Guest post: Why the difference, do you think?

Lady Mondegreen emailed Athlete Ally letting them know what she thinks of their dismissal of Martina Navratilova. They sent her a crap reply, to which she responded. She shared both on Facebook and gave me permish to post it here.

From: Athlete Ally Info <info@athleteally.org>
Sent: Thursday, February 21, 2019 8:31:21 AM

As an organization, we are committed to upholding LGBTQ equality in and through sport, and advocating for the inclusion of trans athletes is a critical part of that work.

In her article, Navratilova stated that trans women are men who “decide to be female,” and that to allow them to compete with women is “insane and it’s cheating… it is surely unfair on women who have to compete against people who, biologically, are still men.”

Transgender or Trans people are people whose gender identity is different from the gender they were assigned at birth. Trans women did not “decide” to be female. Transphobia is perpetuated by misinformation such as this.

There’s a difference between competitive and unfair advantage. As of now, sports are divided in a very binary way. For a trans male athlete to compete as a woman, you’re essential telling that athlete to disregard who they are, how they live, and the gender identity they’ve worked hard their whole life to understand and identify. It’s not a choice for them- it’s a fundamental part of who they are.

The topic of testosterone is complex, and there’s still not a lot understood or known about testosterone’s effects on the body, though we do know that every individual responds to testosterone differently. Our organizational stance is that participation of all athletes, and their human rights, should be respected and protected. We have no evidence at all that the average trans woman is any bigger, stronger, or faster than the average cisgender woman, but there is evidence that often when you lower testosterone through hormone replacement therapy, performance goes down.

In our statement, we link to the data that shows that often when athletes lower testosterone through hormone replacement therapy, performance goes down. Specifically, see paragraphs 2-3 on page 6 of the study, also copied below.

Transgender women who have undertaken testosterone suppression change from normal male testosterone levels to normal female levels, in fact, after surgery their testosterone levels are below the mean for 46,XX women (Gooren and Bunck, 425–429). Largely as a result of their vastly reduced testosterone levels, transgender women lose strength, speed, and virtually every other component of athletic ability.

Since this study looks at endurance capabilities of athletes both pre and post testosterone suppression, it is also of significant interest to look at hematocrit or hemoglobin levels of transgender women. One year after testosterone suppression, hemoglobin levels in transgender women fell from 9.3 mmol/l to 8.0 mmol/l. This latter number is statistically identical to the mean hemoglobin level for cisgender women (Gooren and Bunck 425–429).

There are so many levels of complexity that go into the question of competitive advantage. Think about all of the other ways athletes have competitive advantage — access to better coaches and facilities; money to pay for nutritionists, recovery services, etc. At the highest levels of sport, physical characteristics can only get you so far — you also need serious technical skill to be able to beat top competitors from around the world.

Trans athletes aren’t competing because they want to win every trophy and all the prize money and kick women out of sports. They’re competing because, like anyone else, they love their sport. We think it’s fundamentally wrong to force them to go against who they are in order for them to take part in the sport they love. To say that by doing so they’re being unfair, cheating and even “making a choice” is not just wrong- it paints a picture of trans people that stirs up hatred and bigotry, when this population is already being targeted and attacked daily.

It is simply a myth that trans women athletes have an unfair advantage or are taking over women’s sport. Trans athletes are not seeking to take anything away from cis athletes. Trans athletes have been allowed to openly compete in the Olympics since 2003, and yet no transgender athlete has ever gone to the Olympics. Professional trans women athletes are extremely rare. Trans athletes simply want to participate in the sport they love, like any other athlete. Nothing about that is “insane” or “cheating”.

The International Olympic Committee developed a consensus on trans athlete participation in 2015, which stipulates conditions for transgender athletes to compete. We think this is definitely preferable to barring an entire population from having access to the sport they love.

We have a longstanding history of championing women’s rights in sports, from our successful #WomenInFIFA campaign which sought to remedy the staggering under-representation and under-resourcing of women in soccer, to our 2017 partnership with Shirzanan, a media and advocacy organization for Muslim female athletes, on a campaign demanding that FIBA (the world governing body of basketball) immediately overturn its discriminatory headgear ban adversely affecting observant Muslim women wearing hijab. We stand in full support of women in sports, and all LGBTQ people in sport. We believe all women, which includes trans women, deserve full access to sport.

We have and will continue to have tremendous respect for the legacy of icons like Martina, however we believe that one’s platform should be used to promote inclusion and respect for all.

Lady M’s reply:

You replied to me:

In her article, Navratilova stated that trans women are men who ‘decide to be female,’ and that to allow them to compete with women is ‘insane and it’s cheating… it is surely unfair on women who have to compete against people who, biologically, are still men.’

Transgender or Trans people are people whose gender identity is different from the gender they were assigned at birth. Trans women did not ‘decide’ to be female. Transphobia is perpetuated by misinformation such as this.

In fact, very little is known, scientifically, about gender dysphoria. But let’s be clear: “transgender” is an ideological term, not a scientific one, and there is NO good science behind trans activists’ claims about gender identity.

In any case, trans women are not female.

There’s a difference between competitive and unfair advantage. As of now, sports are divided in a very binary way.

Yes. Because male and females are physiologically distinct, we binarily divide athletes by sex in sports where greater male strength and speed give men advantages over women.

For a trans male athlete to compete as a woman, you’re essential telling that athlete to disregard who they are, how they live, and the gender identity they’ve worked hard their whole life to understand and identify. It’s not a choice for them-

Your emotional appeal is beside the point, and you know it. Trans women are males.

Tell me, are trans men beating males in cycling or tennis or basketball?

Why the difference, do you think? Surely trans men have “worked hard” to “understand and identify” their “gender identity”.

Could there be a factor that has nothing to do with “identity” at play here?

You also say that trans women do not wish to take over women’s sports. Again, that is a red herring. Whether or not they wish to “take over” women’s sports, they will take spots from female athletes.

How transgender males identify is none of my business. They are still males. Their performance while on hormone therapy may be lower than it was before, but they retain advantages in size, muscle mass, lung capacity, etc.

You then refer to the IOC guidelines and link to a study. THE VERY STUDY DISCUSSED IN THE LINK I PROVIDED.

Again: the link I provided details the scientific problems with the study used by the IOC.

You have confirmed that you care more about ideology than honesty, science, fairness, or women and girls (i.e., female human beings.)

You did Martina a favor. She deserves better than to be associated with your organization.

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