Gender Equality in Sports

Recently there has been a lot of debate about transgender women’s rights in sports. Some people say transgender athletes have a biological advantage or that the presence of transgender women in sports hurts cisgender women. At least 140 bills limiting trangender rights are currently being considered all over the United States. The Human Rights Campaign says that over 75 of these bills prohibit transgender kids from playing school sports consistent with their gender identity. 

Transgender women deserve to compete in sports. Excluding them hurts all women, and negatively impacts transgender children; anyone can have biological advantages, and everyone’s bodies are different.

To begin with, sex isn’t binary, women’s bodies are not all the same. According to Dr. Joshua D. Safer, an endocrinologist, “A person’s sex is made up of multiple biological characteristics and they may not all align as typically male or female in a given person.” People who are not transgender often have hormone levels different from the range considered typical.

To that end, anyone can have biological advantages. Student track athlete Andraya Yearwood explains, “One high jumper could be taller and have longer legs than another, but the other could have perfect form, and then do better…One sprinter could have parents who spend so much money on personal training for their child, which in turn, would cause that child to run faster.”

In the Olympics, transgender women are allowed to compete under certain rules. Specifically, after stating her gender identity, the athlete cannot change her statement for at least four years. The athlete also has to show that her testosterone level has been below 10 nmol/L for one year before her first competition, and that it remains that way throughout the Olympics. The athlete also has to comply with testing of these requirements, and non-compliance results in a one-year suspension. 

Excluding transgender people from sports hurts transgender children. Jack Turban, a psychiatrist focusing on mental health of transgender youth, writes, “Beyond the trauma of sex-verification exams, these bills would cause further emotional damage to transgender youth. While we haven’t seen an epidemic of transgender girls dominating sports leagues, we have seen high rates of anxiety, depression and suicide attempts.” 

Scientific America research shows the main cause of these mental health issues is dismissing transgender women’s identity, shown by research.  Morevover, these sex-verification exams are harmful to all women. They can apply to any woman deemed “too strong,” “too fast,” or “too masculine.” This is misogynistic towards cisgender and transgender women alike.

Research from the American Psychological Association shows that participating in school sports has favorable outcomes, including “better grades, greater homework completion, higher educational and occupational aspirations, and improved self-esteem.”  Transgender children deserve these same benefits as everyone else.

Trans women deserve to play sports without having their rights questioned. Many conservatives who oppose transgender rights in sports say they are concerned for women, but they aren’t feminists and they don’t speak out on any other issue concerning women’s rights. These concerns for women appear to simply be transphobia.