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Transgender 2

Pat Griffin, Director of It Takes a Team!, pointed out in her recent report that “to date, no high school governing bodies have announced policies addressing the participation of transgender athletes.”  However, as explained in Transgender Athletes: Part One that is changing with the enactment of California Bill 1266.  Prior to 2003, no sport organization had a working policy regarding the participation of transgender athletes, youth or adult.  The International Olympic Committee mostly focused on preventing male competitors from participating in female events which they attempted to enforce with mandatory sex verification starting in 1968.  However, testing was discontinued in 1999 while they developed a policy regarding transgender athletes in the Olympic Games.  This policy, also known as the Stockholm Consensus, went into effect in the 2004 Games in Athens.  The IOC guidelines require sex reassignment surgery, legal recognition of assigned gender, and at least two years of hormone therapy.

Since the IOC policy changes, several other national and international sports organizations have adopted similar policies, in sports ranging from Golf, Track and Field, Boxing, Football, Roller Derby, and Quidditch.  The UK and US Women’s Sports Foundation, the World Anti-Doping Agency, and Disability Sports Australia have inclusive policies as well now.  Overall, the message is that several sports organizations support participation in their sports “on the basis of the gender with which they identify” so long as the “stated gender is sincerely held, and is part of a person’s core identity.”  For all organizations, if a sex reassignment surgery took place before puberty, their self-identified gender is sufficient.  For trans-male individuals (FTM), a Therapeutic Use Exemption is required as testosterone is considered a doping agent.  And, trans-female individuals (MTF) need to undergo hormone therapy for 1-2 years, which minimizes if not nullifies any gender-related advantages they had as a male before transitioning to female.

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The National Collegiate Association of Athletes (NCAA) set a somewhat less strict policy in 2011, requiring only one year of testosterone suppression for male-to-female transgender athletes and no surgery.  A trans-male (FTM) student athlete not taking testosterone related to gender transition may participate on a men’s or women’s team.  A trans-female (MTF), due to gender-advantage concerns, may not compete on a women’s team without at least one year of testosterone suppression hormone therapy.  This precedent supports a high school policy that is as relatively aggregated as the difference between the IOC and NCAA policies.

Professional female transgender athletes are exceedingly rare.  Their argued advantage from their male genetic makeup does not in reality correlate to any competitive advantage.  Non-transgender female athletes are not commonly injured in competition with transgender athletes.  Likewise, transgender athletes are not winning substantially more.  In fact, Mixed Martial Arts transgender athlete, Fallon Fox, lost to Ashlee Evans-Smith due to muscle fatigue in later rounds.  Fox explained, “Any of the women I’m competing against, my testosterone levels are drastically lower than theirs; it’s almost nothing.”    Women get 25% of their circulating testosterone from their ovaries, which transgender women do not have.  Moreover, after even only one year of estrogen and testosterone-suppression therapy, the NCAA unequivocally agrees with medical experts that “any strength and endurance advantages a transgender woman arguably may have as a result of her prior testosterone levels dissipate.”  More directly, Dr. Marci Bowers, in regards to Fallon Fox, explains: “Most measures of physical strength minimize, muscle mass decreases, bone density decreases, and they become fairly comparable to women in their musculature.  After as much time as has passed in her case, if tested, she would probably end up in the same muscle mass category as her biologically born female counterpart.”

Recently, Chloie Jonsson, a transgender woman and personal trainer, filed a lawsuit against CrossFit in California in March of 2014.  She is seeking $2.5 million in damages for discrimination and intentional infliction of emotional distress.  Jonsson hoped to compete in the CrossFit Games, a competition determining the fittest man and woman.  She has identified as a female since her teenage years, completed a sexual reassignment surgery in 2006, and has since been on female hormone therapy.  CrossFit claims that a male-to-female competitor still has the genetic makeup of a male competitor despite any sex reassignment procedure or hormone therapy.  However, scientific and anecdotal evidence are not on CrossFit’s side as evident in Fallon Fox’s career.  CrossFit claims their decision isn’t out of ignorance or bigotry: “it has to do with a very real understanding of the human genome, of fundamental biology, that you are either intentionally ignoring or missed in high school.”  Not only is their language demeaning, it is also medically inaccurate.  The offensive language used by CrossFit is hardly acceptable online or in schools, let alone from a corporation in a state that has already established transgender employment protections into law.  

For transgender adults, the law and science are on their side.  They can legally change their names, driver’s licenses, passports, and birth certificates.  They can elect to undergo sex reassignment surgery or hormone therapy that biologically nullifies arguments based on physical gender-advantages.  Children and teenagers, however, have less medical and legal autonomy than do adults.  The main argument, gender-advantage, simply does not hold the same weight pre-puberty.  Children and teenagers vary in size, strength and development prior to puberty regardless of gender.  Yet, that does not mean that children and teenagers are not aware or capable of identifying as transgender.  As more transgender individuals are able to transition at a younger age, middle schools and high schools need to also adopt a policy that supports and protects their participation in sports as legalized by Bill 1266.


Part One: Bill 1266

Part Three: She’s The Man



Author: Melanie Carbine

Melanie Carbine has degrees in English Literature and Math Education from the University of Michigan and Eastern Michigan University. She has lived in various parts of the world including Micronesia and the United States.  She currently writes for several education blogs, vlogs about her travels, and teaches middle school in the DC Metro Area.

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