suggests this is not the case.

“Ciswomen players (who do not undergo androgenisation during development) who are participating with and against transwomen (who do undergo androgenisation during development) are at a significantly increased risk of injury because of the contact nature of rugby.”

It adds: “While there is overlap in variables such as mass, strength, speed and the resultant kinetic and kinematic forces we have modelled to explore the risk factors, the situation where a typical player with male characteristics tackles a typical player with female characteristics creates a minimum of 20% to 30% greater risk for those female players. In the event of smaller female players being exposed to that risk, or of larger male players acting as opponents, the risk increases significantly, and may reach levels twice as large, at the extremes.”

. . .As World Rugby’s working group notes, players who are assigned male at birth and whose puberty and development is influenced by androgens/testosterone “are stronger by 25%-50%, are 30% more powerful, 40% heavier, and about 15% faster than players who are assigned female at birth (who do not experience an androgen-influenced development).”

Crucially those advantages are not reduced when a trans women takes testosterone-suppressing medication, as was previous thought – “with only small reductions in strength and no loss in bone mass or muscle volume or size after testosterone suppression”.

In contrast, trans men will be allowed to compete in men’s rugby, though they have to get a physical assessment, a “therapeutic-exemption-use certificate”, whatever that is, and sign a waiver saying they understand that they may be at greater risk of injury:

A draft version of the waiver for transgender men to sign, seen by the Guardian, says: “I acknowledge and accept the injury risks associated with transgender males playing contact rugby with males who are statistically likely to be stronger, faster and heavier than transgender males, as described in the World Rugby Transgender Guidelines which I have read and understand.”

Well, World Rugy’s ruling appears to be based on data, and if those data are correct I cannot see any good reason to allow transwomen—whether they’ve had surgery or hormone therapy or not—to compete in women’s rugby. The same goes for other sports in which bone density and muscle mass gives you an advantage over biological women. But if you feel otherwise, you need to understand the consequences of that decision, especially if you define “trans woman” as “anybody who feels they are a woman.” Even with HRT, you’re beginning a process that will lead to severe attrition of women’s sports as we know them.

And if having an opinion on this leads to your being called “transphobic,” well, that’s just the kneejerk reaction of those who don’t want to deal with an ethical issue whose best solution contravenes their ideology.

 

h/t: Jeremy

Fake wrestling deemed by Florida’s government to be an “essential service”. But why? Could it be. . . . Trump?

April 15, 2020 • 1:00 pm

Reader Ken called my attention to a Guardian article reporting that Florida’s governor Republican governor Ron DeSantis (a Republican, of course) had deemed “professional wrestling”—a “sport” that is fake and scripted—to be an “essential service”. It was banned under the original lockdown, but the good governor changed his mind. As the Guardian reports:

In an order signed on Thursday, the Florida Division of Emergency Management ruled that essential services now include “employees at a professional sports and media production with a national audience – including any athletes, entertainers, production team, executive team, media team and any others necessary to facilitate including services supporting such production – only if the location is closed to the general public”.

A spokesperson for DeSantis’s office told ESPN such services are “critical” to Florida’s economy. WWE started to run live shows, without an audience, on Monday.

WWE is “World Wrestling Entertainment“, a multimedia company. Frankly, I don’t understand the appeal of fake wrestling, but many people love it—apparently a lot of them in Florida.  Well, at least there’s no live audience. But the wrestlers still violate social distancing, of course. (I wonder if they’re tested for the virus).

At any rate, the BBC and The Nation confirm this report, and you can see The Nation‘s article by clicking on the screenshot below

Now why would this gaudy spectacle be deemed an “essential service”. No other sport is, and this isn’t even a sport. Why is “wrestling” considered essential for Florida’s economy while Disneyland, restaurants, and SeaWorld Orlando are not?  Could it be because the CEO, chairman, and majority stockholder of WWE is Vince McMahon, a pal of Donald Trump? As Wikipedia notes,

McMahon and his wife have donated to various Republican Party causes, including $1 million in 2014 to federal candidates and political action committees, such as Karl Rove’s American Crossroads and the research and tracking group America Rising.The McMahons have donated $5 million to Donald Trump’s charity, the Donald J. Trump Foundation.

His wife Linda also happens to be the former head of the Small Business Administration under Trump.

The Nation calls this a “scandal”, pulling out all the stops in its snarky report, which includes this:

Even more fitting for this scandal-ridden company is that the decision to go to live-event programing comes after news this weekend that an unnamed on-air personality has tested positive for Covid-19. The company was quick to assert that this employee infected nobody, never had contact with anyone, and that everything was completely fine—nothing to see here. But there’s no reason to take anything WWE says at face value. McMahon’s care for his workforce is legendarily abhorrent, with a staggering death toll among its stars over the decades due to drugs, suicide, and one in-ring disaster. If any other sport had WWE’s body count, there would be congressional panels decrying its existence.

In addition, McMahon is taking advantage of Florida’s lax laws concerning Covid-19, enacted by their blithering goon of a governor, Ron DeSantis. WWE will be filming its live shows in the corrupt sinkhole of Orlando, where McMahon has received an “essential business” label from the friendly Florida government. It would be difficult to imagine anywhere more dangerous outside of New York for WWE to set up shop. As Alex Nazaryan of Yahoo News tweeted, “Florida now has twice as many coronavirus cases (20,601) as South Korea (10,537). About 30 million more people live in South Korea than in Florida.”

It’s difficult to imagine a more rancid and more dangerous cross-pollination than that of Trump, DeSantis, and the WWE. Sure enough, the same day that McMahon announced that WWE would be doing live tapings in Florida, former Trump cabinet official Linda McMahon’s (former WWE executive and Vince’s spouse, of course) committed her Trump reelection PAC to spending $18.5 million in Florida in 2020.

Well, I doubt we’ll ever know all the connections here, but Florida’s virus-loving governor, who refused to close down the state for so long, is beholden to Trump, and I’m guessing this decision was made after a Trump acolyte gave DeSantis a quiet word. Whatever happened, this glaring exception to the lockdown needs a good explanation.

h/t: Ken

Iran’s only woman Olympic medalist defects to Europe

January 13, 2020 • 8:30 am

I weep for the people of Iran. They’re not nearly as religious as their theocratic rulers, they used to be much more “modern” and secular before the Revolution, and, after surviving a brutal war with Iraq, are now demonstrating both for and against the government, with supplies low, gas prices high, and an oppressive religious regime controlling their every move. If you’re a woman and take off your hijab, you’re bound for jail, often for many years, assuming you survive there.  Homosexuality is a capital crime. It’s awful.

It’s no surprise, then, that this happened. According to many sources, Kimia Alizadeh, the only woman Olympic medalist in Iranian history (she won a bronze in taekwondo, and is just 21) has defected to the West. And, as she announced, it’s because she was oppressed and controlled. Here’s the New York Times story:

An excerpt:

The only female athlete to win an Olympic medal for Iran announced this weekend that she had defected from the nation because of “hypocrisy, lies, injustice and flattery” and said she had been used as a “tool.”

The Olympian, Kimia Alizadeh, 21, announced her decision in an Instagram post accompanied by a photo from the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro, where she won a bronze medal in taekwondo.

“They took me wherever they wanted,” she wrote. “Whatever they said, I wore. Every sentence they ordered, I repeated.”

Here’s her Instagram post announcing her defection:

After a long hunt, I finally found a translation on The Daily Wire done by four Iranians.  It’s a pretty powerful statement:

How do I start? With a hello, a goodbye or to offer my condolences? Hello to the oppressed people of Iran, goodbye to the noble people of Iran, and my condolences to the perpetually mourning people of Iran. How well do you know me? Have you only seen me in sports matches, on television, or in the presence of government leaders?

Allow me to now freely and without censorship introduce myself.  They will say after this I will amount to nothing. I myself believe that even before this I was nothing. I am Kimia Alizadeh; I am not a historian nor a champion nor a flag-bearing representative of Iran. I am one of millions of oppressed Iranian women who has been a pawn of the regime for years.

They have taken me wherever they have wanted. They dictated the way I should dress and every sentence that they asked me to say, I repeated. At any time they wanted, they paraded me around. They even sacrificed my medals and victories for their oppressive dress code and hijab. I was not important to them. None of us were. We were just tools.

They only cared about our medals. They were only as valuable as the political leverage that they could offer. At the same time, they tell you “a woman should not stretch her legs.” Every morning I wake up my legs are unknowingly spinning like a fan and they expect not to be the flexible athlete that I am? In a live television interview they invited me to specifically ask me about this.

Now they I have left l, they say I sold out. “Mr. Saee, I have left so that I don’t become like all of you. And that I do not take even one further step in the direction that you have taken. If I had, I would have become much more successful much sooner.”

I turned my back because I am a human and I want to stay a human. In your male dominated and female oppressing minds you always thought ‘Kimia is a woman and will not speak.’ My tortured soul will no longer serve your filthy political endeavors nor your dirty economic dealings.

Other than Tae-kwon-do, the only thing i want is a happy and healthy life. To the kind and oppressed people of Iran: I did not want to climb to a pedestal whose steps are paved with lies and deceit and no one from Europe has invited me and no one has offered me anything, but I am willing to bear the difficulty of living in exile because I could no longer stay at a table where dishonesty, con-artistry and injustice were being served. Making this decision was more difficult than earning the Olympic gold medal, But please know that wherever I am I will forever remain a child of my native country. I will count on you and my only wish is to have the support of my people.

It’s not clear where Alizadeh is right now, but she seems to be in the Netherlands, as there is a photo of her and her fiancé in that country standing by a flower-laden memorial to those who died on the Ukrainian flight shot down by Iran (you can see a Twitter thread here). And in the photo (below), she’s not wearing a hijab:

Another excerpt:

Ms. Alizadeh’s announcement came four months after Saeid Mollaei, one of Iran’s biggest judo stars, defected to Germany. During last year’s judo World Championships, Iranian officials pressured Mr. Mollaei to either withdraw or intentionally lose his semifinal bout, to avoid being matched in the final against an Israeli rival.

Iranian athletes are forbidden to compete against Israelis.

“A lot of our athletes are forced to deal with these matters — and their suffering is growing by the day,” Mr. Mollaei told the German news outlet Deutsche Welle in September. “Many athletes have left their country and left their personal lives there behind to pursue their dreams.”

Ms. Alizadeh said that she had embarked on a “difficult path,” but that she “didn’t want to sit at the table of hypocrisy, lies, injustice and flattery.”

“This decision is even harder than winning the Olympic gold,” Ms. Alizadeh wrote, “but I remain the daughter of Iran wherever I am.”

Here’s a video of Alizadeh in action:

 

Andrew Sullivan on women’s sports and the testosterone issue

May 12, 2019 • 1:15 pm

I’m spending more time reading Andrew Sullivan’s Friday columns in New York Magazine than I used to, as he takes a refreshingly thoughtful and non-ideological approach to many topics. Once a conservative and frequent writer on things religious (he’s a gay Catholic), he seems to be getting more liberal and less religious. I’m hoping he’ll end up a centrist/liberal secular humanist, but maybe I’m dreaming.

Sullivan covers three issues a week, and this week’s topics are the dilemma of women athletes with high testosterone, big pharma and its expensive medicine, and extinction. The first topic occupies most of the article, and is something Sullivan has written about before, as have I (see some of the article here). Click on the screenshot to read this week’s column.

Let me first adduce two things that I believe. First, there is absolutely a connection between testosterone level and upper body strength when talking about the difference between men and women. This explains why we don’t have men and women competing together in sports. (Women’s sports are essential as a way to empower women and allow them to exercise a penchant for athletics.) Those who deny the influence of this hormone are being intellectually dishonest. Sullivan agrees with me here.

Second, “self identification” as a woman, if you’re a male, is not good enough to allow you to compete in women’s sports. In Connecticut, for instance, a biological male who self identifies as a woman, without any surgery, hormone treatment, or anything else save an assertion, can compete in women’s sports. The results are predictable—and a shambles. Two biological males who identify as women, without any surgery or hormone treatment, took first and second place in the state indoor track championships. Sixteen other states have the same regulation. That’s palpably unfair to women, and I have to say that the girls who were beaten in Connecticut were remarkably sportsmanlike (I guess I should say “sportswomanlike”).

Even with treatment it becomes a conundrum, as testosterone reduction therapy doesn’t completely reverse the strength acquired in biological males after puberty.

It’s even more dubious with intersexes like Caster Semenya, who is a biological male of sorts, having an XY chromosome and apparently internal testes that produce testosterone (she’s an “intersex” with levels of testosterone well outside the range of biological women). Ergo, she beats all the women. What do you do in a case like that? My provisional solution, offered a long time ago, was to have yet a third category of competition for athletes of intermediate sex, but that seems weird, too, as there would be few competitors.

Sullivan is also “torn,” as he says, but is on board with the new standards that designate “men” and “women” in sports using testosterone level, which shows no overlap between biological males and females. That’s not a perfect solution, but it’s better than allowing just “self identification” as a criterion.

That’s all I’ll say for now before I give a few quotes from Sullivan, which are thoughtful:

I’m torn, to be perfectly honest. There is no satisfactory conclusion here: Semenya has done nothing wrong, and neither have her competitors. The CAS acknowledged that it was forced either to discriminate against Semenya or against all the other women in her sport. So they worked out a compromise that doesn’t really please anyone, but that’s designed to keep competition as fair as possible. It seems a reasonable balance to me, but it has been widely excoriated, especially in the mainstream media.

A bevy of arguments against the compromise have been provided. The first is that testosterone is no big deal when it comes to athletic ability. Men and women both have testosterone after all, and some in each sex have naturally higher levels than others. So why force someone to take meds — with side effects — when they are merely above average in one particular characteristic among the many that ultimately affect athletic performance? This appears to be the driving point behind a recent New York Times op-ed, “The Myth of Testosterone.” The authors — both professors who adhere to social-justice ideology — make some decent points. They usefully complicate the impact of testosterone on performance in differing sports, note that its effects are far more varied and subtle than mere physical strength. They then argue that “the International Association of Athletics Federations’ own analysis of testosterone and performance, involving more than 1,100 women competing in track and field events, shows that for six of the 11 running events, women with lower testosterone actually did better than those with higher levels.” Then this: “In other words, for most sports, testosterone levels do not correlate with superior performance.”

To put it mildly, this is bonkers. Women have a range of 0.3–2.4 npl, and we know that Semenya must have more than 5 npl, or the regulations would not apply to her. Men, in contrast, have a range from 10–38 npl. There’s not even an overlap. The range among women is tiny compared with the difference between men and women. Of course testosterone correlates with superior performance! That’s the entire reason we have separate contests for the two sexes. And the entire reason we forbid doping. How the New York Times could publish this deeply misleading sentence (to be polite) is beyond me.

Well, we all know that the new New York Times is woke, edging slowly toward HuffPost ideology. This isn’t the first misleading stuff they’ve published on the topic, or on other topics.

Two more quotes. The first calls out the ACLU for intellectual dishonesty (check out their quote):

The deeper question for me is why anyone would try to insist that biology is largely irrelevant in, of all arenas, sports. I can see trying to minimize biological sex differences in many, many areas where the distinction is trivial — but something as obviously physically rooted as athletics? It’s almost perverse. An ACLU blog post defending the participation of trans girls in school sports states that there is “ample evidence that girls can compete and win against boys,” but somehow avoids the conclusion that there should therefore be all-sexes leagues or contests, where men, women, and intersex people can all compete together. Or you can have an article in Deadspin which ridicules any idea of a testosterone advantage for trans women:

And, finally, this referring to philosophy professor Rachel McKinnon’s claim (in Deadspin) that the “unfair advantages of male puberty” are based not on science but on “social perceptions of gender.”

The idea that there is “absolutely no scientific evidence” that male puberty dramatically increases the physical strength of boys compared with girls is, well, unhinged. It’s the left’s version of climate change denial.

And for what? Why are the differences between men and women on average so offensive? Why is it problematic that men are physically stronger on average than women? Why should strength have some kind of normative value? I honestly cannot understand.

I suspect it’s related to postmodernism’s attempt to turn everything in the world into something humans have created and can therefore control. “Nature” is outside that rubric and so must be interrogated and deconstructed until it has been whittled away to nothing. Even science is a social construction, the argument goes, and so any advantage conferred by testosterone must be entirely a function of patriarchy. “Gender” absorbs “sex” altogether. But even if you end patriarchy, you are never going to end sex difference.

Well, the “bonkers” claims may reflect an influence of postmodernism, but also the influence of a new blank-slate-ism: an aversion to and denial of biological differences that, think the Authoritarian Leftists, would somehow justify sexism, racism, and bigotry. But, as I’ve said a gazillion times before, they don’t have to, and we should keep emphasizing that. It’s better to explain the science and integrate it into a liberal morality than to deny the science and integrate your denialism into an ideology resting on how you’d like the world to be.

Footy skills

April 25, 2019 • 2:30 pm

UPDATE: Speaking of soccer greats, I’d urge you to read this post from 2012, in which I interviewed renowned soccer commentator Seamus Malin about the best games and players he’d ever seen. I really like that post.

_____________

In honor of the birthday of Johan Cruyff, I present a 6.5-minute video of great soccer skills displayed on the field. (This was suggested to me by YouTube when I was watching a Cruyff video, and I liked this one. YouTube suggestions, though, are one of the greatest time sinks around.) If you get a “Go to Youtube” message when you click here, just click on the “Watch on YouTube” line.

I especially like the “seal dribble” (0:30), Ronaldinho’s flick (1:35), Higuita’s save (4:35, but did he need to save that way?), and Draxler’s backwards pass (5:24). But they’re all great; I can’t imagine playing soccer at this level.