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.

Do not worry about transphobes

How much attention should you pay to transphobia? Very little.

There is street transphobia. It’s weird to think that someone who has never met you and has no knowledge of what you are like as a person really hates you. You are a symbol for him of all he despises. The worst last year for me screamed at me that he would kill me. Well, maybe he was having a bad day. Yes, there are people like that. They rarely do you actual harm. You need to know they exist, but should pay no attention at all to the details of their abuse.

What prompted this post was an article in the Daily Telegraph, which was shared in a trans group on facebook. Church of England’s plan for transgender baptisms outrages bishops was the headline. Well, the Telegraph is a transphobic publication, so when it reports on transphobia it exaggerates it. There are two errors in the headline. Some bishops support the measure, so it should say “Some” bishops are outraged, rather than implying all are. The other error is that no-one has proposed transgender baptisms. More than half the population of England has been baptised, and the ceremony is a reaffirmation of baptismal vows. No church will rebaptise people. If the headline is filled with error, the article will be too.

In fact “ten” bishops “criticised” the ceremony. Few bishops would confess to “outrage” in public. There are 41 diocesan bishops and around 75 “suffragan” or assistant bishops, so a tiny minority has condemned it. Analyse the article, and you see the transphobia is less widespread than the writer would want you to think. The writer makes a desperate attempt to list all the transphobes to make it sound like they are important, but his scrabbling shows how few they really are. They include John Fenwick, a bishop of the Free Church of England. I hadn’t heard of that, so googled it: it split off in 1844 and has nineteen congregations in England.

I mean really. Should you care what John Fenwick thinks? Of course not.

Haters gonna hate. The Telegraph wants its readers to hate trans people, and that is a bad thing. So does the Times, as both are hard-Right publications busily dehumanising various hate groups. Oh, and the Daily Mail, but you knew that. The risk with reading the Telegraph article is that it might discourage you. Jesus said, “Do not be afraid”. It’s full of detail, and if you read the detail and the various horrible things transphobes say, they appear more significant than they actually are. People get assaulted for being trans. We get mocked and vilified going about our ordinary lives. Most people are not like that. They don’t care. You will encounter prejudice, but mostly you will be able to live your life.

Sometimes it is worth checking out the nuances. Michael Nazir-Ali, the former Bishop of Rochester, said: “The church should be compassionate and sensitive towards those who experience gender dysphoria, but its fundamental teaching must be based on a revealed truth and objective biology and its relation to social structure.”

Compassionate and sensitive. That is a clear rebuke to those who would express or foment “outrage”. That journalist made a ranty headline, and from ignorance quoted the answer to his bigotry at the end of the article. “Objective biology” sounds pretty rejectionist- saying trans women are “biological males” or something- but I see a glimmer of hope in the words “its relation to social structure”. Socially, I am a woman. He does not merely discount me. He recognises social structure is relevant. Biology is not a complete answer.

There are transphobes about, but there are allies. They will encourage you and make you feel better. When you feel better you will be more motivated and better able to take action. Perhaps Pink News should take that into consideration: many of its December articles on trans have been “Help help the sky is falling” articles about transphobia. Indonesian city Padang using exorcisms to “cure” queer people. Um. The most positive stories are Miss Universe pays tribute to Angela Ponce. The winner, Ashley Graham, said She’s smart, driven, beautiful…and nothing short of extraordinary. Well, yes. I find beauty contests problematic, but I am pleased with the final Peace-and-Love message. We need more of that. And Transgender boxer Pat Manuel has his first professional win. Half positive: a school teacher was suspended for telling trans boy “You freak me out”. Yes he was a transphobic bully: and the school dealt with him.

Don’t pay too much attention to the transphobes. There will always be transphobes. You will still find ways to achieve your aims and succeed as the person you really are. I have just not been taking my own advice, reading a boring and stupid Times article, which refers to “a powerful trans lobby”. I am glad they are trying to terrify their own side. Imagine poor little transphobes, terrified of expressing their bigotry.