The Irony of Trans Athletes

Commentary, Culture Wars, Lee Harding

Mixed Martial Arts fighter Tamika Brents had never felt anyone or anything like the blows that sent her to the hospital in 2014. Fallon Fox hit Brents so hard that she suffered a broken skull. Despite the brutal loss, observers didn’t wonder whether Brents should be in the ring, they wondered about Fox, who was a male-to-female (MtF) transgender fighter.

“I’ve fought a lot of women and have never felt the strength that I felt in a fight as I did that night,” Brents said in an interview. “I can’t answer whether it’s because she was born a man or not because I’m not a doctor. I can only say, I’ve never felt so overpowered ever in my life and I am an abnormally strong female in my own right… I still disagree with Fox fighting. Any other job or career I say have a go at it, but when it comes to a combat sport I think it just isn’t fair.”

In light of the incident, Ashley McGuire said, “Twenty years ago, if a man hit a woman so hard that he sent her to the hospital, he’d be in prison. Now he can get paid for it.” 

The problem is that calling an MtF transgender a man is illegal in Canada, and also banned from social media platforms like Twitter. No, such a one must be called a “woman” now because they have deemed themselves to be such. The rightness (or wrongness) of that aside, the (un)level playing field of MtF transgenders competing against female born cisgenders remains a controversial issue.

Much of the male advantage over females in athletics is due to higher levels of testosterone and related androgenizing hormones. As Ross at SportsScientists.com  explains, the benefits include “lean mass, strength and power, reduced fat mass (thus power to weight ratio), stronger bones, larger hearts, increased hemoglobin mass, skeletal structure, and more.” It’s part of the reason that in both sprints and marathons, the best women run about 11 percent slower than the best men.

Most sport regulators trying to accommodate trans athletes require them to have maintained lower testosterone levels over the previous 12 months. Is this enough to level the playing field? MtF athletes who have artificially reduced their testosterone (and even increased their estrogen) notice reduced stamina, more difficulty building muscle, and more difficulty eliminating fat.

Ross points to the example of Joanna Harper. Harper was once a near-elite male distance runner ranked roughly in the 93rd percentile among men, who, after making the MtF transition and lowered testosterone, competed and ranked in the same percentile versus females. Harper has documented other athlete’s cases where similar results ensued.

This clearly doesn’t solve all the problems, since hormone levels represent just one aspect of thousands of biological differences between males and females. Besides this, the acceptable range of testosterone for a trans-athlete is debatable. The typical ceiling allowed is usually 10 nmol/L. Last year, the International Olympic Committee guidelines recommended a level half that amount, but have yet to put those guidelines into effect.

Even so, one year of lower testosterone does not eliminate the physiological changes in developmental years. That’s why in Ross’ view “the transgender MtF athlete poses particular concern for sports like boxing, MMA, rugby, AFL, even basketball, netball and handball.”

And if no requirement for lower testosterone takes place, the playing field is indisputably slanted towards an MtF transgender.

To make a point, Rapper Zuby identified as a female and broke a women’s deadlift world record in his words, “without even trying.” However, this situation is unusual in most sports because most regulatory bodies need more than a simple self-declaration for an MtF to compete. Canada is one of the few places where this is all that is required.

“This is crazy,” says Ross, “and I fully support sport’s autonomy to regulate itself to prevent this from happening with regulation. It’s the ‘worst-case scenario’ for sport if this goes widespread.” Ross says “the disappearance of women from sport” would be the direct result if that happened everywhere, since women could not place in the top 100, or even 1,000 in some instances.

There is, of course, a much simpler solution, one that doesn’t require performance-suppressing drugs. That solution is to divide male and female athletics on the basis of biological sex and not gender. After all, if the transgender activists are to be believed, gender is a matter of the mind and emotions, an inner “sense” of who one is, even if that doesn’t match the physical reality. Sport is all about physical reality and who objectively lifts more, runs faster, or kicks the ball in the net. Couldn’t MtF transgenders keep their “female” identities on the inside but keep their male bodies, and compete with biological men?

The answer is no, for the same reason that males who declare themselves to be transgendered females must also go into women’s washrooms. Although the original difference has to do with anatomy, it is absolutely essential that inward “realities” supercede outward realities so that transgenderism gains social acceptance. As soon as biological sex is allowed to take precedence over the inward sense of gender, it reinforces the very status quo that trangenderism tries to undo: that is that a biological male is male, and biological female is female. Chromosomes prove that long after hormones change bodies, surgeries change genitalia, and common sense is overrun by personal confusion and trans-activist revolution.