Yet there are calmer voices

Three (male, of course) sociologists of sport look at trans activism and sport:

“A biological male claiming to be a transgender woman, won the 2018 UCI Masters Track Cycling World Championships in Los Angeles over the weekend.” That’s how the alt-right news website Breitbart greeted Rachel McKinnon’s victory last October. Since then McKinnon, a Canadian track cyclist who transitioned from male to female and competed in the women’s 33-39 sprint category, has been in a kind of limbo, never properly acclaimed as a world record holder, derided by some as a counterfeit champion, but praised by many as a trailblazer for gender fluidity. Recently, in Manchester, McKinnon successfully defended her title. Again, the response was ambivalent.

If they mean no one properly acclaimed McKinnon for his “victory” then they’re just wrong, because the trans cheering squad certainly did.

More to the point it’s interesting what they leave out of that opening paragraph – any mention of the women he competed against, and the whole notion of “fairness.”

A few days before McKinnon’s win, ITV’s “Good Morning Britain” host Piers Morgan failed to appear in his usual role amid gossip that he had been dropped from the show. He sparked a furious debate when he claimed he identified as a penguin in an on-air rant about transgenderism last month, leading to a petition that demanded that the TV host be axed. Morgan has consistently castigated, ridiculed and, according to critics, “dehumanized” trans persons, especially athletes who have transitioned from male to female (MtF) and opted to compete in women’s competitions.

Why? Just to be a shit? (Certainly highly possible in his case.) Or because there is in fact an issue of fairness?

Earlier this year, Morgan aligned himself with former tennis champion and stalwart LGBTQ+ campaigner Martina Navratilova, who spoke out against the inclusion of trans athletes in women’s sport. Support for Navratilova, herself a lesbian, seemed to indicate that there is a large swathe of people who are out of sympathy with transgender athletes. But, if anything, it disguised the depth and intensity of hatred of trans people.

Ok well that makes it clear that they’re just not going to be fair at all. Just a coincidence that they’re all men, I’m sure. It’s not a matter of being “out of sympathy with transgender athletes”; it’s about thinking that male transgender athletes should not compete against women, for the simple reason that they have a large unfair advantage. McKinnon is a crap athlete when he competes against men. So is Laurel Hubbard, so are the Connecticut runners. They all lose against men. That matters, and it’s not reducible to being in or out of sympathy with transgender athletes.

Transgender people are met with the same level of hostility ethnic minorities faced in the 1960s, the same resentment to women’s progress with the Equal Pay Act, and the hatred of gays in the 1980s when the AIDS epidemic was rampant.

No they’re not, actually; it’s not the same but different.

While it’s unlikely that all sport would readily accept self-identifying MtF athletes, many other areas of society have made accommodations. Education, occupational sectors, the military and the criminal justice system are among those that have changed to meet the challenge of gender fluidity. Sport is less inviting, primarily because it remains binary. Objectors to the presence of MtF trans athletes in women’s sport contend that at least some of the physical advantages of those who have gone through male puberty are maintained after transitioning. As a female participant from Bristol, stated: “Transwomen will always have the competitive edge as men are just stronger than women.”

Female athletes, in particular, suspect an MtF domination and the effective exclusion of athletes who are natal women. The premise of the argument is questionable, not least because scientists disagree over the effects of testosterone over periods of time.

And yet…McKinnon and Hubbard and Miller and Yearwood all lost when they competed with males and won when they competed with females. Is that just a coincidence?

Whatever physical and social scientists say, opinion on trans persons remains divided. It is as if hostility is justified or rationalized when a seemingly logical excuse is found to exclude or, at best, make trans athletes unwelcome. “Women need safe spaces from people with the advantages of physique that men have,” argued a 40-year-old woman from London, suggesting trans persons were a dangerous presence.

Yet there are calmer voices. Consider the view of a 20-year-old woman from Adelaide: “There are so few transgender athletes in women’s sport, and very few dominating their sports, that their presence won’t disrupt women’s sport as a whole.”

It’s so fucking easy for men to give away women’s opportunities while patting themselves on the back for being calmer voices.

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