Trans women vs trans men competing in Olympics

Alexis Haigler, reporter

     With the Tokyo Olympics approaching quickly, athletes around the world are gearing up to compete in the biggest sporting event in the world, a new problem arises though when figuring out where transgender competitors should comptete.

      In 2003, a committee convened by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Medical Commission drew up new guidelines for the participation of athletes who had undergone gender reassignment. The report listed three conditions for participation. 

     First, athletes must have undergone sex reassignment surgery, including changes in the external genitalia. Second, athletes must show legal recognition of their gender. Third, athletes must have undergone hormone therapy for an appropriate time before participation, with two years being the suggested time. It wasn’t until 2004 that transgender people were able to compete in the Olympics according to the IOC.

      In 2015, the IOC modified these guidelines in recognition that legal recognition of gender could be difficult in countries where gender transition is not legal, and that requiring surgery in otherwise healthy individuals “may be inconsistent with developing legislation and notions of human rights.”

        The new guidelines require only that trans women athletes declare their gender and not change that assertion for four years, as well as demonstrate a testosterone level of fewer than 10 nanomoles per liter for at least one year prior to competition and throughout the period of eligibility according to IOC representatives and public rules. Athletes who transitioned from female to male were allowed to compete without restriction. These guidelines were in effect for the 2016 Rio Olympics, although no openly transgender athletes competed.

      Laurel Brown, a senior track runner has had some experience in competing against transgender athletes. She was in a female distance run and was supposed to be first in her heat, but a Fallston competitor who was biologically a male and identified as female was running alongside her. The athlete ended up lapping Laurel and all other competitors twice. She said she felt “cheated” as there was a stark difference in the transgender female athlete and the biologicaly female athletes and worried that some men might just say they identify as woman to place higher in the women’s races, though she was not saying she felt this is what this one specific athlete was doing.

      She believes that having athletes separated by physical capability rather than just biological or identified gender, much like wrestling where competitors are separated by weight class to ensure people are going against athletes of their same level.

      Access regulations requiring that trans athletes compete against athletes of the same assigned sex at birth and requiring sex verification testing have been used. Proponents of such regulations regard them as necessary to ensure fair competition, while opponents regard them as “discriminatory” according to .

      Resistance to trans women competing in women’s sports generally focuses on physiological attributes such as height and weight, or performance metrics such as speed and strength, and whether sustained testosterone suppression can adequately reduce any natural advantages of male body characteristics within a given women’s sport which is shown in the IOC’s guidelines on transgender competitors, specifically transgender females.

     The problem isn’t trans people in sports, but rather trying to balance acceptance and equality of all athletes and give a fair chance to the competitors not giving one person an advantage or disadvantage.