The World Athlete Council has banned transgender athletes from competing in elite female competitions and tightened testosterone restrictions for other athletes. The governing body’s president, Sebastian Coe, said that the decision to exclude transgender women who had gone through male puberty was based on “the overarching need to protect the female category.”
However, the apex sporting body has not ruled out the possibility of keeping the door open for transgender sports persons. Today, even sports is not outside the ambit of political correctness. Sports is the last bastion where biological markers of distinctions between a man and a woman remain relevant. Everything else is up for grabs in the name of gender being cultural conditioning.
Women’s spaces are increasingly being muddled because it is in vogue to think that gender is a social construct. Women do need their own spaces of excellence. Not just because there are definite physical barriers, but also because women are new to professional competitions that allow them to productively hone their personal talents and skills into excellence and career achievements.
Even as women are just finding their foothold in myriad arenas, the specter of transgender or the third gender, or those who are not biologically women infiltrating that space may shake her newfound confidence. That is why women are giving their all to protect these spaces, and Sports is the last standing bastion where it can be done with some degree of objectivity. Last year, swimming’s world governing body, World Aquatics, voted to bar transgender women from the elite competition if they had experienced any part of male puberty. A scientific panel found that even after reducing their testosterone levels through medication, transgender women still had a significant advantage. While researchers say that there’s no definitive proof that trans athletes hold an advantage over cisgender players, transgender people participating in women’s sports have received continuous criticism from women athletes and women’s rights activists who call the ban a fair decision.
In recent years, female athletes in several U.S. states have filed lawsuits against local school districts or states after transgender athletes defeated them in competitions, claiming transgender women possess a distinct advantage over them. In 2021, lawmakers in 27 U.S. states proposed legislation seeking a ban on transgender athletes from competing in school sports that match their gender identity, with lawmakers saying they want to protect female athletes.
Experts and women athletes argue that trans women should not be allowed to enter female competitions if they transitioned after puberty because the testosterone in their system would give them a competitive edge, and allowing transgender women to compete in female categories would be detrimental to cisgender women who do not have the same physiological capabilities.
Some argue that instead of having transgender women enter women’s sports competitions, they should have a category of their own that would both respect the need for inclusivity and fairness. Letting transgender individuals participate in sports because of their gender identity is entirely different from how sports have been divided so far — on the basis of the biological factor of sex assigned at birth.
Last year, American swimmer Lia Thomas, a trans athlete, switched from men’s to women’s competition and won the gold medal in the 500-yard freestyle event at the US collegiate championships. Thomas previously competed for the men’s swimming team at the University of Pennsylvania, posting the 32nd fastest 1,650-yard freestyle time in the nation for men in 2018–2019 and ranking 65th and 554th in the 500-yard and 200-yard freestyle.
The argument against Thomas competing against cisgender women swimmers was that nature endowed her with certain post-pubescent physical attributes that provide a competitive advantage. These attributes include a larger heart size, more hemoglobin, leaner body mass, and larger lung capacity.
These physiological factors support the strength, speed, and recovery required to compete in most sports. Boys undergo a massive transformation with respect to their bodies at around the age of 13-14, which results in changes in their hearts, lungs, and the shape of their skeletons, among other things.
They also experience a significant change in haemoglobin levels in their blood. These factors are all imperative contributors when it comes to sporting performances. Even after testosterone reduction from the body, some biological differences are retained in trans athletes who have transitioned from male to female.
Researchers believe that transgender athletes enjoy advantages in terms of their aerobic and anaerobic capacity, physicality, stamina, and overall strength when competing against other women in the female category.
The argument has now reached the high school level, where some cisgender women are discovering that they are at a physical disadvantage in contests they once dominated. The rewards that women believed they had earned on the merits of years of intense training and personal sacrifice are being lost because of a unilateral change in the terms of the competition.