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Women’s cycling team sacks former pro and director who urged riders to “take a knee” in protest against trans cyclists

Cynisca Cycling says Tour de France podium finisher Inga Thompson’s “methods and personal attacks are inconsistent” with the team’s mission to “advance opportunities for women”

The US-based Cynisca Cycling team has parted ways with its board member Inga Thompson, a former world championship silver medallist and Tour de France Féminin podium finisher who in recent years has campaigned for the exclusion of transgender athletes from elite women’s cycling, after the three-time Olympian called on riders to “take the knee” in protest against the UCI’s trans policy.

In October, Thompson, who also won five US national road race titles in the 1980s and early 1990s, joined the board of directors at Cynisca Cycling, a new UCI Continental Women’s team based in France and formed for 2023 in partnership with USA Cycling to develop young American talent.

The 59-year-old has been one of the most vocal critics in recent years of transgender women participating in female events, and in 2019 resigned from Oregon Bicycling Racing Association’s board of directors following a backlash over an interview she gave to Save Women’s Sports, in which she called for the creation of a separate racing category for trans cyclists.

Earlier this week, in the wake of Austin Killips’ overall victory at the Tour of the Gila, Thompson appeared on Fox News and urged cyclists to “take a knee” – a gesture associated with the anti-racism movement launched by NFL player Colin Kaepernick in 2016 – in protest against the UCI’s inclusion policy and the presence of trans cyclists in women’s races.

Appearing on ‘Fox and Friends First’, the USA Bicycling Hall of Fame member said she was now asking “everybody to protest for the protection of women”.

However, Thompson’s recent tweets and public appearances have prompted Cynisca to end their association with the former pro, who they claimed was damaging the team’s “brand and reputation”, and merely using the squad as a “platform for her political activity”.

The team also accused Thompson of “dehumanising” transgender people and “spreading misinformation”, causing journalists to refuse to cover the team and leading potential staff members and riders to decline job offers “out of fear of crossing or appearing to align themselves with her”.

“Inga Thompson is no longer a member of the Cynisca board of directors and will have no consulting or any other role with Cynisca. The association with Ms Thompson has affected Cynisca’s brand and reputation,” the team announced in a statement.

> British Cycling's transgender and non-binary participation policy: a cyclist's experience

In the statement, Cynisca acknowledged that Thompson was appointed to the team’s board of directors thanks to her “impressive palmarés and a wealth of knowledge on international race strategy, tactics, and training.”

The team continued: “If shared in the absence of politics, her knowledge and experience would benefit many and advance cycling for everyone.

“However, she has decided to dedicate her time to excluding people that are otherwise and currently eligible to compete in UCI events. She has also attempted to use our team as a platform for her political activity.

“Ms Thompson's departure resolves a troubling conflict of interest. Cynisca is an apolitical organization, and her campaign and methods, by charter, UCI Code of Ethics, US law and decency, are not and will never be Cynisca's mission.

“To be clear, Ms Thompson is entitled to her opinions and advocacy, but her methods and personal attacks are inconsistent with Cynisca's mission to advance opportunities for women. Those methods, well-documented on Ms Thompson’s social media presence, include dehumanization of transgender people, spreading misinformation, demagoguery, and personal attacks on anyone who opposes her views.

“Our mission has been and always will be that of advancing women at all levels of cycling and doing so in a framework of equality, fairness, and tolerance. Despite the negativity fostered by Ms Thompson, we are succeeding and will push forward faster without her.”

> "Dumped by email": Mother of transgender cyclist Emily Bridges speaks out after British Cycling decision to suspend trans policy

In response to the team’s decision, Thompson tweeted this morning: “I was so excited for the maiden voyage and launch of Cynisca Cycling. One press release, a brief pause, and they’ve become the Titanic.”

Thompson’s departure from Cynisca comes a week after the 59-year-old described Austin Killips – who, by taking the GC at the Tour of the Gila, became the first transgender athlete to win a UCI women’s stage race – as “cycling’s equivalent of Lia Thomas”, the transgender swimmer who faced similar scrutiny after winning a US college women’s title last year.

Austin Killips at Tour of the Gila (Instagram: @thatsneate)

> Austin Killips becomes first trans cyclist to win UCI women's stage race

“This really highlights the issues that are happening to women in cycling,” Thompson told the Telegraph. “We have more than 50 transgender women in the sport. And what’s going on in the background is that women are just quietly walking away. They think, ‘Why bother, if it's not fair?’”

The former 7-Eleven rider also claimed that there is a “lot of bullying” in women’s cycling over the trans issue, and that women who speak out “get cancelled, they get silenced, their jobs are threatened”.

She argued: “If they say anything, they are eviscerated. And so, instead of fighting this, they just walk away.”

On Fox News this week, Thompson said that the media “really has effectively shut down all dialogue about this and so many of us on the outside are trying to be this voice, to give the women the confidence to speak up without fear of losing their sponsorship.”

She continued: “That’s why we’re asking the owners of the team to step up and for fans to come and have an active support for these women so that we can have equality in women’s sports.

“With Austin winning, it has given women’s cycling a lot of visibility. We’re now asking everybody to protest for the protection of women… The science has been there for years and has been actively ignored because they would rather have inclusion than fairness for the women.”

> UCI to make "eventual decision" on transgender policy in August and will "take into account all elements" of heated debate

Following Killips’ win in New Mexico, the UCI announced that it recognised the concerns around the participation of transgender athletes in its events and that it has “agreed to debate and take an eventual decision” at the next meeting of the governing body’s management committee at August’s world championships in Glasgow.

According to the UCI’s current guidelines, trans women are allowed to compete in women’s competitions if their testosterone levels have been below 2.5 nanomoles per litre for at least 24 months.

In the immediate aftermath of Killips’ victory, the UCI defended its policy, stating that it “acknowledges that transgender athletes may wish to compete in accordance with their gender identity. The UCI rules are based on the latest scientific knowledge and have been applied in a consistent manner. The UCI continues to follow the evolution of scientific findings and may change its rules in the future as scientific knowledge evolves.”

However, two days later the governing body released another statement which appeared to indicate that it would reconsider its stance.

“The subject of the participation of transgender athletes in international competitions was discussed at the UCI Management Committee meeting,” it said.

“The Management Committee decided to analyse the current situation by reopening consultation with the athletes and National Federations, and therefore agreed to debate and take an eventual decision at its next meeting, in Glasgow, in August.

“The UCI's objective remains the same: to take into consideration, in the context of the evolution of our society, the desire of transgender athletes to practise cycling. The UCI also hears the voices of female athletes and their concerns about an equal playing field for competitors, and will take into account all elements, including the evolution of scientific knowledge.”

Ryan joined road.cc in December 2021 and since then has kept the site’s readers and listeners informed and enthralled (well at least occasionally) on news, the live blog, and the road.cc Podcast. After boarding a wrong bus at the world championships and ruining a good pair of jeans at the cyclocross, he now serves as road.cc’s senior news writer. Before his foray into cycling journalism, he wallowed in the equally pitiless world of academia, where he wrote a book about Victorian politics and droned on about cycling and bikes to classes of bored students (while taking every chance he could get to talk about cycling in print or on the radio). He can be found riding his bike very slowly around the narrow, scenic country lanes of Co. Down.

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46 comments

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MissyChrissy | 1 year ago
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I tell you what, if Austin Killips was only 5'5" high and 8 stone wringing wet, nobody would give a damn about 'muscle mass' and 'bone structure', and the losers would be complaining about the tall girl at the back. Those same people only complained about Caster Semenya because she didn't look like a starving waif, complained about Serena Williams because she's got a strong pair of shoulders, made vile speculation about any woman who doesn't fit their idea of womanhood.

There's more trans men and women out there in your world than you think, and you don't notice them because they aren't winning, they aren't on your TVs every week, they don't stand out. But if one of them wins, some of you lot would happily take every single trans person out and machine-gun them because the very thought of someone 'different' to you disturbs the smooth surface of your tiny little minds.

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Paul J replied to MissyChrissy | 1 year ago
2 likes

Caster Semenya is XY and, by some accounts, had (undescended) testes. She certainly had male levels of testosterone, including through puberty, until after the rules setting limits came in. Caster is a different case to MtF trans-gender athletes note.

As for Austin Philips, even if she was 165cm and 50 kg, she would *still* have an advantage over women of similar stature. Indeed, at that size, she'd probably have an even greater advantage in climbing over _all_ the other women (160 to 165cm and ~50kg to 55kg describes some of the best male climbs - they tend to be tiny! And the best women climbers tend to be tiny too, e.g. Pooley).

The simple truth is that it extremely unlikely Austin Philips would ever have had this level of success competing in male classes, pre-transition. Because she simply does not have elite level physiology.

She's benefiting from a good, but not great, residual male physiology in terms of performance, and beating women who _really are_ talented.

Austin Philips has every right to participate in sport. However, there is simply no human right to using the residual advantage of testosterone during puberty (and, in many cases, a chunk of adulthood too) to beat women in elite, competitive, sport.

It's the same as doping.

Lance Armstrong can go do various gran fondos and unsanctioned semi-competitive MTB events - he can participate. However he can not enter UCI sanctioned competitive events. This is not an infringement of his human rights.

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Paul J replied to Paul J | 1 year ago
1 like

As for Williams, she is clearly a woman. Strong, but clearly a woman. And her serve is much slower than a man, and she is easily beaten by much lower ranked men.

She'd have 0 chance of success in the men's category. Cause she's (obviously) a woman.

And frankly, some of the reasons for Williams having been brought in as a comparison, have origins in racism.

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LookAhead replied to MissyChrissy | 1 year ago
4 likes
MissyChrissy wrote:

you lot would happily take every single trans person out and machine-gun them because the very thought of someone 'different' to you disturbs the smooth surface of your tiny little minds

Absolutely horrible take.

Many (most?) people who oppose trans participation in female sports bear no particular ill will* toward trans people. They are our friends and family and coworkers and fellow community members, and we love them and wish them success and happiness in their lives. The very thought of someone different doesn't disturb us, and we certainly don't want to "take every single trans person out and machine-gun them". (Did I mention that was a fucking horrible take?)

I suggest that you grow up, accept that some people simply disagree on this issue, and recognize that taking an extreme, emotionally-fueled position on the cause du jour doesn't actually make you a good person. You have to work much harder for it than that.

*I'm not saying they all have ultra-enlightened views on the topic, but are there any topics at all on which most people have ultra-enlightened views? Why is it that on a few select topics a failure to have ultra-enlightened views makes one not merely human but rather a vile bigot?

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David W | 1 year ago
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It seems as if the problem with trans-people in sport is that both sides are correct, they both know that they are correct and each hangs onto their strong argument so that they don't need to consider the alternative. It is true that trans-women who have gone through male puberty will have a genetic advantage over a woman who has not gone through male puberty. It's not fair, but then sport has never been fair. Serena Willimas has genetic advantages over her sister Venus, and no matter how hard I train or lose weight I'll never match Miguel Indurain's lung capacity. And, while there are occaisonal frauds trying to push the debate into the news cycle,  trans-women are women. I have no probelm with rules in elite (rewarded) sport about permissable levels of testosterone, but in general amateur sport ,it seems to me to be a decision beteween making it harder on on a cis-girl/woman  to get a win, or outting and excluding a trans-girl/woman from participation. With a 40% attempted suicide rate among trans-people, I know where I would draw the line, even if I can sympathise with the alterate argument. 

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Paul J replied to David W | 1 year ago
2 likes

It's a ridiculous argument that trans-women must be allowed to compete at _elite_ level against women, cause... transgender have higher suicide rates^1.

People who compete in sport are a small percentage of the population. The people who get to compete at elite level are a tiny tiny sliver of that percentage. There is simply no way that this can have a bearing on the mental health of transgender people at a population level.

Further, competition at elite sport level tends to come with mental health issues itself. It's tough to operate at that level. So if the worry is mental health, then if anything you're saying trans-gender people should not enter elite competion?

Further, you ignore the impact on the mental health of the (few) natal-women who were gifted with outstanding physiology AND who spent years and years and years on training that, to then be beaten by someone who was borne with _average_ physiology, but went through male puberty.

What you are arguing is that CIS-women should just suck it up and accept they are inferior to males (inc. trans-women with retained male physiological benefits), and screw their chance to compete against others of similar physiological development.

That's just an incredibly misogynistic position to take.

1. People with gender-dysphoria / trans-gender also have high rates of psychiatric co-morbidities compared to the general population. It is unclear if suicide rates are higher in people with those psychiatric co-morbidities AND gender dysphoria as compared to those who have those psychiatric co-morbidities /without/ gender dysphoria. Further, there is no good evidence at this point that gender-transition is an effective treatment, in terms of reducing those high suicide rates (unfortunately, many of the clinics have been very poor at keeping records and/or doing follow-ups - so the data really sucks).

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birzzles | 1 year ago
3 likes

The trans comedy, an entertaining diversion during covid, is coming to an end.  Patience has run our for the hate filled trans lobby.  Women's sport is gradually being returned to women.  Nobody actually thinks trans women are women,  they are just being polite.  There is no such thing as the LGBTQI+ group either, each letter loathes every one of the others.

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cyclisto | 1 year ago
4 likes

Wow, Inga has balls (no pun intended)

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spen | 1 year ago
4 likes

Never understood why the testosterone levels for trans women in sport wasn't set at the same level as for the general female population, (although femal lelite athletes tend to have naturaly higher levels).

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MissyChrissy | 1 year ago
4 likes

It's actually very simple. Women's racing should be open to all women, cis or trans.

If you don't want this you'll have to start making categories based not on gender, but on biological SEX - male, female, other. And you'll have to start testing every single  competitor's chromosomal makeup since that's currently the best way to determine biological sex.

If you're XX you're female, congratulations. You race against other females.

If you're XY you're male, congratulations. You race against other males.

If you're anything else, and there's lots of variations out there 'cos humans are a mongrel breed, you race against ... The Others!

And wouldn't it be a shame if these trans-excluding proponents turned out to be Not Actually Female, but have some sort of intersex condition, this barring them from the very competition they were trying to keep others from? [/snark]

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Paul J replied to MissyChrissy | 1 year ago
5 likes

This is basically what is going to happen.

Probably the process will a self-declaration, rather than a test. Except when there is some dispute or query.

Note that inter-sex is different from trans-gender. The cases in the news of MtF transgender athletes entering women's sport and suddenly performing at much higher levels than they did as males, are not inter-sex.

Cases of inter-sex women and cases of women with /other/ developmental issues giving them high levels of testosterone certainly have existed. Caster Semenya is a recent example - she is inter-sex (but not transgender), but she *is* XY and (surprise) had male testosterone levels.

And yes it is difficult and unfortunate for such women. E.g., hormone treatment was apparently not very nice for Caster - never mind all the controversy and undignified examinations. Her career in (women's) athletics is effectively over.

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MissyChrissy replied to Paul J | 1 year ago
2 likes

Self-declaration won't stand up. For every person who says they're X, there'll be a few who say they're really Y, then there'll have to be 'an investigation' which won't solve anything. Look at how people (almost all women) who don't fit the stereotypes of appearance, get called transgender - Jamie Lee Curtis, Serena Williams, Caster Semenya and many others, all misgendered and slandered because of their physical attributes.

It'll have to be, when a person registers as an athlete in any sport, that they have a compulsory karyotype test along with their blood type and whatever else they're tested for. And it'll have to be performed by the sport's global governing body.

And there's going to be some disappointments, some shock results, and some people are going to feel humiliated, but this is what it'll come to because some people couldn't control their transphobia.

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Paul J replied to MissyChrissy | 1 year ago
8 likes

I agree it'll come down to biological sex. That's sort of the point.

I don't think this is to do with transphobia though. It's about preserving a category for people who can reasonably be inferred to have developed without male sex hormones - be that cause of genetics, or other development reasons, or simply doping.

Maybe there are some transphobes who delight in that too, but that's not why the majority of society supports preserving said category for developmental-female athletes.

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Dnnnnnn replied to MissyChrissy | 1 year ago
3 likes
MissyChrissy wrote:

If you don't want this you'll have to start making categories based not on gender, but on biological SEX

For most competitive sports, that seems sensible. It does leave the question of the c1% who aren't XX or XY but that's a different issue to transgender ID (and the two don't seem very closely correlated).

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wycombewheeler replied to Dnnnnnn | 1 year ago
1 like
Dnnnnnn wrote:
MissyChrissy wrote:

If you don't want this you'll have to start making categories based not on gender, but on biological SEX

For most competitive sports, that seems sensible. It does leave the question of the c1% who aren't XX or YY but that's a different issue to transgender ID (and the two don't seem very closely correlated).

No one is YY, because males don't reproduce with males. (or females with females)

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Dnnnnnn replied to wycombewheeler | 1 year ago
1 like
wycombewheeler wrote:

No one is YY, because males don't reproduce with males. (or females with females)

Typo, sorry - corrected in the original post (but not above, for clarity (?)).

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Sriracha replied to MissyChrissy | 1 year ago
4 likes
MissyChrissy wrote:

If you don't want this you'll have to start making categories based not on gender, but on biological SEX

I thought that's how it always used to be. It was never about how you dressed.

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Dnnnnnn replied to Sriracha | 1 year ago
3 likes
Sriracha wrote:
MissyChrissy wrote:

If you don't want this you'll have to start making categories based not on gender, but on biological SEX

I thought that's how it always used to be. It was never about how you dressed.

The conflation of sex and gender seems a big part of the issue and differences of view.

Do we even need much of the gender stuff nowadays? I realise that would be undoing millenia of social constructions - but would be a bad thing to avoid categorising people unless there's a very specific need based on very good distinctions? We have done in some spheres already but why do the first two letters on every utility bill indicate my gender? What purpose does that serve now that Mrs Dnnnnn is an equal being and not my property (it being not so long ago that women were addressed as "Mrs [their husband's name]" and probably not meant to open bills since they weren't meant to deal with such  important men's matters).

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Jimmy Ray Will replied to MissyChrissy | 1 year ago
6 likes

You say simple, but why do we have a women's category at all? My understanding is to provide females, who are biologically disadvantaged (purely in a sporting context) a level playing field to compete amongst their peers. Simply that. 

Now in sport nothing is truly fair, or level, but within the confines of biology it is a simple and fair way to categorise. 

What you have then outlined is pretty much exactly what is in place already, but rather than needing chromosomal testing, we rely on the sex assigned by medical professionals at birth. This has worked pretty effectively up until now, but suddenly we have all this talk of intersex traits and genetic variations.

The gravitas afforded to these variations seems excessive to me as we are only talking about 0.5% of the population, 1.7% if we include all and every variation (although having a little more body hair is unlikely to win you a UCI race). Rather than 'lots' these variations really are the outliers. I do agree however, that you may indeed find examples residing within the top tiers of women's sport. 

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hawkinspeter replied to Jimmy Ray Will | 1 year ago
1 like
Jimmy Ray Will wrote:

You say simple, but why do we have a women's category at all? My understanding is to provide females, who are biologically disadvantaged (purely in a sporting context) a level playing field to compete amongst their peers. Simply that. 

Now in sport nothing is truly fair, or level, but within the confines of biology it is a simple and fair way to categorise. 

What you have then outlined is pretty much exactly what is in place already, but rather than needing chromosomal testing, we rely on the sex assigned by medical professionals at birth. This has worked pretty effectively up until now, but suddenly we have all this talk of intersex traits and genetic variations.

The gravitas afforded to these variations seems excessive to me as we are only talking about 0.5% of the population, 1.7% if we include all and every variation (although having a little more body hair is unlikely to win you a UCI race). Rather than 'lots' these variations really are the outliers. I do agree however, that you may indeed find examples residing within the top tiers of women's sport. 

I'd expect that elite sports people are more likely to be genetically unusual, so that 0.5% of the population is likely to be over-represented in sports. It'd be interesting to test the male competitors as well and maybe start disqualifying people who don't have typical XY chromosomes as they may well have an advantage against the "biological males".

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Jimmy Ray Will replied to hawkinspeter | 1 year ago
7 likes

I would be happy to test that theory and you could well be right... but neither male or female genetic variations are the cause of the discussions we are having. 
My point is that genetic variations are being used to muddy conversations around the fairness of transathlete participation in female sport. The level of genetic variation is so small for it to be an irrelevant discussion point, but more importantly, it has little to nothing to do with Male to female trans people potentially holding on to physical advantages post transition and what this means for female sport. 

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wycombewheeler replied to Jimmy Ray Will | 1 year ago
0 likes
Jimmy Ray Will wrote:

My point is that genetic variations are being used to muddy conversations around the fairness of transathlete participation in female sport. The level of genetic variation is so small for it to be an irrelevant discussion point, 

I'm not sure you're wrong per se, but if the level of genetic variations is so small as to be insignificant, then aren't the number of trans people so small as to be insignificant.

I don't know the figures but people are bandying around 0.5% for the genetic variations, surely the number of trans women is lower than 0.5%?

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Jimmy Ray Will replied to wycombewheeler | 1 year ago
2 likes

This is a very reasonable point and the position I tend to default to. We are getting our knickers in a twist about nothing. 

I think the challenge for many (including myself at times), is the seeming prevalance of transathletes at the sharp end of the results sheet. 

For such a tiny minority group, should a -seemingly- significant majority just happen to be hugely athletically gifted to return the results that they do? Does this suggest there are indeed unfair physical advantages?

Maybe, but equally, it may simply be that the transathletes determined enough to put up with the bullshit they have to, are more than likely to be the one's performing the best. If you were crap at something, and everyone hounded you, you simply wouldn't bother.

Similarly why are there so few gay men in top level sport but a comparatively high number of gay women? Its all social constructs... competiting trans athletes could arguably be more focused, committed whatever due to their lived experiences.. maybe its not physical advantages making the difference, but mental and societal ones?

It is an incredibly complex issue that both sides of the argument seem hell bent on over-simplifying, which just gets everyone's backs up.

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Paul J replied to hawkinspeter | 1 year ago
4 likes

There's no need to test the males. They are the advantaged sex. Male is effectively the open category.

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Paul J replied to Jimmy Ray Will | 1 year ago
3 likes

For more than 99.9% of people, the simple question of "Did you have a penis as a child?" will accurately sort out the developmental males from developmental females.

Hell "have you got a penis?" is also likely to work for 99%+, given most MtF's do not have bottom surgery, cause it's a pretty risky procedure (unsure exactly how many, but it's a substantial portion - circa half or more).

Miss Chrissy is making this far more complicated than it needs to be.

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MissyChrissy replied to Paul J | 1 year ago
2 likes

I'm not making it complicated. There's a half dozen trans athletes making headlines by winning their competitions, and you think it's some sort of invasion by the Transsexual Menace™ coming soon to every pool, track, sports ground and podium near you. You're all losing your damned minds.

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CXR94Di2 replied to MissyChrissy | 1 year ago
3 likes
MissyChrissy wrote:

I'm not making it complicated. There's a half dozen trans athletes making headlines by winning their competitions, and you think it's some sort of invasion by the Transsexual Menace™ coming soon to every pool, track, sports ground and podium near you. You're all losing your damned minds.

They shouldn't be entering or winning women only events. Enter as a trans in the male categories.

They won't because they are failed male athletes

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Paul J replied to MissyChrissy | 1 year ago
0 likes
MissyChrissy wrote:

I'm not making it complicated. There's a half dozen trans athletes making headlines by winning their competitions, and you think it's some sort of invasion by the Transsexual Menace™ coming soon to every pool, track, sports ground and podium near you. You're all losing your damned minds.

Right, and neither those trans-gender athletes nor the 99.9% of other women athletes require any complex tests or investigations.

"Were you assigned female from birth till now?" yes/no. Job done for 99.9+ of cases.

Yes? -> You may compete in sanctioned women's sport.
No?
-> You may participate in non-competitive women's events,
-> You may compete in men's sport.

Simple.

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MissyChrissy replied to Jimmy Ray Will | 1 year ago
1 like

Intersex humans have existed as long as there have been humans. It's just that it didn't actually matter until recently. Nobody knew, nobody cared.

Caster Semenya was assigned female at birth and was raised entirely normally as a girl, but strictly speaking she's not female; she has XY chromosomes. This was only found out when people complained about her successes and the IAAF had her karyotype tested.

Many intersex traits are entirely undetectable at birth, so you can't rely on your birth certificate - the midwife glances at a baby's genitals and makes a decision that defines that child's whole life. Usually it doesn't matter but just  sometimes it does. And that 'sometimes' is what makes some particular people argue about 'women's rights in sport' and the alleged trans takeover. It's utterly ridiculous.

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wycombewheeler replied to MissyChrissy | 1 year ago
9 likes
MissyChrissy wrote:

It's actually very simple. Women's racing should be open to all women, cis or trans.

It's only that simple if you deny the reality that having been male for the first 20 years of life confers a lifelong physical advantage over cis females, and no amount of surgey or hormone treatment can remove that.

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