Earlier this week, world swimming’s governing body effectively banned transgender women from competition. Why? Because of the perceived “advantage” held by women who have fully transitioned from male to female. (Notice there is no female-to-male transgender equivalent argument as transmen are assumed to be at a “disadvantage.) This argument hearkens back to the day when the perception was that lesbian athletes held an “unfair advantage” in sports over the straight athletes. It was bull hockey then, and it’s bull hockey now.
“Currently, there is no direct or consistent research suggesting transgender female individuals (or male individuals) have an athletic advantage at any stage of their transition (e.g. cross-sex hormones, gender-confirming surgery) and, therefore, competitive sport policies that place restrictions on transgender people need to be considered and potentially revised.”~Sport and Transgender People: A Systematic Review of the Literature Relating to Sport Participation and Competitive Sport Policies
So, what is “transgender?” According to the American Psychological Association,
“Transgender is an umbrella term for persons whose gender identity, gender expression or behavior does not conform to that typically associated with the sex to which they were assigned at birth.”~What does transgender mean?
By this definition, I am technically “transgender,” as is my wife and most of our social circle. However, I do not identify as transgender. I may be gender-nonconforming, but I am not transgender. Gender is often confused with sexuality, but they are altogether different concepts. A person’s sexuality is not necessarily tied to their gender identity.
Because I have been involved with the LGBTQ+ community for much of my adult life, I am familiar with transgender people. In fact, at least three friends are transmen of various ages, all happily living their manly lives. And I know many others who identify as non-binary or agender.
Gender and sexuality are complicated, gender especially so. Society tries to tell us how we should act according to our assigned sex. Boys must be athletic, rough, and protective of their women. Girls must be demure, passive, and supportive of their men. Reality is often quite different from our social ‘norms.’ More people are beginning to acknowledge and live their authentic, true selves. It’s a beautiful thing to behold.
Visibility is everything when you grow up different from everyone around you, and representation in sports is essential. Young transgender people need to see themselves represented on the ball field, soccer pitch, and in the pools with their peers without prejudice.
Four Myths About Trans Athletes, Debunked
World swimming bans transgender athletes from women’s events
Transgender People, Gender Identity and Gender Expression
This scientist is racing to discover how gender transitions alter athletic performance—including her own