Life is not fair

Now there’s a compelling argument. WIRED Science:

Some critics claim transgender athletes are ruining competition for cis women and girls, but they forget: Sports—and life—have never been fair.

Ah. Very true. Therefore let’s make sports – and life – even more unfair, especially for girls and women.

They lead with a photo of this glorious project:

Laurel Hubbard lifting wight over her head that has the number 25 and is red and green

See, bitches? Unfair! Life and sports are already unfair! Sucks to be you.

Transgender athletes are having a moment. At all levels of sport, they’re stepping onto the podium and into the headlines. New Zealand weightlifter Laurel Hubbard won two gold medals at the Pacific Games, and college senior CeCé Telfer became the NCAA Division II national champion in the 400-meter run. Another senior, June Eastwood, has been instrumental to her cross-country team’s success. At the high school level, Terry Miller won the girls’ 200-meter dash at Connecticut’s state open championship track meet.

Funny how those are all trans women, aka men. Funny how the paragraph starts with “transgender athletes” but actually cites only male transgender athletes, the ones who have a massive physical advantage over the female athletes they compete against. Funny how the article sneaks that in there in such a dishonest way.

These recent performances are inherently praiseworthy—shining examples of what humans can accomplish with training and effort.

They’re not, actually, because they all involve cheating. Remember Lance Armstrong? What he did is not considered inherently praiseworthy or a shining example of what humans can accomplish with training and effort. These recent performances are sleazy examples of what men can accomplish by cheating women.

But as more transgender athletes rise to the top of their fields, some vocal opponents are also expressing outrage at what they see as transgender athletes ruining sports for cisgendered girls and women.

More sneaking – not transgender athletes but male transgender athletes. Males who claim to identify as female and then compete against females.

But is that really unfair? What do we mean by “fair” anyway? Let’s ask an expert.

“Fair is a very subjective word,” says Joanna Harper, a transgender woman, distance runner, and researcher who served on the IOC committee that developed that organization’s current rules. It boils down to whom you’re trying to be fair to, Harper says. “To billions of typical women who cannot compete with men at high levels of sport?” Or “a very repressed minority in transgender people who only want to enjoy the same things that everybody else does, including participation in sports?”

That is, including participation in sports for men competing against women. None of this is about women who identify as men competing against men, because that wouldn’t take anything away from men.

For all the hand-wringing about transgender women ruining women’s sport, so far there’s little evidence of that happening. Although CeCé Telfer and June Eastwood garnered attention for their outstanding performances on women’s collegiate running teams, they are hardly the only transgender athletes in the NCAA.

So are there lots of men who identify as women who didn’t trample all over the women the way Telfer and Eastwood and Miller and Hubbard and McKinnon have? Not that we’re told.

The solution to this problem is to talk in generalities and then run swiftly away.

Where to draw the line between inclusiveness for transgender athletes and fairness for cis ones is an ethical question that ultimately requires value judgements that can only be informed, not decided, by science. Even basic notions of a level playing field aren’t easy to codify. Which means that at some point the question of who is a woman becomes a cultural inquiry: How athletically outstanding can a girl or woman be before we no longer see her as female?

That’s…not the question at all.

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