Ethics Quiz: The Transexual Female Golfer

Let’s be fair and clear: golfer Hailey Davidson is not like Lia Thomas, who has crushed collegiate swimming competition by just “identifying” as female. Davidson went all the way, if you know what I mean. She is about to become the first transgender woman to earn a Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) tour card by excelling in the first two qualifying rounds in the first stage of the LPGA and Epson Tour Qualifying School in Palm Springs. 

Still, though she now lacks the capacity to produce male hormones, Hailey competed as a male golfer as recently as 2015, and had the permanent advantage of going through puberty as a male. Though she claims that her drives off the tee have diminished since her transition, the question remains, is it fair for her to compete in a sport against women who have never been anything but. 18 states have outlawed transgender students from competing in girls’ sports. Golf, however, is not weightlifting, and some female pro golfers have competed in men’s tournaments.

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day...

Is it fair to allow a transgender female to compete against biological females in golf?

I think the real question comes down to whether transgender female participation in women’s sports should be determined on a sport by sport basis, or if there needs to be an across the board ban.

Incidentally, Davidson has been quoted as saying that opposing her competing is “transphobic.” That biases me against her, frankly. It’s not transphobic to conclude in good faith that a woman who had recently been male has an unfair advantage in women’s sports. “Transphobic” means a fear of transexuals, an irrational hate. If Davidson and her supporters can’t make their case without name-calling, then they don’t have a case.


Pointer: An esteemed commenter sent this story, but I lost the email, Ethics Alarms is grateful, whoever you are…

15 thoughts on “Ethics Quiz: The Transexual Female Golfer

  1. I’ve been waiting quite a while for mini-touring guy pro golfers on the fringe of making any real money to try to get onto any of the various women’s tours and make better money. Touring pro golfers are incredibly competitive and scratch and claw for every dollar. I remember talking to my teaching pro in the late ’80s about how it was unfair for European guys to come over to the P.G.A. Tour and take money away from American players. It’s a vicious, zero-sum game. Every dollar one guy makes is another dollar another guy doesn’t make.

    So, there’s all that purse money sitting there on that little ole ladies’ tour. Just waitin’ for a feller to show up in a skirt, or hell, even dressed as a guy, and cash a bigger check than he’d probably be taking home on any of the guys’ tour. And isn’t it discriminatory for the LPGA to limit its competitors to uterus bearing individuals? Isn’t sex just a social construct?

    Again, as I’ve been saying for quite some time, ultimately, sex segregated sports are doomed. It’s only a matter of time. And I say, “Good!” Be careful what you ask for, ladies.

  2. Is it fair to allow a transgender female to compete against biological females in golf?

    To answer this question requires us to define the term “Fair”. The simple definition of fair is to treat all parties equally. For example, if four people have a pie to distribute amongst themselves it would be fair to give each person the same sized slice.

    As it relates to golf and transgender participants in the LPGA, it is also “fair”. Membership in both the LPGA and PGA Tours is predicated on an individual’s ability to demonstrate a predetermined level of golfing proficiency. There is no restriction on the sex of the individual. The rules of golf also make no distinction or differentiation regarding a participant’s sex. Additionally, in 2010 the LPGA removed its female at birth requirement.

    Jack further postulates, “I think the real question comes down to whether transgender female participation in women’s sports should be determined on a sport-by-sport basis, or if there needs to be an across-the-board ban.” I think what he is asking but doesn’t clearly state is. Is it ethical for a transgender female to compete in women’s sports? I personally don’t think it is ethical. My reasoning is fair and ethical are not the same. Ethics involve the moral principles adopted by society relative to various situations. For example, in our society, it is morally wrong to kill someone. However, if someone is trying to kill you it is morally acceptable to defend yourself from someone trying to kill you and if necessary, kill them. It, therefore, seems what is or is not ethical is dependent on the situation and intent of the individual doing the killing.

    To support my position that it is unethical for transgender females to compete in women’s sports we need to explore what is an individual’s intent to participate in sports. Regardless of sex, there are many reasons why people participate in sports. A non-exhaustive list includes recreation, exercise, socialization, ego gratification, and financial gain.

    Unless you are a hermaphrodite at conception, an individual either has two X chromosomes or one X and one Y chromosome. Regardless of any body modifications or hormone therapy, you will die with either the XX or XY chromosomes you acquired at conception. As it relates to size and strength the vast majority of the XY folks are bigger and stronger than the vast majority of XX folks. It is, therefore, logical to conclude that in sports all other things being equal the XY folks will outperform the XX folks. This fact is borne out by empirical evidence time and again.

    While it is impossible to truly know the motivations of any individual, we can make educated guesses in most cases. In the case of “transgender females,” they are males. There is nothing to prevent them from enjoying the recreation, exercise, and socialization aspect of sports competing against other males, or even in mixed sporting events. So why do they need to compete in women’s sports? Could it be ego gratification or financial gain? To me, that would appear to be the case, particularly in high school, colligate, Olympic, and professional athletics. The money involved in college scholarships, product endorsements, and prizemoney is not insignificant.

    • You stated: Membership in both the LPGA and PGA Tours is predicated on an individual’s ability to demonstrate a predetermined level of golfing proficiency. There is no restriction on the sex of the individual.

      If that’s true, then why is there a PGA and LPGA? The obvious answer is that females have a biologically competitive disadvantage when competing against males. While there are a few exceptions, this holds universally true. Despite all the available surgeries and chemical/hormone treatments, the end result is only superficial. Males will always be males.

  3. I really do not see why this is so complicated.

    If the generic “they” want to claim that there is a difference between sex and gender, the rule is simple: sports are based on sex, not gender. You compete based on your sex, not your gender. The rule can then be implemented across the board in other areas (potentially).

    It is not as if this guy is denying he is a biological male. Fine, he competes against other biological males, while identifying as whatever the hell he wants.


  4. There is a saying in golf that one “drives” for show but “puts” for dough. I don’t think one’s muscle mass plays a substantial role in winning or losing. I for one don’t care if women’s sports are dominated by trans athletes.

    If women are not screaming about the unequal advantage trans athletes may possess why should men bother to weigh in on the matter. I learned a long time ago that men do not have to be, and it’s not always wise to be, the knight in shining armor that comes to the rescue of the damsels in distress unless said damsels are screaming for help. I believe equality is an ethical principle and equality can require letting people fight their own battles on their own terms.

  5. There is no contradiction in allowing pro-women to compete against men. Women’s sports exist due to the statistical disadvantage of biological women. It would be pure mysogyny to prohibit statistical outliers solely due to them being female. This doesn’t work in reverse, because male players have a biologically-based statistical advantage in competition against female athletes.

      • The difference in ability between a statistical-outlier female golfer and a relatively ordinary female golfer is a COMPETITIVE advantage. That’s fine. To complain about an athlete’s natural competitive advantage is to argue that it’s unfair that good golfers are good golfers. That’s just a temper tantrum.

        There are a few competitive events where being male doesn’t confer an advantage- that’s why equestrian sports don’t have sex categories. It’s hard to see where sex matters in something like darts, too. Being male does confer an advantage in golf, though. In fact, it’s why ladies tees exist. Thus, the difference in ability between a male golfer and a female golfer is a CATEGORY advantage, even if the man is small and weak. Since we have sex categories in golf, and their whole point is to exclude male advantage, it is obvious that the particular sort of advantage in question is central to fairness in that category. No matter how much weaker Davidson is now than he was pre-transition, he is still stronger than he would have been if he had been born female and gone through female puberty. Women are not weaker men, nor men who have been hobbled in some way.

        In 2016, cyclist Femke Van den Dreissche was caught and banned for having an electric motor in her bike. The problem was not that the advantage the motor gave her was too big- it obviously wouldn’t have been fine she had used a smaller engine. The problem is that she competed with the wrong KIND of advantage. The only way it’s fair for Davidson to compete in the LPGA, rather than the PGA, requires redefining male advantage as a COMPETITIVE advantage, not a CATEGORY advantage. No, thanks.

        Slow men are not women.
        Weak men are not women.
        Hobbled men are not women.
        Men who suppress T are not women.
        Men who take cross-sex hormones are not women.
        Men who cut their genitals off are not women.
        Old men are not women.

        Women’s sport is for women.
        Men can enter the male competition.

        • I have somewhere heard that having a beer belly confers a competitive advantage in darts because of the ballast it provides, so steadying the aim and allowing the arms and shoulders to move further over the line on the floor. Nothing was said of associated disadvantages, however.

  6. Mark Twain aptly described golf as “a good walk spoiled,” and I personally regard a golf course as a willful and wonton misuse of a perfectly good rifle range. (I have a tee shirt that says, “Long-range shooting: Like golf, but for men.” I tried golf exactly twice in my younger years but decided I didn’t need any additional sources of frustration (especially expensive frustration) in my life. However, my indifference toward the game won’t stop me from expressing an opinion. I think it is time to overhaul this gender-segregated professional game: Just drop all rules concerning who with what plumbing or “identity” can compete, and also drop all bans on performance-enhancing drugs. Let those (of whatever gender identity they prefer) without sufficient natural physiological gifts juice and dope to their heart’s content to try and level the metaphorical playing field. Stop acting like it isn’t already going on and let the chips fall where they may. Pharmaceutical companies could become the major sponsors, and players could wear uniforms based on race driver’s uniforms, displaying the logos of their PED manufacturers. The marketing possibilities boggle the mind!
    Obviously, I’m using hyperbole here and I personally don’t care one whit what any of these people do. Seriously, the real (genetic) women should refuse to play against mutilated men until the LPGA regains some semblance of sentience in its rulemaking. Otherwise, their game will eventually become dominated by a group of these “trans” golfers and the real women will be shut out -again. If the real women don’t care enough about their game to stand up to this, then the result is on their heads.

    • I have myself seen a hot air balloonist attempt to share a rifle range at Bisley as a landing ground. The attempt was soon abandoned.

  7. Why does the division exist?

    If golf is one of those sports where there is no meaningful difference in ability between men and women, then why have a women’s division? Have them all drive off the same tee and go hard.

    If there is a reason that the division should exist, then the division needs to mean something. These divisions, generally, aren’t performative. They don’t exist to actualize someone’s gender. They give a population that would generally have a tough time competing in the upper echelons of the sport, in this case women, a chance and place to compete against people with similar ability. If we believe that’s necessary, if we believe that’s good, then there has to be a standard… I’m not sure what that standard ought to be, but I’m sure the standard isn’t how one wakes up and feels that morning.

  8. I watched our city road race champs on Sunday and as the number of runners in the under 16 category was low they let the boys and girls start at the same time. The best girl who is 13 and holds various city age group records from 800m to 3000m managed to keep up with the lead four boys for most of the race but wasn’t able to outpace them at the end. But she was easily the best girl and so is the champion female for her age group. If any of the 3 boys who beat her had decided to identify as a girl it would have been totally unfair due to their biological advantage.
    If I had to predict which of these runners is most likely to one day run at the Olympics I would say the girl, not one of the three boys who beat her as long as they don’t let those born with a male advantage enter as well.
    For those who say that there should be no female category in sports or that anyone biologically male who identifies as a woman should be able to compete as a woman, then I think that they are just anti women’s sport. That would deny half the people in the world any chance of finding a sport where they can compete without someone like Lia Thomas coming along with her biological advantage and ruining the competition.
    As for letting athletes dope up to their heart’s content, I think that that is ridiculous. I don’t want to see 13 year olds with roid rage.

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