Trans women in sport

Does anyone transition in order to have an unfair advantage in sport? No. Trans women transition because we are women, because the difference between presenting male and expressing female is the difference between living life in monochrome and in colour. This does not stop the anti-trans movement from complaining about us. The complaints show transphobia at work.

In 2015 the International Olympic Committee sought to guarantee fair competition, and accepted that surgery was not necessary for that. The athlete must declare herself to be female, which cannot be reversed for four years, and show her testosterone levels were below 10nmol/L (290 ng/dl) for at least 12 months before her first competition and throughout her period competing. Longer periods of reduced testosterone may be required by medical authorities on a case by case basis. Normal levels are 240-950 ng/dl in males, 8-60 in females. In 2018 the IOC were set to halve that level to 5nmol/L, or 145 ng/dl, but apparently didn’t.

In high levels of sports, trans women are underrepresented. That shows that the sociological disadvantages we suffer outweigh any physical advantages. There are physical advantages in size, but in boxing where there are weight categories a trans woman is not going to be bigger than a cis woman competitor.

I write this because of Hadley Freeman’s column today. She minimises the Olympic criterion, “to have been reducing testosterone for twelve months”- actually, it is to have reduced the level. Martina Navratilova started the current publicity, though I have heard angry opposition to trans women in sports long before then. When she was in competition, she faced terrific homophobic abuse: one headline read “Martina turns girls into gays”.

Hadley Freeman claims to be persecuted, that all the coverage is for the trans women. The media, terrified of being on the wrong side of history, responded predictably, and headlines said that Navratilova was “criticised over ‘cheating’ trans women comments”. There are some pro-trans articles. But the Times, predictably, wrote “Male bodies do not belong in women’s sport”- however much we reduce testosterone- and the Spectator risibly said “Women’s sports may one day soon consist entirely of men”. The Mirror quoted India Willoughby, a trans woman, saying trans women should not compete in women’s events. While Susanna Reid was “nervous” talking about the subject because she was worried that she would get the wording wrong, swimmer Sharron Davies said You’re still doing to have those advantages.. a lot of people are saying, come on we’re not transphobic but we need to support female athletes too.

Ooh, aren’t all these anti-trans campaigners brave? India Willoughby said LGB at the moment is more like the KGB in that no alternative opinion is allowed. Yet here they are, in the Mirror, Times, Guardian and Spectator mocking, belittling and monstering trans women.

The Telegraph announced, As Martina Navratilova has discovered, trans activists have won the debate – but lost the public. The West is now in a state of psychological civil war, a war between opposing realities. Consider what happens when a man becomes a woman, enters a women’s sporting event and takes the gold. To the trans activist, this is a natural and beautiful thing: the athlete is competing in the right category and it’s a win for equality. To many feminists, it’s a reversal of equality. The trans athlete may be taller and stronger than the other competitors – they are, said the tennis champion Martina Navratilova, “cheating”.

Um. The transphobes continually claim to be an oppressed minority, even when backed by Rupert Murdoch and the Barclay brothers, even when writing in the Guardian.

I am sorry that I am quoting the transphobes so much here. My next post goes on to the question whether trans women should be included in women’s sports. I argue that we should, with no requirement of a particular testosterone level; and say why.

2 thoughts on “Trans women in sport

  1. I used to agree with the opponents, when I was engaged in competitive sport I was taller, broader, stronger than any woman, pound for pound I was stringer than most men never mind the average woman. In any sport strength is important in mine it was essential, I would have expected to beat any woman, even those competing at a much higher level. Having transitioned I now know the fullness of the change, not only has my competitiveness lessened with the drop in testosterone, I am weaker, my muscle mass and density have diminished, training is harder, and it takes more effort to build a similar amount of strength into those muscles on my larger frame.
    Governing bodies have looked long and hard at this issue and have come up with reasonable, fare, regulations for their sports. Surely we should accept that they do understand and know what they are talking about! My own governing Body (the RFO) has stricter entry conditions than most, maybe this reflects the nature of the sport. there is no question about grass roots sports, only the elite, and that has never been about average, or normal people, it is about the elite, those with the strongest will, the most determination, and dedication, as well as natural talent.

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    • Welcome, Paula. Thank you for commenting. That’s an interesting argument: the opponents would say that the larger frame remains an advantage despite reducing T.

      What’s the RFO? Googling did not give me a sports body with those initials.

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