Evidently It’s Not Just a Game

A local opinion writer recently had a piece published advocating for a third sports gender category to consist solely of transgender athletes. He offered this suggestion as a way to create ‘fairness’ in sports competition and to ostensibly soothe the angry and indignant arguments that currently dominate the issue. On the surface, it is not an unreasonable suggestion although I’m not sure it is the best idea or even all that good. It is not the first time I have heard this possible solution.

There are things about this suggestion that trouble me. First, there is the implication that all trans athletes are equal. When this topic is discussed it is always mentioned that M to F (Male to Female) trans athletes have a physical advantage over athletes who were female at birth. But not all trans people were male at birth.

Second, many different genetic combinations having to do with sex and gender are present in varying humans. The physical characteristics and abilities of those born male or female are not dualist. Rather, as with most human characteristics, there is a spectrum of traits and abilities spread over a continuum of all people, not necessarily strictly related to the concept of two and only two sexes and genders.

Finally, in this scenario, F to M (female to Male) trans athletes seem to be left out of the discussion entirely. Not all trans people are M to F and those born with female anatomy who identify as men and take action to become men physically need to be recognized as not only real men but real athletes. Where is their category?

To follow the logic behind the concept of three categories these F to M trans athletes should be less capable athletically than those who were male at birth. If this is true, to be truly fair, shouldn’t there be at least 4 categories of athletic competition? Is trans athletic competition only an issue if the transition leads to dominance? 

The exclusion of F to M trans athletes from this conversation is humiliating. Trans people and trans athletes face enough discrimination as it is and certainly do not need any more fear piled on their already hyper-stressed heads.

When a person transitions from their gender at birth to that in their mind, heart, and soul my guess is that they are fully prepared to compete against others of their chosen gender regardless of their birth physicality. This is not a cut and dried, black and white issue. Frankly, there are people born as men who are good athletes and those who are poor athletes. This applies to those born as women as well. I recall something about a tennis player named Billie jean King. 

There is a level of legitimacy to the argument that M to F trans athletes, in general, have better physical abilities than those born female. But the argument that men who choose to transition to female do so only for the opportunity to excel at women’s sports is patently ridiculous. Why would a man who knows he is a man become a woman to win medals and then face years of regret after their sports career is over? It’s absurd.

This is not an easy topic to parse as there are strong opinions held by many. For my money, we should let the athletes decide how to work out this controversy, not parents or politicians. I think we all know this conflict will be difficult to reconcile. But I feel that allowing those who participate to decide will be the closest to fair that we, as a society, can get.

Just the opinion of a cisgender old white man.

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