Transgender Athletes in Professional Sports

By: Marta A. 

What would have happened if Caitlyn Jenner had come out as transgender before competing in the Olympics? Would she have been allowed to compete as a female in the female division? There are so many questions to ask when it comes to transgender athletes competing professionally but there are even more possible answers that bring a lot of controversy. Obviously, there are two major opposing opinions. One sides argues that, especially transgender women, who are women that were assigned male at birth but live as females, have an advantage due to the difference in testosterone levels and therefore they should not be allowed to compete with the gender they associate with. Among other things, testosterone regulates muscle mass. With higher levels of testosterone, biologically, males have higher muscle mass compared to most females as well as a higher muscle to fat ratio. The statement that transgender men should be allowed to compete with males but transgender women should not be allowed to compete with females, also leads to feminist discussions because it can imply that women are weaker than men. Most of the feminist community like the transgender community argue that people should be allowed to compete with the gender they identify with because at the end of the day we are people and women are not weaker than men. But then again, is there an unfair advantage due to hormones? More discussions arise when hormone blockers are introduced. What happens then? Are they allowed to compete with the gender they identify with? Gender verification tests have been introduced in sports and are in some cases mandatory. These tests lead to even more questions. What makes a person male or female? Is it the chromosomes? But then what if you have XX chromosomes and develop hormonally as male? For the 2012 London Olympic games the International Olympic Committee (IOC) released the IOC Regulations on Female Hyperandrogenism. Parts of the statement include the following quote: “these Regulations are designed to identify circumstances in which a particular athlete will not be eligible (by reason of hormonal characteristics) to participate in 2012 OG Competitions in the female category. In the event that the athlete has been declared ineligible to compete in the female category, the athlete may be eligible to compete as a male athlete.” In this case hormones levels are used to determine what category athletes can compete in, which for most people seems to be a fair compromise.

In conclusion, it is true that from an athletic point of view the genetic, the hormonal and the biological part of being transgender is important, but in reality the most important part of being transgender is the emotional side of it. It is about what you feel not about what social constructs or norms society has imposed on gender. As Chaz Bono said “Gender is between your ears and not between your legs.”

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