The participation of transgender athletes in professional competition has been nothing short of controversial. The hot topic has not only been met with sport regulation concerns but society’s overall attitude to gender. In its entirety, the concept of gender is widely misunderstood.
The majority of society do not have contact with those who have transitioned, thus, judgement can be unfounded and lead to fear and rumours. From disputes over which bathroom people should use, to which clothing a child gets to wear, it is a contentious subject that has divided families and communities across the world.
Those who transition from male to female and look to compete among female athletes, biologically are at an advantage. In sports such as swimming, sprinting and combat, men are proficient due to naturally having broader shoulders, larger fast-twitch muscle fibres and a more muscular frame due to increased levels of testosterone.
An example of this is a comparison between the men’s 100m sprint times and the women. In 1988, the fastest 100m female sprinter in history, Florence Griffith Joyner, ran a time of 10.49 seconds. Joyner, who has been accused by sport scientists and nutritionists such as Victor Conte of taking performance enhancing drugs, still holds the world record in her event – twenty-two years on from her unfortunate passing in 1998. In contrast, the last male sprinter to run a slower, winning time than Joyner’s world record in an Olympic Final was Canadian, Percy Williams – almost a century ago in 1928. As a result, it can be determined that biologically men obtain a natural, physical advantage over women in such sporting events.
In turn, if a female transitioned to a male and wanted to compete against other men, they would find it difficult to compete in the physically demanding sports as they would not have the same build and genetic makeup that gives men an edge. However, this would most likely be seen as more acceptable due to this.
As of June, this year, Florida have outright banned transgender girls and women from participating in female sports at public schools and colleges. Introducing the ‘Fairness in Women’s Sports Act’, the law says women and girls must play on the teams of the biological sex on their birth certificate. However, the law would not block female athletes from playing on boys or men’s teams. Florida state’s Republican governor Ron DeSantis signed the measure into law on the first day of Pride Month.
In response to the new law, Florida state representative Carlos Smith, a Democrat who identifies as Latino and gay, issued a statement, calling the bill “appalling”.
“This fuels transphobia and puts vulnerable kids at risk for no good reason,” he wrote on Twitter.
The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) are currently filing a lawsuit to stop the ban but no further action has been made by DeSantis at this current time.
Professional Track & Field Coach, David Maris, also weighed in on the debate of if transgender athletes should compete against cisgender athletes.
Maris, 38, discussed in an interview with LSJ news why he believes that women are biologically at a disadvantage when competing in physically demanding sports against those born as a male.
The interview is on YouTube and linked to this article below for our viewers.
This is an ethical issue that has no right or wrong answer. The debate lies heavily with the perception of the individual. Some will claim that not allowing transgender athletes to compete is discriminatory while others will believe that it maintains the natural virtues of sport. Only time will tell if we see the transgender athletes competing against cisgender athletes in the future.