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People would be "calling her a man" – Transgender cycling champ in online row with Olympic swimmer Sharron Davies

Dr Rachel McKinnon, the first transgender women's champion in any sport, posted picture of British Olympic medallist to Twitter...

A Canadian cyclist who made headlines around the world last year after becoming the first transgender athlete to win a world title in any sport has hit back at comments made about her by Sharron Davies – by posting a picture to Twitter of the former Olympic swimmer and saying that saying that nowadays, people would be “calling her a man.”

Dr Rachel McKinnon, who won the 200 metres world title in the 35-44 women’s sprint category at the UCI Masters Track World Championships last October, was responding to comments made by Davies in recent days that transgender women “have a male sex advantage” when competing in women’s sport.

Today, she tweeted a photo of Davies and asked how the two-time Commonwealth swimming champion and winner of an Olympic silver medal at Moscow in 1980 might be perceived nowadays.

Davies had shared her thoughts on Twitter last week about transgender athletes born as men competing against women, after Martina Navratilova said it was tantamount to “cheating” – with the 18-time tennis grand slam singles winner later apologising for her comments after being accused of transphobia.

It’s clearly an emotive subject that polarises opinion on both sides, and in recent days Davies has repeatedly defended her position on Twitter, as well as in the mainstream media.

A number of replies to her posts on the social network have highlighted transgender athletes competing in women’s sport and the unfair advantage some people believe they have.

Meanwhile, other women’s sports stars have also shared their thoughts on the issue, such as Marathon world record holder Paula Radcliffe saying that she believes tougher rules are needed regarding transgender athletes.

A tweet from McKinnon last October after she won her UCI women’s Masters title sparked a heated online debate about whether it was fair for someone born as a man to compete in the event.

An assistant professor of philosophy at the College of Charleston in South Carolina, McKinnon defended her right to participate, pointing out that she did not qualify fastest in the event and that she finished fourth in the time trial.

She also highlighted that in order to compete, she was “forced to have an unhealthily endogenous testosterone value,” adding that she is “an internationally recognized expert on the science and ethics of transgender inclusion in sport.”

Simon joined road.cc as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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SuiteF8 | 4 years ago
1 like

Since Rachel McKinnon is 'technically' in a different category, how about awarding two golds, one to the winning female born a female and one to the winning transgender athlete?....with silver and bronze awarded accordingly....in the record books Rachel's gold could have a little 'T' to denote the difference. It circumvents what many would see as an unresolvable issue.

 

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BarefootBrian | 5 years ago
2 likes

Think how handy it would be if you were a mediocre male athlete, of any discipline, if you were to suddenly decide you were really a 'woman'! You don't have to have actual gender dysphoria to 'identify as a woman' these days. all you have to do is make the statement. Yes, you will have to undergo some 'treatment' to reduce testosterone levels to compete, but as someone who had hormone therapy associated with radiotherapy for prostate cancer to do just that, I can safely say  that it didn't completely eradicate all my hard earned strangth & muscles. And this despite having had surgery for a fractured hip at the same time!

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RMurphy195 | 5 years ago
1 like

Underlying it all - are we at risk of killing-off women's sport because they can't compete against transgender athletes?

Maybe there should be a third category ...

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montagna_lunga replied to RMurphy195 | 5 years ago
1 like
RMurphy195 wrote:

Underlying it all - are we at risk of killing-off women's sport because they can't compete against transgender athletes?

This is the point, but not just individual -vs-individual, there will always be a McKinnon-type activist screaming "unfair" just as there are now activists screaming about any issue, seeing gain for their field of interest through confrontation and polarization. People just don't want to be bothered.

The real issue is the whole of fairness for women in sports in general when sports have historically been male-dominated. In the States theres a little thing called Title 9, for example.

Do any women's cyclists think this cycling transgender madness will say, provide for a return of the Tour de France Feminin?     

Is the irony of MTF trans winning womens events in male-dominated sports lost upon us?

--shrug--

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froze | 5 years ago
1 like

I'm sorry some of you, but to have a guy compete on womens sports should be outlawed, it's unfair for the women to have a man always beating them.  What some of this boils down to is that the man can't beat a man in men sports, so he decides he could win if claims to be a transgender person and beat women.  All of those pictures that other comments showed they all show a man not a woman standing next to other women, the size difference is readily apparent.  I don't care about the blah blah science, a man, or a woman, needs to compete in the proper gender sport based on what male or female parts they were born with unenhanced by drugs, thus if they were born with male parts then they compete against men.  Nothing else needs to be added into the equation.

And the poster that said "The IOC decided in 2003 that trans people did not have an unfair advantage", is not true, this is all fake science and fake news to appease the transgender crowd.  Read this:  https://www.wnd.com/2017/03/female-athletes-crushed-by-women-who-were-on...

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kil0ran | 5 years ago
0 likes

I have a trans friend - transitioned male to female in her 20s. Competes in female sport. She's around 5 foot 3 and probably 10st - in terms of height and weight she's no different to how she was before she transitioned. Male born to female transitioned athletes don't all benefit from a physical advantage - she certainly doesn't there are "bigger" women in her chosen sport - not least because in some cases such as hers there is a wide degree in variation of "maleness".

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Organon | 5 years ago
2 likes
smaryka wrote:

Rachel McKinnon argues elsewhere that there should be no limit on testosterone for transgender women, as it harms her health to have to take testosterone-reducing drugs and isn't fair on her to have to do that to compete.

And if this is true then feeling like a lady is the only requirement for competing in Womens sport then there is still hope for David Walliams to win an olympic gold.

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maryka | 5 years ago
0 likes

Some facts to help form opinions:

Prior to 2015, the IOC only allowed transgendered athletes who had had full sex reassignment surgery take part.  Now all that's required is keeping testosterone below 10nmol/L for one year (women). 

Men have no restrictions except for not going higher than allowable testosterone levels which are not specifically laid out in the WADA document but presumably are monitored on an individual basis.  How they decide what amount is right or too much is unclear, except to say that "FtM athletes require hormonal treatment with testosterone, for which there is no non-prohibited alternative."

https://www.wada-ama.org/sites/default/files/resources/files/wada-tpg-me...

Chris Mosier (successful triathlete, born female, transitioned post-puberty to become a man) takes exogenous testosterone.  This is a banned substance in biological male athletes, of course. 

Rachel McKinnon argues elsewhere that there should be no limit on testosterone for transgender women, as it harms her health to have to take testosterone-reducing drugs and isn't fair on her to have to do that to compete.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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DrJDog | 5 years ago
7 likes

I think there is a ridiculous entitlement in believing you should be allowed to compete after transitioning. I think male athletes who take testosterone illegally should be banned for life. It's just one of those things, but women who used to be men fall unfortunately fall into that same category of having the advantage of loads of male hormones. They cannot compete fairly, and to insist that they should under threat of the "transphobic" label is preposterous. The argument that some women naturally are outliers, bigger and stronger than a lot of transgender women is just stupid. And Rachel McKinnon's "ooh, aren't I more feminine than big manly Sharon Davies?" strikes me as just plain spiteful and nasty.

 

You don't have to be transphobic to believe trans women shouldn't compete in a women's category.

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keirik | 5 years ago
4 likes

I'm amazed no one has used this yet.

 

STAN: I want to be a woman. From now on, I want you all to call me 'Loretta'.

REG: What?!

LORETTA: It's my right as a man.

JUDITH: Well, why do you want to be Loretta, Stan?

LORETTA: I want to have babies.

REG: You want to have babies?!

LORETTA: It's every man's right to have babies if he wants them.

REG: But... you can't have babies.

LORETTA: Don't you oppress me.

REG: I'm not oppressing you, Stan. You haven't got a womb! Where's the foetus going to gestate?! You going to keep it in a box?!

LORETTA: crying

JUDITH: Here! I-- I've got an idea. Suppose you agree that he can't actually have babies, not having a womb, which is nobody's fault, not even the Romans', but that he can have the right to have babies.

FRANCIS: Good idea, Judith. We shall fight the oppressors for your right to have babies, brother. Sister. Sorry.

REG: What's the point?

FRANCIS: What?

REG: What's the point of fighting for his right to have babies when he can't have babies?!

FRANCIS: It is symbolic of our struggle against oppression.

REG: Symbolic of his struggle against reality.

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FluffyKittenofT... | 5 years ago
2 likes
Bmblbzzz wrote:
Shades wrote:

In this equality, diversity and fairness world if you apply something to a particular situation, in this case transgender equality in sport, eventually you run headlong into another policy; in this case transgender equality runs straight into clean-sport/cheating.  Could you put a transgender category into the Para-Olympics?  Labelling transgender as a disability?  Can you imagine the 'sh#t-storm'?

It's not specific to gender issues or even to an "equality, diversity and fairness world". It's simply that justice and equality occasionally conflict. 

 

I'd go further.  In my opinion this row, and the similar rows that crop up over who competes with who in the paraolympics, are symptoms of the fact that there's a contradiction at the centre of the whole issue.  Sport is intrisically 'unfair'.  It's never a level playing field.

Inventing sub-categories of competition doesn't go very far to solving that, as there are vast numbers of disadvantages and advantages that don't get covered by those categories (the paraolympics only covers a very narrow range of disabilities that can be easily defined and claimed to be able to compete with each other within those defined categories, you can easily have a disability, or chronic illness, that is not severe enough for the paraolympics but will still ensure you are unlikelly to ever be a high-level competitor in mainstream sport)

 

Now you could argue that _nothing_ is ever strictly 'fair', that no activity is really a level-playing field.  Which is perfectly true, but things other than sport don't really pretend to be entirely about 'fair competition'.

 

  Other areas in which people compete on unequal terms (e.g. the job market or the arts) are different because the competition isn't the sole point of the activity.  Everyone can recognise it's not a level playing field, but the competition that there is, is unavoidable, it's not artificially-created.

 

  Sport runs into the biggest problems because it has no other purpose than determining 'the winner'. 

 

That's why I find arguments like this, or about doping, or about how male and female tennis champions should be paid, to be kind-of irritating, because it's an argument about a problem that is inherent to the nature of the activity.  You can't resolve it without throwing out the whole business of serious competitive sport and admitting that it's based on a bit of a lie - that the winner is somehow 'the best' in some objective sense, that who wins is down solely to their efforts and intrinsic virtues.

 

  Yet those who engage in the argument usually will never countenance doing that, so the argument can never ever be resolved.  It just goes on, back-and-forth, forever.

 

Almost nobody ever agrees with me, admittedly, but I maintain that 'sport' should just be for fun and exercise, and should never involve money and status and glory or any sort of serious stakes.

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KiwiMike | 5 years ago
2 likes

Take the time to read through this: https://medium.com/@transphilosophr/why-its-fair-for-trans-athletes-to-c...

Hot take:

...And besides, trans women have been technically allowed to compete in the Olympics since 2003 and no trans woman has won a medal of any kind (that we know of). Why is that? If you buy into the right-wing narrative, trans women would be jumping at the chance to insert ourselves into woman-only spaces so why hasn’t a trans woman won a gold medal yet?

Maybe because it takes incredible work and dedication to be a world champion athlete. It’s not just something anyone can do. Dr. McKinnon is the first trans world champion but don’t expect that trans women are suddenly going to start dominating all elite sports all of a sudden.

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srchar replied to KiwiMike | 5 years ago
3 likes
KiwiMike wrote:

https://medium.com/@transphilosophr/why-its-fair-for-trans-athletes-to-c...

right-wing narrative

And therein lies the stupidity of that article. As if people's view on former men competing in women's sport has anything to do with where they are on the political spectrum.  This simply isn't a political issue, no matter how much people with a political agenda want to make it one.

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massive4x4 replied to KiwiMike | 5 years ago
0 likes
KiwiMike wrote:

Take the time to read through this: https://medium.com/@transphilosophr/why-its-fair-for-trans-athletes-to-c...

Hot take:

...And besides, trans women have been technically allowed to compete in the Olympics since 2003 and no trans woman has won a medal of any kind (that we know of). Why is that? If you buy into the right-wing narrative, trans women would be jumping at the chance to insert ourselves into woman-only spaces so why hasn’t a trans woman won a gold medal yet?

Maybe because it takes incredible work and dedication to be a world champion athlete. It’s not just something anyone can do. Dr. McKinnon is the first trans world champion but don’t expect that trans women are suddenly going to start dominating all elite sports all of a sudden.

The argument here is basically everything is ok because it hasn't happened yet.

Until Rachel McKinnon won something athletic prowess probably wasn’t on the minds of most transgender people particularly as winning would draw attention and start this very debate with them at the centre of it.

However as this story has been widely spread I expect that we will over the course of the next few years see more people emulate Rachel McKinnon and if they start as a teenager it is quite likely that they will be able to successfully compete in sports where  athletic ability is the determining factor.

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Anthony.C | 5 years ago
4 likes

They had the science bit on the Today programme this morning, two experts in the subject discussed it, both professors. Anyway, science says that  if an elite athlete has gone through puberty as a man then they have many advantages that cannot be removed, as Sharon Davies said. Lowering testosterone makes little or no difference, especially as the current required level  for transgender athletes is 10 units whereas women's testosterone level has an upper range of 3. 

(https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m0002zzl)  2hours 33 mins in.

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srchar replied to Anthony.C | 5 years ago
2 likes
Anthony.C wrote:

They had the science bit on the Today programme this morning, two experts in the subject discussed it, both professors. Anyway, science says that  if an elite athlete has gone through puberty as a man then they have many advantages that cannot be removed, as Sharon Davies said.

"These transphobic scientists must be no-platformed immediately!"

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Jimmy Ray Will | 5 years ago
0 likes

First up, this is a complicated subject that won't be fixed on an internet forum. 

Without wanting to dismiss the rights and needs of transgender people, my concern here is the seeming willingness to discredit the concerns, rights and needs, of the vast majority (biological women athletes in this case), to placate the tiny minority.

Women have every right to question the fairness of the situation of letting transgender athletes into regular competition.

Its easy to recite reports saying there is no advantage, however it appears real life experiences may beg to differ. The performances of the woman in question arguably demonstrate just that. 

I don't want to be rude, but I accept this is, but in the podium photo, our champion does not look very athletic. I'm not talking about a bit of extra bark, but more of a fundamental lack of any signs of athletic conditioning. The fact that without this, she still managed to beat her competition, suggests that there may be an advantage somewhere. 

Mitigated by testosterone depletion maybe, but its still there. As she says herself, she is hardly the best rider. 

I believe women athletes have every right to question this, and our sporting bodies have every need to take this situation seriously and establish a way forward that meets both the needs of the majority without excluding the minority... good luck with that. 

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Jimmy Ray Will | 5 years ago
4 likes

First up, this is a complicated subject that won't be fixed on an internet forum. 

Without wanting to dismiss the rights and needs of transgender people, my concern here is the seeming willingness to discredit the concerns, rights and needs, of the vast majority (biological women athletes in this case), to placate the tiny minority.

Women have every right to question the fairness of the situation of letting transgender athletes into regular competition.

Its easy to recite reports saying there is no advantage, however it appears real life experiences may beg to differ. The performances of the woman in question arguably demonstrate just that. 

I don't want to be rude, but I accept this is, but in the podium photo, our champion does not look very athletic. I'm not talking about a bit of extra bark, but more of a fundamental lack of any signs of athletic conditioning. The fact that without this, she still managed to beat her competition, suggests that there may be an advantage somewhere. 

Mitigated by testosterone depletion maybe, but its still there. As she says herself, she is hardly the best rider. 

I believe women athletes have every right to question this, and our sporting bodies have every need to take this situation seriously and establish a way forward that meets both the needs of the majority without excluding the minority... good luck with that. 

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dassie | 5 years ago
0 likes

Edit. Decided to save my 2p on this tricky issue...

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KiwiMike | 5 years ago
4 likes

How about we all agree that if you aren't a trans athlete yourself, or a genetics + sport science expert in this particular field, maybe you don't get to comment?

I like to think of cyclists as mostly not being bigoted, and mostly open/inclusive folks. Maybe this is a topic I simply shouldn't read the comments on. 

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hawkinspeter replied to KiwiMike | 5 years ago
3 likes
KiwiMike wrote:

How about we all agree that if you aren't a trans athlete yourself, or a genetics + sport science expert in this particular field, maybe you don't get to comment?

I like to think of cyclists as mostly not being bigoted, and mostly open/inclusive folks. Maybe this is a topic I simply shouldn't read the comments on. 

This says otherwise

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TedBarnes replied to KiwiMike | 5 years ago
2 likes
KiwiMike wrote:

How about we all agree that if you aren't a trans athlete yourself, or a genetics + sport science expert in this particular field, maybe you don't get to comment?

This sounds spot on to me. So my comments are not on whether there is a competitive advantage or anything like that. I simply don't know. 

What I do know is many of the comments make me feel very uncomfortable, not least Sharon Davies' reference to people "wishing" to be transgender. Eerily similar to all the homophobic views about 'lifestyle choice'. 

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postrestant replied to TedBarnes | 5 years ago
4 likes
TedBarnes wrote:
KiwiMike wrote:

How about we all agree that if you aren't a trans athlete yourself, or a genetics + sport science expert in this particular field, maybe you don't get to comment?

This sounds spot on to me. So my comments are not on whether there is a competitive advantage or anything like that. I simply don't know. 

What I do know is many of the comments make me feel very uncomfortable, not least Sharon Davies' reference to people "wishing" to be transgender. Eerily similar to all the homophobic views about 'lifestyle choice'. 

 

How is it spot on? Why shouldn't female athletes comment? Why should KiwiMike, by his own values, seek to prescribe / proscribe whose comments are or are not of merit? Why might not sympathy / empathy / concern for others be useful values? 

That said, it makes more sense to listen to those who have experience / knowledge / nouce -- but that's up to the audience?

McKinnon relies on Harper's study, I think, 'Race Times for Transgender Athletes' which, as Harper said, is preliminary -- based on the experiences of 8 runners. There's an interesting BMJ article here: https://www.bmj.com/company/newsroom/naturally-produced-testosterone-giv...

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srchar replied to KiwiMike | 5 years ago
6 likes
KiwiMike wrote:

How about we all agree that if you aren't a trans athlete yourself, or a genetics + sport science expert in this particular field, maybe you don't get to comment?

Or perhaps a female elite athlete? Like Sharron Davies.

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Simon E replied to srchar | 5 years ago
1 like
srchar wrote:
KiwiMike wrote:

How about we all agree that if you aren't a trans athlete yourself, or a genetics + sport science expert in this particular field, maybe you don't get to comment?

Or perhaps a female elite athlete? Like Sharron Davies.

Does an athlete have to be at elite level to be affected?

No.

Jimmy Ray Will wrote:

Women have every right to question the fairness of the situation of letting transgender athletes into regular competition.

Its easy to recite reports saying there is no advantage, however it appears real life experiences may beg to differ. The performances of the woman in question arguably demonstrate just that.

I agree, women have every right to start and contribute to a discussion. She won a race. How does this demonstrate an advantage to being trans? What position should she have finished in?

Jimmy Ray Will wrote:

I don't want to be rude, but I accept this is, but in the podium photo, our champion does not look very athletic. I'm not talking about a bit of extra bark, but more of a fundamental lack of any signs of athletic conditioning. The fact that without this, she still managed to beat her competition, suggests that there may be an advantage somewhere.

I think that is more than rude, I think it sounds quite offensive.

This was a Masters track sprint competition, not a week-long stage mountainous race. Rachel competed within the rules. It wouldn't hurt to read her interview from October; she certainly has a better informed academic perspective on this, even before discussing her personal experience:

https://www.velonews.com/2018/10/news/qa-dr-rachel-mckinnon-masters-trac...

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Tony Farrelly replied to KiwiMike | 5 years ago
9 likes
KiwiMike wrote:

How about we all agree that if you aren't a trans athlete yourself, or a genetics + sport science expert in this particular field, maybe you don't get to comment?

I like to think of cyclists as mostly not being bigoted, and mostly open/inclusive folks. Maybe this is a topic I simply shouldn't read the comments on. 

Your criteria for who should (and by definition who shouldn’t) comment seems flawed to me in that it would also bar female athletes from having a say - which seems a tad unfair given that if anyone stands to lose out from any potential or actual unfair advantage enjoyed by transgender athletes* it's women. This doesn’t seem to be an issue in men's sport and I can't help feeling that if transgender athletes who'd transitioned from being women were taking on and beating men we'd all know about it by now.
Reading the comments on here so far I'm not seeing much/any evidence of hate/bigotry (I’m sure someone will be on in a moment to tell me that makes me a bigot) towards transgender people in general or even the much smaller group of transgender athletes in particular.
This seems to me to be more a debate about what constitutes fairness and a level playing field in sport and particularly elite level women's sport than about putting transgender people down as a group in wider society. Unless of course you believe that just by suggesting that a formerly male transgender athlete might enjoy an advantage when competing against women reveals an underlying intolerance of trans people in general. Seems a bit of a leap to me.
Surely the attitudes to the trans community of commenters on this article would be better judged on how they interact with the trans people they actually meet in the course of their everyday lives - with respect hopefully - not on whether they give the ‘correct’ answer in relation to sporting scenarios that statistically at least should be so vanishingly rare as to be bordering on the theoretical.

*By transgender athlete I mean someone who was born with a set of chromosomes that defined them as male or female but for whom those chromosomes didn’t add up to the whole story of who they are leading them to have their gender reassigned, not that even rarer group of individuals who were born as intersex and then went on to become elite level athletes.

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cougie | 5 years ago
1 like

There was a successful transgender runner not that long ago : 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lauren_Jeska

I've no problem with people changing gender but I do think we need to look further into whether an unfair advantage is given if they choose to compete in sport. 

 

 

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Mungecrundle | 5 years ago
6 likes

In everyday life this really is, or at least should be a non issue. How you dress, how you identify, whether you go the whole hog with gender reassignment surgery and hormone therapy, whether you live as male, female, or non specific. It really should not matter and you should not suffer from discrimination for your circumstances.

However, I think it is fair to have the discussion within the confines of elite competitive sport. At least those sports where there are currently specific male and female categories for athletes. At the top level the difference between first and also ran can be ridiculously small. If I were an elite female athlete and made a living from my sport then I'd be pretty pissed if my ability to question the fairness of having transgender competitors was shouted down as being transphobia. I think it is a legitimate concern.

 

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MonkeyPuzzle | 5 years ago
2 likes

There is no solution to this where everyone will be happy.

1) Everyone has to compete according to their sex at birth, with trans men and women feeling like they have no means to compete at a high level without denying who they feel they are and not really reflective of modern society's movement to culturally accept trans men and women as their identifying gender.

2) Everyone competes as their identifying gender, with high performing trans men likely to come nowhere in atheltic (rather than skill-based) sports, and trans women who went through male puberty handed an unfair advantage, even to the detriment of safety in overtly physical and combat sports (rugby, boxing, judo), over women born as women.

3) Get the scientists involved to measure hormones, determine chromosomal characteristics, treatment history (hormone suppresants or full male puberty etc.), and whatever smorgasbord of characteristics constitutes where we appear on the male-female spectrum for all competitors before lumping each of them into a category a la the paralympics. Way too complicated to trickle down to beginner and intermediate level sports.

This will get worse before it gets better.

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Shades | 5 years ago
0 likes

In this equality, diversity and fairness world if you apply something to a particular situation, in this case transgender equality in sport, eventually you run headlong into another policy; in this case transgender equality runs straight into clean-sport/cheating.  Could you put a transgender category into the Para-Olympics?  Labelling transgender as a disability?  Can you imagine the 'sh#t-storm'?

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