Trans Women in Women’s Sports?

Should Trans Women Participate in Women's Competitions? The Debate Between "Inclusion" and "Justice" has Taken Over the World of Sport.

Lia Thomas

Photo: Hollywood Bios

LatinAmerican Post| Juan Manuel Londoño

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Leer en español: ¿Mujeres trans en deportes femeninos?

In recent years, a debate has been created around the participation of certain minorities in sports: trans people. The debate was animated this week due to the decision of Fina (the most important regulatory body in swimming worldwide) to prohibit the participation of trans women in elite women's competitions if they went through any type of male puberty. The decision was made after a panel of Fina scientists found that trans women have an advantage over cis women, even after lowering their testosterone levels.

This is a complicated debate that touches on issues of LGBT+ inclusion and the very nature of "fair" competition, so in LatinAmerican Post we want to bring you some arguments for and against the debate on the participation (or not) of the trans athletes in women's competitions.

Pro Arguments

Ban could result in more transphobia

One of the arguments in favor of the participation of trans women in sports competitions is that this type of prohibition could result in the exclusion of these people from other spaces. This side argues that the pursuit of this ban is due to a moral panic caused by the results of one trans athlete in particular, Lia Thomas, a swimmer who has tested positive over the course of this year.

It's hard not to see this side of things, considering that, in the United States at least, 20 states have passed bills this year that would ban trans women from participating in school sports. What's worse is that in none of these cases were the states able to cite an instance of a trans athlete having been a problem competing at this level.

There is not enough scientific evidence

There is still no scientific consensus that fully determines whether trans women have a biological advantage over cis women when it comes to competition. While many scientists argue that testosterone plays a key role in muscle development, lung capacity, and heart rate, others say it's less clear how much of an impact this has on performance in female athletes. For example, World Athletics, the body that regulates athletics worldwide, had to clarify last year that it "could not find a causal relationship between high testosterone levels and improved athletic performance among elite female athletes."

Part of the problem is that the transgender population is tiny (less than 1% in the United States) and within that population it is even harder to find professional athletes. This makes any study that proves a definitive advantage of trans athletes over female athletes difficult.


Diminishes the visibility of cis women

One argument against trans women's participation in women's sports is that it decreases the visibility of cis female athletes. According to this line of thinking, every time a trans woman participates in these sports, she is taking away an opportunity to compete from a cis woman, who is already struggling to be professional athletes. The media and the discussion around the sport go from being based on the achievements of cis women to sensationalism and the novelty generated by having a trans athlete in that discipline.

Unfair biological advantage

Perhaps the most repeated argument by people who disapprove of trans women in sports is that they have an inherent biological advantage over cis women. This results in unfair competition, where trans athletes will inevitably end up prevailing over cis women. Testosterone is cited as the key factor in this advantage, since as mentioned above, it provides increased muscle and lung capacity, two key factors for athletes.

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