Dylan Johnson's "Do Transgender Athletes Have an Unfair Advantage? The Science" video

Just a personal anecdote here, but I played soccer and rugby fairly competitively in school up until it stopped being co-ed- the women’s leagues were a lot less competitive with fewer opportunities for advancement due to lower participation, and I’d made a lot of friends over the course of 6 or so years who I couldn’t formally play on a team or train with anymore. That might have made sense to adult me, but at 11 years old I just interpreted it as comparatively boring and sort of a step down, and I eventually ended up dropping out of sport until later in life. (Things might be different now, but I’m 22 so not ancient history.)

I’ve heard a lot of similar experiences from friends, so I’d actually really like to see a co-ed high school league from the perspective of female (and possibly male?) players who don’t feel their needs are being met as well as trans athletes. At this stage women’s high school sport has more to gain by improving participation and social opportunities IMO, especially as ‘physical fairness’ is a pretty hard thing to define when everyone’s developing at different rates.

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I think something along those lines is likely reasonable - to me the main issue is that transitions that happen long after puberty where the person likely has permanent, structural physical advantages. It is really only at high levels of competition, and also sports like MMA/boxing where severe mismatches can cause significant injury that this becomes an important issue. Early transitions can likely avoid these changes in puberty.

It seems from the comparisons here BoysVsWomen.com that top high school boys are competitive with Olympic women in many track and field events. (Note that I have not audited the results on this page, nor do I know who put it together nor what comments they may or may not have made on this topic. I find the comparison of these results quite interesting and relevant to the topic.)

Is 1 year with lower testosterone enough to reduce the performance of these boys to be inline with high school girls? I don’t think that has been shown. While some people make this out to be ‘any trans girl will dominate HS sports’, I think that is an fairly extreme view an also is also not likely to be true. What I think is the issue is when you have high level male athletes transitioning and continuing to train - I would like to see good evidence that lowering testosterone is enough for these people to compete fairly in a female field.

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meant to lighten the tone a little bit, but it seems like everyone who thinks boys are transitioning to have competitive advantages must envision something like this (for the unfamiliar, this is from the tv show Futurama where Bender the robot became a female robot to easily win the robot Olympics. as with any Matt Groening led show, seems like the writers could see the future controversies):

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We’ve had quite a few female elite (or retired elite) athletes locally comment on the dangers to women’s sports from the inclusion of Laurel into the Olympics here. They were mostly shouted down/forced to ground by the inclusiveness crowd.

This seems like a hugely complex issue, and I don’t know the answer as I’m not sure how many categories you’d need.

I think it’s wildly unfair (personally) for trans women (man->woman) to compete against natural women. Particularly in strength/power sports. It’s like allowing an athlete to dope for 20+ years before entering competition. To me it makes a mockery of women’s sport and the efforts made in this regard.

I reiterate that I don’t know the answer, I don’t think this situation is good for competitive fairness though.

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Some really good comments so far…and far better than I expected in terms of discussion. good stuff.

We have been taught that gender and sex are the same things and that it is a binary option between the two. Simple, clean. As a result, we are looking for simple and clean answers to an incredibly complex situation. it just doesn’t exist and won’t exist (at least not for a long time).

I would say that Castor Semenya falls into this…and the mistreatment and abuse she has suffered at the hands of various organizing bodies is horrific.

While I agree with this question / conclusion from Dylan, even that I think is a bit too simplistic (or binary). There are a lot of shades of grey here.

But in general, I would favor inclusion. The number of trans women we are talking about here is exceedingly small, so the number of cis women who could potentially be negatively impacted by their physical performances (still not proven) is also small.

That said, I am also sympathetic to their rightful concerns and grievances. Unfortunately, someone is going to get the short-end of the stick somewhere.

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This isn’t just a recommendation Chad is making, its a term of use in our Community Guidelines to ‘Contribute Constructively’.
Posts should not only contribute to the dialogue, but keep the thread moving in a positive, inclusive direction where others are encouraged to contribute as well.
Thanks in advance for being cool.

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Fair. But a small number could potentially take away something from other person… You dont need 100 trans woman to create a major controversy on the US trials and a major conversation about fairness.
5 transgender woman, who transition after puberty, could take a spot a woman who spent her whole life training and competing vs other cis woman.

In general, both (inclusiveness and fainess) are so coupled together and yet so far apart. Is is a very dysfunctional couple. HArd problem to solve…

Another problem there is always the possibility of rules allowing for men, posing as transgender, to win.
Some people are willing to go to extremes. And of right now, a trans woman dont need to remove anything. Just take drugs to cut on testosterone. I can see people looking at this as a way to maybe win in a major sport…

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No doubt…you need look no further than the weightlifters highlighted in Dylan’s video. two women, who trained for many years to get to that point in their lives, lost the gold medal to a women who arguably had an unfair competitive advantage.

But because something rare occurs, it doesn’t mean it will become the norm at some point in the future.

And all the pearl-clutching by some about how boys will suddenly start claiming to be girls so they can have competitive advantages is just fear-mongering and transphobic, IMO.

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Not talking about boys, but grown up men.
People like to cheat to win. We all know that. Hopefully, we will not get there. But as always, one to be cynical in sports, because all the cheating. :man_shrugging:

But until it happens, I agree with you… just fear-mongering

For sure- I think we’re all going to have different experiences and opinions there, and I certainly can’t speak to the elite end of women’s sport, which I assume would be a pretty different situation.

I did see a comment above about women’s fields being only 2 or 3 people deep sometimes, which is kind of where I’m coming from in terms of amateur sport, especially in smaller communities or areas where women are less likely to participate due to social factors- in this cases, it’s often the lack of competition that’s more limiting than unfair competition, if that makes sense. I live in a small town where I’ve won every local tri for about 3 years, and I’m by no means a particularly noteworthy athlete. It’s stopped being fun, and frankly I’d just rather have more people to race at this point, unfairly matched or otherwise- not to mention greater interest and participation can net benefits in terms of more events, exposure, funding etc.

(My apologies to the mods if I’m getting too off-topic here, but I think women’s sport is a pretty key argument and one that I feel is oversimplified a bit, so hopefully my perspective is useful :joy:)

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When woman have spoke out against it the masses have come after them. Even in the medalist press conference after the Weight Lifting event during the Olympics there was a reporter that tried to ask and instead of responding all 3 woman decided to stay silent for several seconds before one replied “No, thank you.” Moving the presser along.

May you please cite where this is from? Woman go through the same stringent testing as their male counterparts.

It gets confusing when a Transgender woman can protentionally have testosterone significantly higher than even an intersex individual and still compete. What makes it more complicated is that in the case of the Olympics a transgender athlete could in theory have 3 year cycles where they bring there levels down for competition years. I know that this is unlikely but it shouldn’t be dismissed so quickly since there are entire nations that have been accused of massive state led doping

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sure, however this year I’m witnessing first-hand how opinions change when it impacts them personally. People are competitive, calling fairness into question is not limited to elite athletes.

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I don’t think you can have inclusivity AND fairness because if we include trans ___ with non trans athletes, it’s inclusive to trans athletes but not conclusively fair performance wise. They may be competing with athletes who have a biological advantage, or may have a biological advantage against those they compete with.

Not trying to draw a parallel between trans and special needs people, but there’s a reason that Special Olympics exist, because it wouldn’t be fair to those athletes to compete against people who have an advantage, broadly speaking. Then again you could have someone like Eric Cartman pretend to have special needs for an “easy win” and then get destroyed in every competition. That being said, having trans specific Olympics seems more exclusionary than inclusive so I dunno

What I think they really need to do is come up with better parameters and qualifications for who competes among men and who competes among women, because looking at T levels alone seems very shortsighted.

There is a local competitive cyclist that is a transgender woman. Her comment on it was

“nobody cared or said a word in the hundred races before where I placed well off the podium but the one time everything lined up, my preparation, my race performance and my team working together there were the cries of how much of an unfair advantage I had”

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I kind of don’t have a problem with the athletes competing together up to a National level until there’s either Prize Money, or International/Olympic selection at stake where I personally think they should be ineligible.

As an example of the level of advantage, Laurel was a pretty mediocre (but competitive) weight lifter prior to transitioning. She then became one of the strongest female athletes and gained success in competition and Olympic selection. It complicates things that she didn’t win in Tokyo, but imagine what the situation would be if an elite (or near) male athlete transitions, and then proceeds to dominate as a woman.

It doesn’t take away from their reasoning to transition but it gets messy when you’re talking about impacting athletes success, incomes, selection etc.

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I work with a lot of trans people in my profession (medicine), and will simply say that the idea that someone would go through the extremely challenging process of transitioning in a world openly hostile (and dangerous!) to them just to succeed as an athlete is…well, it’s something. Willing to bet that there are virtually no trans athletes who have undergone transition because they thought it would give them a competitive advantage, and I think it’s pretty vital to the conversation that we remember that when discussing the issue.

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I haven’t followed the details of this, but I don’t think we need to wait for a gold medal winner to have evidence that the current testosterone standards are inadequate to create a level and fair competition. If athlete X is a 80th percentile male athletes, then transitions, and competes in women’s events in the 95th percentile then this seems to be a good indication that she has a relative advantage compared to her female competitors.

That was my point.

I’m suggesting that the uproar will be more widespread if/when she wins.

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Are you talking full transition, or just the necessary to be allowed to compete as a transgender woman.

the IOC doesn’t require any kind of surgery to let transgender woman to compete. As long as they have the right T levels they are good to go.

Not arguing that the process is difficult, including the social stigmas that comes with it.

But we are talking of world where a nation made a lab, then made a hole in the lab so they could swap sample of people doping, so they could win the Olympics. So, although is apples to oranges, some people would go to extremes for “glory”

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Is the doping test out there that can tell the difference between PED taken testosterone and natural testosterone?

Thinking in the case of the Namibian 400 m runners in the olympics, where this testosterone level of 5 nmol is getting conflate between, intersex, trans athletes and actual dopers.

If your above 5 nmol, and not trans, would you need to prove you are intersex to compete?

There is a ton a grey area here