Transgendered individuals in gendered competitions.

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Hufflepuff
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Transgendered individuals in gendered competitions.

Postby Hufflepuff » Tue Jan 10, 9:37 2012

Flippin' through the boob tube last night, I came across a documentary on Logo about an MtF transgendered woman (Michelle something) competing on a women's mountain biking competition circuit, and it got me thinking.

First of all, let me say this -- I've never understood gender-segregating non-contact sports. I mean, golf? Really? We're gender-segregating golf? I understand the line of thinking behind it; "women aren't as strong as men, they'd never make it to the finals, they probably wouldn't even place, so they need their own league." Granted, it's true that in golf, male professionals have better yardage than female on average, and this is true in most non-contact sports that are nevertheless gender-segregated, like tennis (male professionals tend to hit the ball a lot harder, if the MPH gauge is anything to go by), but I think in practice, things would work out such that there'd be a mix even in the very finals. People tend to blow the differences between the sexes way out of the water when talking about sports.

The logic behind gender-segregating contact sports makes a lot more sense, even if it is still bullshit -- the vast majority of men wouldn't be able to bring themselves to be as rough with female competitors as male, not to mention would be deathly afraid of getting slapped with a sexual harassment suit if they grabbed female competitors the same way they grab male. This is me rolling my eyes. You can't see it, because this is a purely textual medium, but trust me; they're rolling.

Anyway, the documentary I mentioned started off with a bunch of clips from spur-of-the-moment interviews (i.e. outdoors during a competition, not in a traditional interview setting) with the mountain bikers, virtually all of whom expressed the sentiment that it wouldn't be "fair" if Michelle (who, hearteningly, they did refer to as "she") competed. That seems to be the general consensus behind issues of MtF women competing in sporting events with born-female women, which strikes me as amazingly self-sexist. So what, all these professional atheletes are outright admitting that men are, by default, more athletic than women? Depressing.

What do you think? I haven't really made up my mind (though I never really "make up my mind" about things so much as I "tentatively hold favor with a given position because it seems to me, given my current information, to be the most sensible"), but what would help would be if someone could answer this question for me -- the hormone therapy and so forth during the gender reassignment process. How extensive is it? I mean, yes, it's true that it's easier for men than women to build muscle mass, in a general sense. Does an individual born male, becoming female, lose that ability during the process of gender reassignment?

Also, I've never once heard of a FtM transsexual trying to participate in a male-only gendered competition of any sort and having problems. I don't know whether that's because it's never happened or what. I don't think it'd be as big a problem in terms of "wah, it's not fair," though there'd probably be major harassment issues, if not outright violence. We can discuss that here, too, and if anyone has any examples, be sure to post 'em.
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Re: Transgendered individuals in gendered competitions.

Postby Axiomatic » Tue Jan 10, 12:44 2012

I'd say you should keep those sports gender segregated where having a body that pumps out a lot of testosterone is a measurable advantage.

Transgendered individuals should be sorted depending on the amount of testosterone their body habitually produces, if the amount of said testosterone is relevant.
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Re: Transgendered individuals in gendered competitions.

Postby monk » Tue Jan 10, 13:38 2012

The problem with professional sports is that there are two motives involved with the various authorities that regulate them fairness of competition and profitability. How the sports are segregated is mostly a financial decision and whether an individual can play is made on an individual case by case basis.

When you take a sport like golf, there is a womens group and a mens, the mens group through competition eliminates most men through the selection process and as a side effect there are almost no short professional golfers. The extra inches of height and corresponding club length for tall golfers gives them and inherent advantage over short golfers much the same as for professional basketball players. This also happens to be the first hurdle a woman would come across because of the number of women who are over 6ft in height.

Basically every sport is going to be discriminatory to some degree or other when it self selects those at the highest level of competition from the lowest. Do we ban the Kenyan runners from marathons because their home climate gives them a lung capacity advantage? Do we penalize a non Kenyan runner who chooses to sleep in a low pressure atmosphere box at night in order to increase their lung capacity to match that naturally given to a Kenyan? What about prosthetics? There was a man who lost both his lower legs and had them replaced with springy prosthetics and he was denied the right to compete because his handicap gave him an unfair advantage

A transgendered person should be treated like any other athlete who is competing. If they're determined to have an unfair advantage by the authority that regulates that sport, that authority has the right to banned them from their professional events. It's not like they're saying the person can't participate in the sport on a non professional basis, they just can't enter and profit from an unfair advantage.

sorry, that was really long.
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Re: Transgendered individuals in gendered competitions.

Postby ladypenelope » Wed Jan 11, 2:11 2012

Hufflepuff wrote:...but what would help would be if someone could answer this question for me -- the hormone therapy and so forth during the gender reassignment process. How extensive is it? I mean, yes, it's true that it's easier for men than women to build muscle mass, in a general sense. Does an individual born male, becoming female, lose that ability during the process of gender reassignment?


My knowledge is somewhat limited but here is what I know about this:
When some one starts MtF hormone replacement it essentially puts their body through almost a second puberty. The effects can vary depending on what age HRT starts, genetics, receptiveness to hormones etc, but one of the effects is reduced muscle development. And I have read (anecdotally though) that transwomen undergoing HRT do notice feeling weaker. The therapy usually involves taking an anti-androgen to inhibit the production of testosterone (in addition to estrogen/progesterone) so the T levels in someone undergoing HRT would be comparable to someone who is biologically female (ie far lower than 'normal' male).

Also, unrelated to the strength aspect, some of the hormones/medication may cause issues in an "anti-doping" sense anyway, which would be a concern where drug testing is required by a professional body to compete.

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Re: Transgendered individuals in gendered competitions.

Postby Oread » Wed Jan 11, 19:46 2012

Axiomatic wrote:I'd say you should keep those sports gender segregated where having a body that pumps out a lot of testosterone is a measurable advantage.

Transgendered individuals should be sorted depending on the amount of testosterone their body habitually produces, if the amount of said testosterone is relevant.


I think I'd agree with this. Some cis women produce more testosterone than others, so they'd have to be excluded as well based on those measure, though I'm not sure if the amount of testosterone would approach the amount a man's body makes or not.

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Re: Transgendered individuals in gendered competitions.

Postby Axiomatic » Thu Jan 12, 2:52 2012

To be honest, I'm not a doctor, and I have a feeling that you'd need someone with medical qualifications to answer the question correctly.

It'd be nice if it was a transgendered doctor, just in case.
"Delicious, delicious, delicious!" Wile E Coyote cried. "My Delicious! O my Delicious!"
And with that, even as his eyes were lifted up to gloat on his prize,
he stepped too far, toppled, wavered for a moment on the brink,
and then with a shriek he fell.
Out of the depths came his last wail Delicious, and he was gone.

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Re: Transgendered individuals in gendered competitions.

Postby LunchBox » Thu Jan 12, 17:59 2012

This is a tough and touchy issue because yes, women who were/are built like a man with testosterone will have an advantage. Despite that, it's largely insensitive to segregate the transgenders because of that.

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Re: Transgendered individuals in gendered competitions.

Postby Aum » Sun Jan 15, 15:57 2012

It's hard to know. Men on average have higher lung capacity, but that is formed during puberty. A trans person has already gone through puberty when they were their birth sex, so added testosterone would not increase lung capacity that much. A female-to-male trans person would still have that lung capacity even if estrogen is increased. I do know that women, statistically, tend to have better lower body strength, and men have better upper body strength; so I'd be curious to know if this shifts if you are a post-transition trans person.

On the other hand, testosterone itself increases muscle development, especially if you are working out simultaneously. Before testosterone could be tested for in the blood, Russian female olympians were receiving injections of it. It resulted in deeper voices and more dense musculature, but you have to keep in mind that some countries practically breed their athletes and put them into special programs (i.e. China, Russia) for their whole lives. So it wouldn't matter how their physiology has been tweaked along gender appropriate lines. They were still considered male or female due to their sex, despite having radically altered hormones.

It might be difficult in today's world for a trans person that is receiving hormone replacement to get fair standing in an official competition, because normally hormones are banned these days. It's just interesting to note that in the past, female athletes receiving testosterone injections who developed more male looking features were still considered "females" in the qualifying competitions. The only major difference between that and a trans person would be their say-so about their gender, unless of course they are post-op.

When comparing trans person against a non-trans person in a competition, I guess it would really depend on the individual. I've met trans people who are very athetic and they weren't before they made the transition; on the other hand I've met trans people who have become more demure post-op. It's hard to make a concrete evaluation.
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Re: Transgendered individuals in gendered competitions.

Postby Meperidine » Sun Jan 15, 16:48 2012

Axiomatic wrote:I'd say you should keep those sports gender segregated where having a body that pumps out a lot of testosterone is a measurable advantage.

Transgendered individuals should be sorted depending on the amount of testosterone their body habitually produces, if the amount of said testosterone is relevant.


A great biologist I once studied under had to say to this that it "gives testosterone too much privilege." Do we then ban born women whose testosterone levels test too high? Do we call any innate physical advantage in an area helpful to a certain sport unfair?
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Re: Transgendered individuals in gendered competitions.

Postby monk » Sun Jan 15, 17:02 2012

Meperidine wrote:Do we call any innate physical advantage in an area helpful to a certain sport unfair?
I guess that would really mess with basketball where height is a definite advantage. Since it would be problematic to have different leagues for every height you would have to say each team maintain an average height of say 6'6" and for every 7 footer you'd have to have a six footer or two 6'3"ers to compensate.
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Re: Transgendered individuals in gendered competitions.

Postby Sonic# » Sun Jan 15, 17:33 2012

I don't see there being a reliable way to exclude transgender people on the basis of some measurement like testosterone, for the reasons laid out by Meperidine. Sometimes physical limits make sense, like weight limits in boxing, which allow for people to compete in strength, endurance, agility, and technique without there being a great discrepancy in capacity. Gender limits for many sports also make sense, since the gaps in peak performance between men and women are often significant (a difference I don't attribute to any single factor like testosterone).

To the degree that athletics is a social performance, I see no reason for denying a transgender woman participation in women's sports. To the degree that the social performance is supported by actual bodies, bodies that are partly the product of strenuous training and partly the product of birth, bodies that owe some of their capability to secondary sexual characteristics, we don't really have the language for separating our gendered preconceptions about bodies from what bodies actually are. We can't compare a transgendered woman's body to a cisgendered woman's body and expect to find some singular definable difference between male and female that makes the transgender woman so much superior to the cisgender woman. The perception of gender intercepts our understanding of the situation, so that if the transgender woman is better (in whatever measure we adopt), we proclaim her to be too different to compete on the basis of her gender (since if she were a woman she would not be thus tested), whether or not that difference is related to her sex. If she is not exceptional - if she is likely to lose - she is accepted as someone not better but still different, marked by the experience of testing.

So I don't have a clear answer, but this issue touches on the intriguing issue of how one tests sex, and how sexual difference for we modern Westerners tends to trump or replace gender in how we view the body, so that, from the perspective of sports testing, the transgendered woman looks like a different gender.

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Re: Transgendered individuals in gendered competitions.

Postby zibber » Fri Jan 20, 9:43 2012

I think the key to discussions like these is the incompatibility of a truly free, "enlightened", all-inclusive society and fierce ("life & death" (the kind where people become deeply depressed after losing)), financially interested (that's the big one) competitions.

Should we take all the old leagues and associations and try and drag these into the future, or let go of institutions and just enjoy ourselves? Must one be "officially licensed" in order to enjoy a sport one, well, enjoys? It seems so tautological to me.
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Re: Transgendered individuals in gendered competitions.

Postby Epicenity » Mon Jan 30, 6:11 2012

monk wrote:.... sorry, that was really long.

I couldn't of put it better myself.

To further add onto this, being a male to female transsexual myself and also being on the hormone replacement therapy (HRT) for roughly over 2 years, my strength has depleted dramatically. Where as before I could beat my brothers in numerous games which require arm strength, where as now I can't even beat a good friend of mine who is cis female.


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