Trans Women In Sports: Should They Compete?

These are things I hear pretty often. Look, I get it- you’re uncomfortable with the idea that someone in a “male body” could compete against women who were, well, born as women. Most of that fear comes from directly just being a flat out bigot, and other than that, it comes from a fear of being beaten. Both of which are irrational. The assumption that a man would inherently beat a woman at any activity is in its own way sexist, and frankly misogynistic overall.

Stepping back in women’s history, it’s obvious that many have completely forgotten about a few different things, and the foremost being how hard women had to fight just to be seen, legally, as equals. Women’s suffrage was about being equal to men so they could vote- surprisingly enough, that concept isn’t even that old. It was less than a century ago that women couldn’t even voice their own opinions. That information is important to know- before the right for women to vote, there was inequality in many other aspects as well. There was no WNBA. There was no Women’s MLS. If you think now, there are no women in football, no women in baseball, and no major league female hockey players.

The Boston Marathon, a 26.2 mile race regarded highly in running communities as an exceptionally challenging and world qualifying race, didn’t always have a women’s division. There wasn’t a women’s division until one woman signed up as a male and presented as one, only to be caught and chased off the course by the marshalls to her own embarrassment. Around the same time, women weren’t allowed to compete in anything- a woman’s place was in the home, not as a competitor. So, in response to one woman racing against the rules, The Boston Athletic Association opened up a women’s division. It wasn’t for any other reason besides the obvious- men didn’t want to compete against the women.

There was no scientific studies completed that said a woman was weaker or less likely to win because of hormones, bone structure, or muscle mass. There was only rampant sexism that classified the women as unequal. Many would have you believe women don’t play football because of how easily they would be injured, yet seem to ignore the fact that every Sunday some male player is injured. The blindfold people wear to assist them in being ignorant is merely an issue of identity- women are still, despite suffrage and other women’s rights movements, seen as less than their male counterparts.

The United States Women’s Soccer Team won the first place trophy in the world cup three times, and yet people still say, “Why is the US so bad at soccer?” The men havent won- they dont even put up a fight. Nobody pays attention to the sport when all women play. Is it a matter of not wanting to watch weaker, less athletic people play? No. It’s just blatant sexism. Media stations don’t play the games, audience numbers are low, and frankly nobody cares.

Even with the argument that womens divisions exist because of the precedent from a much more sexist time, people bring up the discussion about muscle mass as a transgender woman. They bring up the male bones and their size compared to that of a woman. First and foremost, being on Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT), muscle mass is the first thing to go. A trans woman who has been on HRT for two years simply wouldn’t retain much or any of the muscle mass they accumulated prior. The medication to block testosterone, Spironolactone, dehydrates the body, making water retention difficult. If anything, a trans woman in an endurance event like running would have a more difficult time than any other woman competing. Many trans women on HRT experience a total loss of testosterone- meaning that any trans woman would likely have less of the hormone in their body than any woman born female at birth.

With the popularity of transgender topics in the media, transgender women are less afraid to come out of their shell. This means they are competing in sports like roller derby, skateboarding, arena sports, professional sports, and even sports not dependent on athletic ability whatsoever. Specifically, a woman in skateboarding would have little advantage over another woman because of bone structure- the differences in male and female bone structure lies in broad shoulders, or hips. Skateboarding is only dependent on legs. What about transgender women in equestrian sports? Would a male body hold advantage over a woman’s? No- so why divide the genders at all? You can apply that same logic to a number of sports that are divided by gender. A born woman could be just as big as a man- whether it is competitive weight lifting or roller derby, the size of the woman is as varied as there are colors in existence.

A woman on hormone replacement therapy, before surgery, has only one major difference to any other woman and it lies between the legs. Unless that is being used to an advantage in sports, the point is entirely moot.

I invite you think about other sports that divided by gender and compare results, keeping in mind the millennia men have had to train and conquer their sports. Knowing that womens sports haven’t existed nearly as long as mens, to assume that women are inferior in athletic ability is ignorant to the fact that records have continued to be beaten over and iver again to get there. Women have only had x amount of years to set and break their own records, there’s no doubt about it.

Look at a sport like distance skateboarding: the first person to break 300 miles in a 24 hour race, the Ultraskate, was a man. That same year, the women’s record was 202 miles, and on the podium were three women, one of them transgender, who did not break the 200 mile mark. The very next year, 3 other men joined the 300 mile club, and all three women on the podium were over 200 miles.  As records go on to be challenged, the required athleticism increases to stay competitive. A woman who trains just as hard as any man has the exact same opportunity to do just as well, and it has been proven.

Now, organizations like the Olympic Committee and the NCAA host rules about transgender women and when they can compete in a women’s division. The baseline is that 2 years of HRT, and a designated amount of time living in the world as that gender suffice to join. Typically, a transgender woman would see the effects of feminization from hormones within that time frame. The baseline rules here are celebrated by trans women: it is often argued that if a transgender woman can compete with other women, what is there to stop a man from putting on a wig, stuffing a bra, and beating every single girl on the field? Aside from the idea that all it takes is long hair and boobs to be a girl (which is sexist), being a woman is so much more than body mass, muscle growth, breasts, and high heels. Being a woman is an experience- unless youve experienced being talked over in a group discussion, fearing for your life when a man is walking toward you, or the ultimate sisterhood that inherently belongs to women, you can’t just be a woman. Gender identity is fickle. You can label yourself as you please, but rules like living as your gender and being on hrt are there to pander to all of these notions.

So when a trans woman wins a game or outscores another girl or even sets a world record, it has little to do with the biological differences between the genders, and has more to do with the training, experience, and skill she put into getting there.

A personal experience I had was when I skateboarded across the country. VICE Sports featured me in an article titled, “What it’s like to skateboard across the country as a trans woman.” The comments section was disastrous- the general statement made was, “probably the same as any man who skated across the country.” Thoughts and statements like that minimize the women’s experience. You don’t think, in the back of my own mind, presenting as a woman in a small town in a male dominated state brought about fear? Fear of sexual assault, being seen as dumb, or left for dead? I’ll tell you- every day on the road I had a guard up. Any sliver of femininity was an invitation for others to make advances. Finding friends on the road who were males and not in relationships meant that I was seen differently, sexually, and not taken seriously. Women deal with things like this on a daily basis. The sexualization of women diminishes them being taken seriously. Focusing on the body of a women in comparison to a man is inherently sexual in nature- equating a transgender woman’s body to man is noticing only the genitals between their legs.

Examine your surroundings and question why things are the way they are. Question why you have your beliefs and whether or not they are really your own. Ignore the normative and form your own conclusions. You would be surprised to learn how much of what you think is based only because of how things already are. Women are strong, women are champions, and in many cases, women are better than men. Do women need to be divided by their gender?

2018-02-28T16:53:50+00:00January 18th, 2018|Articles|0 Comments

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