📆 November 26, 2023 | ⏱️ 5 minute read

Re: On Transgender Athletes

Edit (06-12-2023): Trans sports is often used as a wedge issue to divide working class people politically, so I just want to reemphasize how extremely low priority it is. Nobody should base their vote on microscopic issues like trans sports while we’re battling grave problems like poverty and climate change. I only wrote about this issue because I found it intellectually interesting, but politicians who spend time harping on it don’t have their priorities straight and probably aren’t worth voting for.

Since writing my entry about transgender athletes, I’ve researched and learned a bit more about transgenderism. So I’m going to respond to, clarify, and correct my previous entry with this one.

“…I think in the case of professional athletes, biological sex is more relevant than gender.”

This sentence sets the theme which is echoed throughout the entire entry. To be more specific about it, I meant that biological sex is more relevant than gender when it comes to the leagues in sports.

Right off the bat, some people might object to my use of the term “biological sex” since I later implied that it’s binary. They might point out that trans people who have had surgery and/or used hormones and intersex individuals might not fit neatly within the binary notions of biological male or female. Like with every other way we can classify people with labels, there will always be exceptions, people who don’t really fit any label. What do we do about them?

Should they be excluded from sports for not fitting into our boxes? That’s the one thing I’m certain we shouldn’t do.

We could redefine the criteria for inclusion in sports leagues to better handle edge cases like trans and intersex individuals. Trans and intersex people combined are common enough that I think this could be a worthwhile endeavor. To give an example, maybe we could replace men’s and women’s leagues with leagues defined by testosterone levels or some other characteristic that’s biologically well-defined and meaningful in the context of said sport without mentioning the more abstract notion of “biological sex”.

A more conservative approach would be to preserve the notion of binary biological sex and biological sex-defined sports leagues, but evaluate athlete eligibility on a case-by-case basis. So for example, a trans woman who went through puberty as a male and has a significant muscular advantage wouldn’t be allowed to compete in women’s leagues. Or a trans woman with the brain of your typical biological male would be disqualified from competing in women’s chess tournaments.

Whether you choose to define biological sex as a binary or a spectrum is another matter. Whatever your opinions are on the language we use, it should be clear that what matters for sports leagues are the biological differences. It’s likely that leagues based on gender identity would not be very useful. There’s actually a hilarious South Park clip showing exactly why biology is more important for sports than gender identity.

Edit (06-12-2023): To clarify, I was using this South Park clip merely to make a point. I wasn’t using it to mock trans people nor endorse any perceived sentiments South Park has towards trans people.

“…biological men and women have indisputable biological differences that surgery can’t change.”

Here, I failed to mention hormones, which can lessen or even eliminate the relevant biological differences for certain sports. For example, if a trans man went through puberty as a male, there may be no reason to bar him from a male bodybuilding competition. The fact that his chromosomes would be XX might not be irrelevant. I don’t know enough to say that with certainty, but you get my point.

“For some reason, a lot of people on the left seem unwilling to admit [there are differences between biological males and females], or they dismiss it as “stereotyping”. This is insanity. Men have more muscle mass and faster reaction times. Men’s brains are about ten percent larger. There are hundreds more examples and dozens of those are directly relevant to performance in professional sports.”

For any reasonable binary definition of biological sex, I’m not sure if there are hundreds of differences between biological men and women. It probably depends on how you count those differences, but I was just trying to get across the point that we are significantly different in ways that are relevant to professional sports. I don’t see how anyone could possibly deny that. Even if you define biological sex as a spectrum, you still have to divide people up by some relevant biological differences to get useful leagues.

“…biological sex is definitely a meaningful way of differentiating people in sports, and it’s unambiguous. You either have XX chromosomes or XY chromosomes, and that can be used to determine sex.”

It’s true that looking at chromosomes is a useful method for identifying biological sex, but it’s actually not as unambiguous nor relevant for sports as I implied here. As I said, one can have XX chromosomes but go through male puberty, making the chromosomes perhaps less relevant depending on the circumstance.

“Biological women who don’t want to compete against trans women aren’t being antitransgenderist. They just don’t want to get crushed by trans women who, in many cases, have clear biological advantages over them.”

I would go further and say that trans people who participate in sports leagues without disclosing that they’re trans are probably acting in bad faith. It’s not for trans people to judge whether or not they have a distinct biological advantage in the league they wish to participate in.

“We choose how to divide people up and there’s plenty of room for reasonable people to disagree about the divisions.”

This was written in the context of sports leagues, but this also applies to language more generally. This leads into the discussion of gender pronouns, which I’ll talk about in a future entry. Stay tuned.