Are transgender athletes dominating women’s sports? I haven’t picked up a copy of Gray’s Sports Almanacrecently, but in sporting events as diverse as weightlifting, track, cycling, and swimming, female sports records aren’t just being broken, they’re being shattered—by transgender athletes.
Recently, Lia Thomas, a transgender University of Pennsylvania swimmer, set six records at the Ivy League Championships leading to a fairness debate regarding transgender athletes. Thomas has been destroying her competition winning races by previously unheard-of times in events that are usually decided by tenths of seconds.
So today I want to approach this subject not with the goal of persuading anyone to a particular point of view. Rather my purpose is to emphasize the importance of the matter and to raise an awareness about an issue with only one certainty, irrespective of one’s position, it’s sure to be criticized.
Meanwhile, the apparent lack of outrage over these recent events has been surprising. I would have expected women’s groups to be more vocal on the subject. Nonetheless, you can find plenty of outrage on Twitter; but specific sport periodicals, such as Swimming World Magazine, have surprisingly little to say on the matter other than straight reporting, i.e., the names of the competitors, order of finish, winning times, etc.
To frame this discussion properly, I’ll begin with a very basic question, “Do transgender females who lower their testosterone levels into the female range, say, as required by NCAA rules, continue to have performance advantages over biological women?” At first blush it may seem absurd to even ask that question; that we should simply accept the fact that men and women are inherently different and crossing over from one category to the other for the purposes of sports competition is fundamentally unfair and disadvantages “biological women,” and therefore shouldn’t be allowed.
That point of view is certainly understandable, but we must also recognize that within the context of the prevailing social milieu we’re only fooling ourselves to think that’s a satisfactory response to the question. But perhaps an even more important reason we cannot simply dismiss the matter as irrelevant or the product of a PC-world, is there are going to be the inevitable legal challenges in the coming months and years, which means these questions will be asked, debated, and decided in the courts.
So perhaps we should begin this discussion with the more fundamental question of, “Why do women’s sports exist at all?” The answer should be obvious—because it allows individuals without the benefit of androgenization (testosterone) during puberty and adolescence to compete in sport on an equal basis. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that without a separate category for women’s sports, the best athletes in most sporting endeavors would be men.
However, it’s also a fact that the effects of testosterone on males in their teens does not guarantee that every male will be faster and stronger than every female (the best women are still way faster than most men), but it does give biological males, i.e., those born with one X and one Y chromosome a distinct advantage. In fact, when pitting men against women in athletic competitions, most agree that almost without exception, those who benefited from testosterone’s effects on muscle, skeleton, heart, blood, and fat would be the winners.
Of course, there is another even bigger reason to segregate women’s sports—safety! Not dissimilar from Paralympic sports where those who are affected by a given disability are not required to compete against those who are not affected, combat sports such as boxing, wrestling, judo, etc., have weight classes – lightweights shouldn’t have to fight heavyweights because it is both unfair and unsafe.
In the final analysis, what it really boils down to is the question of whether someone born with an X and a Y chromosome has advantages over someone born with two X chromosomes. To answer that, I submit that such questions should be directed to those qualified by education, training, and experience, i.e., medical, and biological researchers, who are gathering, studying, and analyzing all pertinent data on the subject.
On a personal basis, what I believe will be the most interesting aspect of this debate is whether those aforementioned scientists can gather, analyze, and publish enough information to have it peer reviewed before the matter goes to the courts.
Quote of the day: “Men are from Earth; women are from Earth. Deal with it.” ― George Carlin.