Transgender women have faced intense backlash from various parties for competing in sports, especially against fellow ciswomen. The real question posed to these transgender athletes is ‘Are you really women?’ and ‘Doesn’t being transgender only means a change of body parts, especially the reproductive organs?’
What is a transgender?
Transgender is defined as having a gender different from the biological sex, so one can change from male to female or vice versa. “Transgender people have a gender identity or gender expression that differs from the sex they were assigned at birth. Some transgender people desire medical assistance to transition from one sex to another identity” [Source].
The transgender community seems to be growing every day and vies for equal rights in many sectors. For instance, in sports, transgender people made various applications to be allowed to compete at the Olympics and other sporting disciplines.
Should transgender women compete in sports?
Should transgender women compete in sports? Many people argue that this question can only be answered if transgender people prove that “transgender” means completely changing one’s gender. In this case, a ‘complete change’ entails a 100% transformation where one will be clearly seen as the opposite gender of their birth sex. But it was posited that being transgender does not necessarily mean that a person has ultimately switched genders.
The issue caused havoc in the mixed martial arts when transgender MMA fighter Fallon Fox wanted to enter into the octagon and fight women [Source]. Famous Ultimate Fighting Championship commentator Joe Rogan was against the idea of allowing Fox to fight. He called her a man and said, “She calls herself a woman but…I tend to disagree. And, uh, she, um…she used to be a man, but now she has had, she’s a transgender which is (the) official term that means you’ve gone through it, right? And she wants to be able to fight women in MMA. I say no f***ing way”.
His argument lies in the fact that a transgender woman possesses all the qualities of being a man and has the body structure of a male.
Rogan added that “I say if you had a dick at one point in time, you also have all the bone structure that comes with having a dick. You have bigger hands, you have bigger shoulder joints. You’re a f***ing man. That’s a man, OK? You can’t have… that’s…I don’t care if you don’t have a dick anymore….”
He explained his analysis of differences between the male and female bodies. He argued that Fox’s body is a man, so it is not fair to fight women. Rogan believes that Fox should fight men and said “Fight guys, yes. She has to fight guys. First of all, she’s not really a she. She’s a transgender, post-op person. The operation doesn’t shave down your bone density. It doesn’t change. You look at a man’s hands and a woman’s hands, and they’re built differently. They’re just thicker, stronger. Your wrists are thicker, your elbows are thicker, your joints are thicker. Just the mechanical function of punching, a man can do it much harder than a woman can, period”.
From this perspective, transgender women can compete against men since they have the same built-up.
According to a study, ” the science shows that trans women retain physique, strength and stamina advantages” [Source]. Rogan is justified by saying they cannot compete against other women.
Parents of children studying at the University of Pennsylvania made an outcry against transgender swimmer Lia Thomas who broke several swimming records while competing against female athletes. The parents felt that Lia’s abilities were not fair to be used among other girls and suggested that she should be banned [Source].
The underlying suggestion is not to ban transgender women from participating in sports but banning them from competing against female athletes. For instance, Lia achieved a lot as a male swimmer before the transgender process in the US. Now, she is dominating the women’s division.
And the UPenn parents are totally against this move because Lia has an advantage over the other young females. When it comes to the inclusion of transgender people in sports, some parties say that a category must be created whereby transgender people compete among themselves, which also causes problems. This is because those who now identify themselves as women need to be treated as women. It will be unfair to disqualify them from the women’s division, same for transgender males.
According to America’s National Collegiate Athletic Association, transgender athletes can compete “as women after they have completed one year of testosterone suppression treatment.” But does the testosterone treatment also put one on the same pedestal as other female athletes regarding physique, strength, and stamina?
The answer to this question is an obvious ‘no’ noted by sports analysts. Harper agreed with Rogan by saying that trans women have an advantage in different sports [Source].
Those who support the inclusion of transwomen in sports argue how cisgender girls can win when playing against trans women. It means fairness remains intact because if trans women had an advantage, then they should be winning all the time. In an article titled “COUNTER: Transgender women should be allowed to participate in women’s sports,” Sara Al-Yasseri says that banning trans women from playing against cisgender women “hurts all women” [Source]. She also noted that “including transgender athletes has so many benefits. It can end up promoting values of inclusivity within athletics. Banning transgender women from athletics undermines this inclusivity and compromises the wide-ranging benefits that youth get from sports”.
This issue has been debated for a long time. People are still disagreeing on the appropriate path to take. Still, globally trans women are allowed to compete in sports since they are ‘women’ just like ciswomen.