Why I’ve Changed My Position On Transgender Athletes In Women’s Sports, Or “Ethics Evolve With Wisdom And Experience”

Yesterday I headlined the story about transgender powerlifter Mary Gregory, who just shattered multiple lifting records, Unfair, Obviously Unfair, Scandalously Unfair. Why Are Athletic Organizations Allowing This? Why Are Women Tolerating It?

Possessed of a keener memory than I, reader Luke G. “pounced,” as the news media always says when Republicans object to Democratic words and conduct that absolutely should be objected to. He wrote in part,

What made you change your mind on this issue? Several years ago you were bad-dogging me in the comments for the views you hold now- you claimed back then that there was no reason [male-to-female transgender athlete] Fallon Fox shouldn’t get to fight in Women’s UFC, because she lives as a female and had transition surgery. According to 2013 Jack, “I don’t believe that males have an unfair advantage at all. Many advantages in physical ability can be made up with skill, and that true of most professional sports.”….I’m just wondering what it was that finally pushed you to flip on this one.

I wrote THAT? Yes, I did. Boy, is it ever inconvenient having over 10,000 searchable posts around to prove your inconsistencies.

In the 2013 post, Renée Richards, Fallon Fox, and Déjà Vu: Transgender Ethics In Sports, and later debating with Luke G., I was pretty adamant that martial arts competitor Fallon Fox had every right to compete as a woman, writing in part,

Back in 1977, the New York Supreme Court ruled that transgendered professional tennis player Renée Richards could not be banned from competing in the U.S. Open women’s tournament after tennis authorities tried to apply a new “must be born female” requirement  specifically to keep her out. Yet here we are, countenancing the argument that a transgendered individual can’t compete as a woman, because she’s really “a man without a dick.” The reason the nearly 40 year-old precedent set by Richards in pro tennis seems to be ignored is that fighting, more so than tennis, is still seen a a man’s sport, and one where male secondary sex characteristics like greater lean muscle mass. size and bone density convey obvious competitive advantages. The same objection was made regarding Richards however, because weight-training competitors like Serena Williams, Sloane Stephens and Samantha Stosur weren’t around to make her look like a pathetic wimp…None of the biological arguments against Fox stand up to scrutiny, but the “ick factor” rules here. Allowing a man to have surgery and then win prizes and titles by beating the daylights out of women seems unfair and creepy. Intellectually we can accept the fact that gender reassignment through hormone treatment and physical alteration creates a “real” woman, but for many, the leap to allowing transgendered individual compete in strength and size-dependent sports is a mental bridge too far.

That’s their problem, and the courts are correct: they have no right, nor is it fair, to make it Fallon Fox’s problem, any more than it made sense for the Miss Universe pageant to try to disqualify a transgendered beauty contest competitor. If the sport is for females, and Fox is legally a female, there is nothing unethical or unfair about her competing. If women’s sports want to fairly and seriously address the disparity in physical size and strength issues, then they should institute size and weight classes, not take their dissonance out on courageous survivors like Fox…

I think we can be pretty sure that we are never going to see male athletes getting themselves castrated and feminized so they can smoke the competition in women’s sports, and that is clearly not what Fox set out to do. Attacks like Rogan’s are willfully ignorant. We settled this issue, and Dr. Richards went through hell to get it settled. The only thing that has changed is that women are stronger than ever, and the myth that being born male confers permanent and automatic superiority has moved from myth to lie.

At that point, Fox was a unique situation. Transexual reassignment surgery was still a pretty rare occurrence, and men had not started demanding to be regarded as women  based on their personal preference and  life style and feeling alone. Note a key difference between my description of Fox—“Fallon Fox is a transgendered male, now fully female—except for the unremovable Y chromosome—thanks to gender realignment surgery”–and my description of Mary Gregory as “a biological man who identifies as a woman and… has testicles and a penis.”

I could legitimately answer Luke by saying that my 2013 position wasn’t inconsistent with my current one at all, which technically it isn’t. Fallon Fox was a women, and just because current Bizarro World progressive cant demands that we ignore the inconvenient facts about people like Gregory doesn’t mean it makes sense to regard them as the same. I could say all that, but I won’t. As is too often the case (I know, I know) I was foolishly certain of my analysis, which included the statement, “I think we can be pretty sure that we are never going to see male athletes getting themselves castrated and feminized so they can smoke the competition in women’s sports.”  Perhaps not, but we are seeing a lot more trans women athletes (like cyclist Rachel McKinnon) who decide to smoke the competition in women’s sports when it might occur to them that doing so has serious ethical problems,  and we are definitely seeing an unexpected explosion in uncastrated males competing as women anyway.

Yesterday, the separate but related case of runner Caster Semaya took another turn.

The highest court in international sports ruled yesterday that female track athletes with naturally elevated levels of testosterone must decrease the hormone to participate in certain races at major competitions like the Olympics. Semenya, not a trans athlete but one with ambiguous gender, is a two-time Olympic champion from South Africa who  challenged proposed limits placed on female athletes with naturally elevated levels of the muscle-building hormone testosterone. I’ve written more than one about this strange case, which I remain torn about. She’s a woman who lives as a woman and who has unique abilities that she was born with that give her a natural advantage. How is she different from, say, Babe Ruth, or basketball’s Wilt Chamberlain, who was over seven feet tall in the era before super-tall NBA players? Should be have had to play on his knees?

On the other hand, I find sentiments like this one from Doriane Lambelet Coleman, a law professor at Duke, troubling:

“The gender studies folks have spent the last 20 years deconstructing sex and all of a sudden they’re facing an institution with an entirely opposite story. We have to ask, ‘Is respecting gender identity more important or is seeing female bodies on the podium more important?’”

I’d say respecting reality is more important. The problem in this area is determining what the reality is. Conduct and rules are only ethical if they acknowledge the inconvenient facts, and the inconvenient fact about sports and gender is slippery slopes abound, loopholes will be exploited, and integrity is a fragile thing.

Luke G. is right. I have changed my position regarding trans sports competitors, because there has been a lot of new data.

I just wish I knew exactly what I have changed it to.

23 thoughts on “Why I’ve Changed My Position On Transgender Athletes In Women’s Sports, Or “Ethics Evolve With Wisdom And Experience”

  1. Semenya, not a trans athlete but one with ambiguous gender, is a two-time Olympic champion from South Africa who challenged proposed limits placed on female athletes with naturally elevated levels of the muscle-building hormone testosterone

    There’s so much niggling over what philosophers call accidents (I know, I know, but this is metaphysics, baby!). A human has two legs, but you don’t stop being human when you lose one. They’ve clung to hormones as indicative of “”gender”” because they’re dedicated upfront to the idea that this is an ambiguous, transitory thing. A woman with high testosterone levels would have athletic advantages over ones who don’t. That’s why we don’t allow hormone supplementation in athletes. Your “accidentally” tall basketball players are precisely on point – nobody thinks height adjustment surgeries should be allowed. The cases in which determining the difference between male and female is actually difficult is exceedingly rare and unworthy of formulating some extreme-case law. Other cases have enough of a veneer of vagueness to pass for a quick data-point and statistics inflation for people dedicated to a conclusion. The unfortunate consequence of this line of reasoning is that a castrated man with estrogen pills remains a man every bit as much as he’d remain human had the appendage lost been a finger. We’ve accepted one lie to make people feel good, and now the effects of that lie have rippled outward, as they are wont. Sometimes the way forward is to go back.

    I just wish I knew exactly what I have changed it to.

    Whatever it is, you can always be reassured you aren’t so far from the current norm as I am. I will consider nearly everyone insane, almost certainly, for the rest of my life. Not that you necessarily won’t, I suppose. Things are getting weirder by the minute.

    A Body Snatchers meme would be a propos if I had any idea how to do that.

  2. Years ago on this very blog I claimed that rape was happening at high levels on college campuses. I was certain I was right because I had read about it from multiple “reliable” mainstream news sources.

    Jack and several commenters refuted this very sharply. They were right and forced me to learn for myself that this was a common but discredited “fact.” Not only was I spreading false information, but I was just so matter-of-fact about it.

    Internet “communities” are mostly rubbish and people shouting at one another, but I appreciate this one.

    • It really does astound me that there is a large contingent that would write you off as having waffled, as though never changing your opinion – even in the face of contrary evidence – is a virtue. On the contrary, I don’t think there’s a more concise and accurate definition for the sin of intellectual pride! Weird how they’re always guilty of the very things of which they frequently accuse us, right? When one is busy tearing apart a civilization one’s enemy built on the foundation of hard-won virtues, I suppose one has to say something, and how could it not be crazy?

        • slickwilly wrote, “Note Democrats can waffle all they wish”

          When Democrats/Liberals/Progressives waffle, they attribute it to evolving. Republicans/Conservatives are not allowed to waffle or evolve, once a person is a Republican/Conservative that’s evil enough to be stuck with forever so they are only allowed to die. 😉

  3. I wish I knew where I was, as well. The problem is that men are using “I’m really a women” to get 15 minutes of fame and get into a record book. I have no clue how to stop this, bhut I hope somebody does, because it needs to stop.

    • If you have XX chromosomes you are a woman. If not, you are a man.

      Spare me the tiny minority with mutations: they are unique cases in a sea of progressive crap. Going through puberty a male will always confer an advantage in many sports: the muscle and skeletal structure develop then, and do not go away if parts are removed later.

      This is about societal change, with the Marxist intent to topple society so it can be rebuilt a utopia. With the progressives as the benevolent dictators, of course. Others will be redacted for the good of the peepul. /sn

      Human nature does not change.

      Case in point

      Kids at my wife’s school used to claim to be ‘gay’ for the attention: it made them ‘special.’ Most now have families with kids in an hetrosexual relationship, giving the lie to ‘they were born this way.’ There are exceptions, of course: those who went to college on the east or left coast have a greater chance in sticking with the lifestyle.

      Today, being ‘gay’ gets you no attention. Now these kids must be ‘trans’ to garner the same special treatment being ‘gay’ used to confer. The root problems go unaddressed: insecurity, daddy issues, a poor home situation, what have you. They are crying for help, and the progressives rave if anyone tries to do so. Lives being destroyed upon the altar of transient political power. Disgusting.

      • Yep, the abuses we are heaping on our young during their most confusing time of life all in the name of whatever it is the progressives want right now will come back on us one hundred fold. Anyone humoring or encouraging the pursuit of these confusions are breeding mental illness and are guilty of the whirlwind we will inevitably reap.

      • ” If you have XX chromosomes you are a woman. If not, you are a man. Spare me the tiny minority with mutations: they are unique cases in a sea of progressive crap. ”

        All Humans have black hair. Spare me the tiny minority with mutations, they are unique cases in a sea of progressive crap. (About 1% of humanity has the mutation for red hair, about 3% one of the mutations for fair or brown hair, though up to 30% in some pockets such as northern europe)

        1 in 300 men aren’t 46,XY. 1 in 600 women aren’t 46,XX. That’s in humanity as a whole, there are pockets where the proportions are higher or lower.

  4. There is a growing tendency to flatline everything these days. That tendency is what needs to be un-tendered. Flatlining eventually results in an explosive situation when the give-prizes-to-everybody rule suddenly hits the grade where you have to stick with 1st, 2nd and 3rd or full rankings. It is worse when it becomes clear that the kids who always got prizes they didn’t necessarily deserve are left hanging, not knowing where they belong in school, sport … or socially.

    There is a third option which will be equally unacceptable to both sides. I’ve never heard a name for it but I’m sure there is one … or more. It works (and works famously well, by the way) in education, but never in competition where money is involved. — We forget sometimes that just about all spectator sports are businesses.

    It is a method (mental and physical) whereby the learner of any new activity begins at one’s own zero point and proceeds as far as possible, or as desired, from there. In other words,”I am in competition with myself and no one else.” (The end result can always be translated into a “regular/transferable” grade or score, as necessary.) Everyone is familiar with this kind of self-growth, but in a formal setting such as most schools or sports it requires steady supportive oversight – individual conferencing and monitoring – that is concerned with the best ways to improve in whatever field is under consideration.

    Success is measured by the amount of upward movement both individually and for groups and teams. It has a variable upper point depending on whether it is a stand-alone learning situation (such as an “elective”) or if there is another level to reach, such as a more advanced class. The translation to grades – only done as necessary, such as entering a transcript-requirement situation – are the same as they would be for the standard graded class or sport.

    Okay, yeah. Students don’t get much attention at all in most schools these days, not often group and rarely individual. The attention-getters whom the State of California are now trying to protect (and would promote), will certainly make the situation worse there. Smaller classes, better teachers (yes, there is still a problem with education majors), higher wages for teachers, and fewer classes per teach to leave room for their “individual conferencing and monitoring” for each of their students or coaches for players — oh, didn’t I mention that? — ain’t gonna happen anytime . . . soon. Equally unacceptable and implausible. Just sayin’.

    • Penn,

      Some sports lend themselves to the individual approach better than others. Tennis, for instance, or track events.

      Others are team events by nature. They can benefit for individual attention (we call this ‘tutoring’ 🙂 ) but the emphasis is on the team aspects.

      None of which invalidates your contention: human nature generally thrives under personal attention and instruction. It speaks on many levels to our longing to be accepted, worthy, valued, and even loved. For instance, my kid may never be outstanding at anything in life, yet still knows his/her worth because of the attention paid at home. (Moreover, I teach them that they are unique and precious in the eyes of their creator)

      Education has become big business, with unnecessary rules and administrators, all sucking away at the funds needed to teach. Federal involvement has hurt more than helped (name something the Fed does that is not a boondoggle, though.)

      Do we abolish the Dept of Ed? Return to the olden days, were local parents ran the school as they saw fit? Tell busybodies in Washington and on the coasts to mind their own business while we take care of our children? Be allowed to make our own mistakes with what we teach, like mankind has for eons?

      We would not be allowed to do so, and thus cannot solve the problems you mentioned.

  5. I truly don’t give a damn what transgender athletes “feel” or what they choose to do to their bodies, but I draw a line in the sand when it comes to any form of gender related sports competition.

    Here is where I stand on this issue as it relates to sports.

    I have zero tolerance for cheating and a person with XY chromosomes competing against persons with XX chromosomes is a CHEAT and a person with XX chromosomes competing against persons with XY chromosomes is a CHEAT!

    Therefore…

    If a person is born with XX chromosomes, that person is considered a female from that moment on – FOREVER – regardless of what they “feel” or changes they choose to make to their body whether those changes are chemically induced or surgically induced that would otherwise render them to be a male in all other respects.

    If a person is born with XY chromosomes, that person is considered a male from that moment on – FOREVER – regardless of what they “feel” or changes they choose to make to their body whether those changes are chemically induced or surgically induced that would otherwise render them to be a female in all other respects.

    Any person that has competed in any form of gender related sports competition and won the competition as a female with XY chromosomes should have their status of winning stripped from them, they cheated!

    Any person that has competed in any form of gender related sports competition and won the competition as a male with XX chromosomes should have their status of winning stripped from them, they cheated!

    CONCLUSION: XX chromosome persons can only compete with other XX chromosome persons in gender specific sport competitions. XY chromosome persons can only compete with other XY chromosome persons in gender specific sport competitions. Period, end of story, absolutely no exceptions.

    If competition sports choose to, I have no problem with them creating a completely separate category for transgender athletes to compete with each other.

    I stand firm on these opinions.

    • : J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2008 Jan;93(1):182-9

      A 46,XY mother who developed as a normal woman underwent spontaneous puberty, reached menarche, menstruated regularly, experienced two unassisted pregnancies, and gave birth to a 46,XY daughter with complete gonadal dysgenesis.

      Everyone in entitled to their own opinions. No one is entitled to their own facts.

      The moon is not made of green cheese. The earth is not flat. Regardless of any firm opinion to the contrary.

      • Zoe,
        With all due respect Zoe, please reread and comprehend my entire comment. Please particular attention to this sentence, “Here is where I stand on this issue as it relates to sports.” (bold for emphasis) You didn’t challenge or refute anything I wrote.

        If you somehow think you refuted some perceived “fact” that I presented then please explain it. Here’s one fact for you Zoe, I presented opinion, not facts. If you don’t “like” my opinion as it relates to sports, that’s fine, but I won’t tolerate your false innuendo bull shit.

        Seriously consider how you reply if you choose to reply.

  6. “I think we can be pretty sure that we are never going to see male athletes getting themselves castrated and feminized so they can smoke the competition in women’s sports.”

    Apparently, you had forgotten about the East German women’s swim team. It is scary how much the article below resembles our current society.
    https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/east-germanys-forgotten-olympic-doping-6949436

    I think this issue is very similar to the conflict of interest story about the Pulitzer prize. People in the ‘in’ group say ‘It is terribly unfair that she isn’t eligible for that prize just because her husband is on the board’. And “She shouldn’t have to sacrifice her chance for a prestigious prize just because of the actions of her husband.” Likewise, people say of Bruce Ohr that he shouldn’t have to relinquish his security clearance (and job) just because his wife is a Russian lobbyist. When we get to transsesexual athletes, “Why should the person have to give up being competitive in sports just because they made decision X”?

  7. “My opinions may have changed, but not the fact that I am right” – Ashleigh Brilliant (quoting from memory).

    I seem to recall that, in the Richards case, the argument was put forward at the time that the proportions of various bones had been set during a conventional male puberty and that the consequential effects of muscular leverage and so on were continuing. This is a point slickwilly is making now.

  8. Moral quandaries don’t override facts.
    In mammals, there is no such thing as a “sex change”. (we aren’t fish, amphibians, reptiles, or invertebrates)
    Fallon Fox is not female. Cosmetic surgery and temporary cross-sex drugs do not a sex make.
    Semenya is not a female. Females do not have a Y chromosome or testes.
    Athletes with a Y chromosome, males, FAR outperform ALL females (no Y chromosome).
    Any male who’s chemically reduced testosterone for 12 months can compete against females at the Olympics. 12 months, that’s the only criteria.
    A male who’d been testosterone-blocked for several years will have a lower performance than a male who’s only testosterone-blocked for 12 months. A male who was castrated before puberty will have yet less testosterone effect in the body.
    Persons with a Y chromosome who have sexual development disorders (DSD) like Semenya have NORMAL male testosterone levels, but reduced capacity to use that testosterone, hence, their performance is lower than other elite males. But the effects of testosterone are cumulative in their body over time.
    All these reductions being stated, ALL such athletes still easily outperform females, because it’s not a snapshot of testosterone at any given time which determines performance, but life-long exposure to testosterone in general, and at key developmental moments.
    Testosterone-blocked males should most certainly not compete against females, because it eliminates those podium/team positions for females. They COULD compete against other males, but they WANT medals!
    The only truly FAIR system is for trans-persons and DSD-persons with a Y chromosome to have their own points system attributed in the same way points are attributed in the Paralympics. Paralympics is where they belong.
    Testosterone-reduced males SHOULD be competing with testosterone-enhanced females and DSD-Y-chromosome persons, THAT would be fair competition.
    We need to stop pussy-footing around this discussion and stop the irrational practice of “identity” outstripping than biology.

  9. Furthermore…
    “Fox was a unique situation. Transexual reassignment surgery was still a pretty rare occurrence, ”
    This is false. It may have been recent on your radar, but in the world of female athletes it’s been noticed for a while! In Canada there have been several male cyclists who’ve achieved victory against females, as well tennis, golf, and several past Olympic events.
    WE have been noticing and watching, but thanks for catching up!

    Such surgeries outside of the sporting world are not rare either, females have been suffering under the gaslighting of males pretending to be women in female spaces since at least the 70s. We’ve been noticing and watching, but thanks for catching up…

    • You know, trying to get on this blog with a gratuitously snarky first comment is bad strategy, and doesn’t portend well for your tenure here. I’ve followed both sports and transgender surgery trends for decades, and the fact is that they were rare, and are becoming less rare. You can use your own weird definition of rare if you like, but don’t be a jerk about it here.

      Read the Comment policies. Welcome.

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