Trans women STILL Don’t Seem to Have a Competitive Advantage in Sports

In February of 2019, I wrote an article detailing all of the evidence of date about trans women and sports. Now, over 2 years later, I will check any new evidence to see if that conclusion has changed.

Image via Pexels

I really do not want to repeat everything I have said before, so if you want to read the previous article I have written, you can do so here. That said, for a rundown:

There was no evidence that trans women had a competitive advantage in sport from any expert, athlete, or scientific study.

Anti-Trans Rhetoric and Roots in Misogynoir

Misogynoir is a term coined by the queer black feminist Moya Bailey in 2010. She defines the term on her blog as:

“…the anti-Black racist misogyny that Black women experience.”

In other words, it is the intersection of racism and sexism that specifically is harmful to black women.

But what does this have to do with trans women? Everything. There is a reason why when you look up “transgender athlete” half of the top 10 images are of Terry Miller, Andraya Yearwood, or Cece Telfer. White society has a huge history of viewing black women as hulking, mannish, and muscular. Such accusations of “being a man” have also been hurled at cis black women like Michelle Obama, or Serena Williams.

I mention this because, looking at 32 trans women athletes, only 3 are black women. Yet they account for half of the top images in the Google search results. Why is this? Because black women, including black trans women, are believed to look more “masculine” and more “threatening” and ergo are used and abused to make White Fear seem like an accurate counterargument to trans women playing in women’s sports.

Trans women athletes like Nong Toom, Chloe Anderson, and Alessa Almeri are not discussed nearly as often due to the fact that they do not fit the TERF-filled stereotypical mysogynoir of black women as mannish brutes. Since these three women do not fit the narrative of “trans women are just muscular hairy guys in dresses”, they are often just spoken of in passing.

And this does not start to touch the issue of “natural talent” that were hurled against black athletes for decades. The idea that black people have some sort of innate and unfair advantage in sports against white peopl-wait, where have I heard this argument before?

The fact that this old race argument is also starting up again against black women should therefore not be shocking given the prior information.

The New Science, What Does it say?

New studies and the like have come around since 2 years ago. Let’s look at that evidence and see if it supports the view that trans women have a competitive advantage.

I want to start off by saying that in the past 2 years, we still have not seen this massive influx of trans women earning medals. There are still less than 30 trans women who have won any kind of physical-based athletic activity, let alone win first place. And still not a single one in the olympics despite it being open for trans women since 2004.

A systematic review in 2016 that I mentioned in my last post that showed that:

“Currently, there is no direct or consistent research suggesting transgender female individuals (or male individuals) have an athletic advantage at any stage of their transition (e.g. cross-sex hormones, gender-confirming surgery) and, therefore, competitive sport policies that place restrictions on transgender people need to be considered and potentially revised.”

But what about newer science? Well, there was a study done in December of 2019 titled Muscle Strength, Size, and Composition Following 12 Months of Gender-affirming Treatment in Transgender Individuals. This study showed that for Trans Men and Trans Women (TM and TW):

“Thigh muscle volume increased (15%) in TM, which was paralleled by increased quadriceps cross-sectional area (CSA) (15%) and radiological density (6%). In TW, the corresponding parameters decreased by –5% (muscle volume) and –4% (CSA), while density remained unaltered.”

This study showed a significant decrease in trans women, despite the study claiming that their “stregth remained unchanged.” The study was done on 11 trans women and 11 trans men, also showing that the study is too small by itself to show anything at all.

A study posted in 2020 on transwomen who transitioned after being in the Armed Forces showed that:

“Prior to gender affirming hormones, transwomen performed 31% more push-ups and 15% more sit-ups in 1 min and ran 1.5 miles 21% faster than their female counterparts. After 2 years of taking feminising hormones, the push-up and sit-up differences disappeared but transwomen were still 12% faster.”

But it will be fascinating to see if that remaining 12% could be explained in other ways, such as leg length. I cannot find the full study online, and ergo cannot read the whole study to see the full methodology. The study was also done on only 46 trans women, so the data should again be taken with a grain of salt.

Risk of Injury?

The Guardian wrote an article in July of 2020 claiming that the World Rugby’s Transgender Working Group wrote up a 38 page draft document making a lot of claims such as there being a higher risk to cis women if trans women tackle them. Their specific claim is a “at least a 20–30% greater risk,” but this claim is not scientific. The full claim is this:

“While there is overlap in variables such as mass, strength, speed and the resultant kinetic and kinematic forces we have modelled to explore the risk factors, the situation where a typical player with male characteristics tackles a typical player with female characteristics creates a minimum of 20% to 30% greater risk for those female players. In the event of smaller female players being exposed to that risk, or of larger male players acting as opponents, the risk increases significantly, and may reach levels twice as large, at the extremes.”

This claim assumes that all trans women are taller and more muscular than all cis women. So we have to go back to the Name The Trait argument I brought up in my post 2 years ago:

“What trait does a transwoman inherently have, which, if present on a cisgender woman, would have you say she shouldn’t be allowed to ever compete?”

Are taller women not allowed to play rugby? Are women who lift weights not allowed to play rugby? Are cis women who are muscular like Dana Linn Bailey, Linda Durbesson, Jessica Buettner, or Savannah Prez too muscular to play rugby due to “higher risk of injury?”

The answer is “No.” Nobody would even mention anything about an unfair advantage of these women, or talk about risk of injury if they were to play rugby or any other sport. Nobody would even question this.

The same with mens football (American football). Football players can be up to 6'9" and weigh up to 400 pounds, or they can be far smaller, as short as 5'5" and under 200 pounds. What is the “risk of injury” if this short guy is tackled by one of the larger men who can easily ba twice their weight? Football is a contact sport that involves tackling.

In fact, football is a sport that has a huge rate of concussions due to constant tackling. This can cause massive harm to men over the manyh years that they play football professionally. But where is the outrage for this massive group of millions of men who play football throughout their lives? Why don’t we care about this “unfair advantage” of pitting taller men against men who are over a foot shorter and half their weight? Why do we only care about the few dozen trans women in the whole world who play any sport against women?

Is there a massive moral panic against cheerleading due to cheerleaders having a large rate of injury and being denied proper protection? Not really. It is brought up every so often, but nobody cares about this “risk of injury” to women as they are able to potentially see their panties without safety equipment.

If a tall butch cis woman plays rugby against a smaller rugby player, how high is the risk of injury? What if that shorter rugby player was assigned male at birth? Why are we ignoring these questions?

“Unfair Advantage”

Height of certain basketball players. Is being over 7 feet tall an unfair advantage?

Everyone who plays some kind of competitive anything have some kind of unfair advantage that we do not even discuss. As mentioned before, having genetic tallness and strength puts you at an advantage over other people on a team, let alone the general population.

A study on mountain climbers found that even some of the best that win medals have genetic mutations that allow them to hold oxygen in their blood for up to 40% longer than the rest of us. One case was cross-country skier Eero Mäntyranta, who won 7 medals and competed in 4 olympic medals, beating the 15km record by 40 seconds. He had a genetic blood mutation that allowed his body to produce far higher quantities of a hormone that is used as a doping agent by some athletes.

Nobody took his medals away or considered him to be cheating.

Tibetians and Nepal’s Sherpa have a genetic variation that increases hemoglobin, allowing them to survive at oxygen levels 40% less than normal. Is this whole group of people banned from mountain climbing due to an “unfair advantage” as circumstance of their birth? No, they are not.

Conclusion

You have to ask why we only care about this “unfair advantage” and “risk of injury” when it comes to trans women playing in women’s sports. Could it be that the reason this is even being discussed is because trans women are the newest minority to mock and ridicule? Could it also have ties to racism, which is why black trans woman athletes are massively overrepresented in news coverage about the “unfair advantage” of trans women in women’s sports?

I think it is obvious that this argument has nothing to do with women’s sports and everything to do with hating on trans people and using black women to exacerbate that hate-mongering and discrimination. The lack of care about women’s sports by the very people complaining about “unfair advantage” is also a dead giveaway. The vast majority of the people complaining about this “unfair advantage” don’t even watch any women’s sports. Odd, huh?

Trans women are women. So unless you are willing to name a trait that cis women can have that will cause you to ban the cis woman from women’s sports, don’t talk to me.

✯✯✯

If you liked what you read and want to support a disabled neurodivergent trans person, check out some of my eco friendly and sustainable stores below! I either resell things that I find, or upcycle them into new items, and every sale helps me to pay rent, bills, buy food, and get my medications.

Etsy: My shop for upcycled crafts and craft supplies, such as fabric, notions, tote bags, hanging baskets, and more!

Mercari: For reselling cheaper clothing that I find when dumpster diving

Poshmark: For the more higher quality and expensive stuff

eBay: For everything else!

Luci Turner is a crafter and freelance writer. They try to bring attention to issues others might not think much about.