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Old 04-09-2015, 11:51 AM   #29 (permalink)
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Join Date: Nov 2005
Location: Brooklyn
Posts: 1,015
The issue I see here is the same issue I see on the steroid debate: is it right to ask athletic competitors to subject their bodies to substantial chemical changes with lifelong consequences in order to compete at the highest level?

A trans woman who transitions after puberty still has the lifelong athletic benefits conferred from undergoing puberty as a biological male. This means altered bone structure, changes in muscle mass, height, weight and a host of other things that allow athletic competitors to succeed. For something like competitive fighting, weight is important, but so is reach, muscle mass and body structure. Longer arms make it easier to punch. Longer legs make it easier to kick. So on and so forth.

Now, we could simply say that any athletic competitors should be able to take as much synthetic testosterone as they want. However, the knock-on effects of that could entail high school girls getting dosed with drugs to alter their biochemistry and anatomy in order to compete at the highest level.

This is both a semantic debate and a debate about what people should be allowed to do/experience in order to compete athletically. It's tough to draw cut-offs, but those cut-offs exist to preserve the spirit of competition and the merit of accomplishments. The Paralympics, for example, have strict cut-offs for how handicapped you can be in order to compete. That might seem callous from the outside, but it preserves the level of internal competition. Somebody who doesn't qualify for the games because they aren't "handicapped enough" is still handicapped, and a woman who doesn't qualify for a competition because she went through puberty as a man is still a woman. That semantic issue belies real factors that sporting bodies regulate to preserve competition between like parties.

Preserving athletic competition for women has real, tangible value for society. Women reap the benefits of competitive sport, both physical, mental and emotional, and this helps to level an already uneven playing field with men. Allowing women who went through puberty as men to compete against women who did not threatens to seriously skew the playing field, discourage women from competitive athletic participation, and encourage the use of risky chemical enhancements like anabolic steroids.

Note: this is referring to competitive athletics only. For something like intramural sport, local leagues, etc., there's no real benefit to worrying about this. Roller derby, bowling leagues, and the random round of golf don't require this level of scrutiny. The issue here is preserving a space for competitive athletics for women, a group that, with the exception of trans women who transition after puberty, does not experience a wave of physical changes resulting from testosterone. I believe that preservation has value for people who want to grow up in a world where competitive athletics is something that women can aspire to.
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