Transgender Athletes and Unfair Advantages


I usually try to stay somewhat lighthearted in my posts. There’s a certain flavor of snarky charm that I like bringing to my writing. But writing style can often change with mood and I’ve spent the last two days arguing with TERFs (Transgender Exclusionary Radical Feminists) online. Yes, I know…I know…rule one of the internet is don’t read the comments. But I was finding their hateful rhetoric in a space I never expected it to be so prominent: the Facebook page for Equality House. If you ever needed proof that the transgender community isn’t always welcome in the gay and lesbian community, take an eye-opening stroll over there (I can’t even begin to throw up enough trigger warnings for that so PLEASE do so at your own risk).

The TERFs being particularly vocal were adamant that I take the time to debunk any claims they made about transgender women eroding women-only safe spaces (HA!), and taking away women’s rights (HA HA!), but they weren’t posting any real backup to their claims either so I didn’t see the need to do it myself (not to mention I don’t argue civilly with anyone who disrespects my gender and tries to un-person me). However, there was one topic where they did post articles backing up their claim: the notion of transgender women having an unfair advantage when competing in women-only sports. I’ll admit that one actually got my brain turning a little bit. Regardless I wasn’t going to get into an actual debate with a TERF, but the notion of transgender athletes does come up a lot and I’ve rarely weighed in on it. I’ve seen many of the stories she shared before, but they all have the same underlying theme: transgender women have bodies build in large by testosterone and thus have an unfair competitive advantage. Hate-filled radical feminists aside, I did want to share my thoughts on this matter.

There’s been plenty of chatter on both sides of this one. Is it fair to cis women to let trans women compete with them? Is it fair to force trans women to compete with cis men because sports is all about body type and physical ability? My stance on the matter might surprise you in multiple ways. On the subject of fairness, no, it isn’t fair to cis women to compete against trans women. Though HRT (hormone replacement therapy)  can deplete muscle mass in trans females, it isn’t always to the extent that their muscle mass would match that of a typical cisgender woman. Couple that with the diet and workout routine typically found with serious athletes and you’ve got a scenario where one competitor does have an unfair advantage over the other.

Anyone sharpening their pitchforks yet? I can hear the crackling of torch flames already. Faith, how can you say this?! You’ve always been an advocate for transgender women to have access to all female-only spaces! You’ve betrayed us all! If this is you, simmer down. I only said there was an unfair advantage. I never said such an advantage should disqualify transgender women from competing with other women. I firmly, 100% believe all transgender athletes should compete with others who share a similar gender identity. How do I marry these two seemingly opposing viewpoints? How do I justify advocating for trans women to enjoy the unfair advantage they have in sports? Simple…

I don’t care.

That’s seriously my big reveal. I unabashedly do not give a damn. Transgender women should be allowed to compete with cis women and enjoy any advantage that gives them. Why? Because it’s beyond ridiculous that transgender people have to keep justifying their existence by figuring out how we can insert ourselves into a society that was built assuming we didn’t exist. You say trans women don’t fit into the sports structure? I say make a new structure. Change sports entirely to reflect a gender diverse population. Have all sports be segregated solely on body type regardless of gender. If a cisgender man and woman are both about 6 feet tall and weigh between 180 and 200 pounds, put them in the same sport together. I don’t care what it is; put them together.

My clash with the TERFs yesterday showed me just how sick and tired I am of having to constantly figure out how I get to exist. And I’m not going to do it anymore. Transgender people have always existed. We have cultural, archaeological, and anthropological evidence to prove that. For as long as there have been socially defined notions of gender, there have been those who didn’t fit the mold. Other cultures shaped themselves to incorporate us, but western culture has largely tackled this by labeling us freaks and mentally ill. We’ve been shamed into staying hidden, into playing along with whatever roll we were handed. It’s led to severe depression and suicide time and time again, but that didn’t matter because it all happened in the background as the world kept going with the assumption everything was working just fine. The system works, and if it doesn’t work then that part is kept behind the curtain.

I’m not going to do it anymore. For as long as there are women-only spaces I will demand access to them. Don’t like that? Well, let’s change the system to something that recognized both that I exist and that I’m equal. Is that a lot of work? You bet your ass it is. Do I care? Not one bit. Any cultural aspect that can’t support the existence of transgender people should be completely dismantled and then rebuilt to include our existence. If we’re not willing to do that, then I will continue to do what makes me most comfortable and let society deal with however that makes them feel.

I’m done trying to find a spot on the puzzle where my piece fits. I will put my piece where I damn well please, no matter what corners I have to cut out of that hole to make it happen. My happiness is valid. My identity hurts absolutely no one. My safety and health are more important than making sure you’re not slightly inconvenienced. If that’s not fair, come to the table and lets’ rebuild in a way that respects both of us. But until that day, I will no longer lessen myself for your comfort.

So let the transgender women compete. Let them enjoy any advantage that gives them. I promise you, they’ve overcome enough just to get to that spot that they’ve earned it. I personally long for a day where notions of gender segregation are torn down, but I know I’ll never see such a world in my lifetime. So, game on!


One comment

  1. Your post is soo well written, soo well thought out, soo thoughtful and soo kind. I am soo impressed. Using TERF logic anyone with a learning disability has an unfair advantage in academics at the college level since to have reached that level with learning disabilities they would have had to learn to work harder, study more efficiently, know their own academic weaknesses and their own academic strengths better than other students. What a load of #*#****. Has there ever been a gold, silver or bronze medalist who was trans? I can’t recall even one. If not then the other athletes should focus on their own effort to be the best. The Special Olympic motto is “Let me win but if I cannot win let me be brave in the attempt.” Outside of Special Olympics, there are far too many people not focusing on being “brave in the attempt.”


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