The By-invitation section publishes commentaries from a range of perspectives. For a view in favour of transgender women athletes competing in women's sports at the Olympics, read a commentary by Veronica Ivy .
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THE OLYMPICS have finally begun, but under a shadow—one that has increasingly haunted women's sports. This year, for the first time, biological males who identify as women will openly compete in the female category, owing to an International Olympic Committee (IOC) policy that permits them to do so. It establishes unfairness at the very heart of the most important athletic competition in the world.
Many other sports organisations are making the same mistake as the IOC, often by following its lead. Transgender women are biologically male, in that they were born with male physiology. Allowing them to compete in female competitions in the name of inclusiveness actually undermines the integrity of the competition. And female athletes are losing out: not just losing individual events, but the very opportunity to compete.
I know how discouraging and demoralising it can be for a female athlete to be forced to face off against a biologically male one. I've done it over and over. Last year I graduated from high school. For years I was a top-ranked runner in my home state of Connecticut. But Connecticut, like the IOC, permits biological males to compete in high-school women's sports if those males identify as female.
I spent my time in high school going head-to-head against two biological males—and losing to them repeatedly. Because of the transgender policy, I lost four women's state championship titles and two all-New England awards, not to mention many other second-and third-place spots on the podium, to biologically male athletes. And I'm not alone; these two biological males bumped more than 80 female athletes out of qualifying for higher levels of competition during numerous events over three years.
Sports organisations like the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference and the IOC claim that their policies are about inclusivity, but what those policies really do is exclude women from their own sporting events. It is a problem on two levels.
First, science and simple observation tell us that males have biological advantages over women in physical contests. Studies indicate that this advantage ranges from 10% to 50% depending on the sport, and it shows in sporting records. For example, in 2018, nearly 300 high-school boys ran the 400-metre sprint faster than the lifetime best of Allyson Felix, an American Olympic gold medalist.
The IOC attempted to address this concern by requiring transgender women athletes to be on testosterone suppressants for at least a year before they could compete in the Olympics. But this "solution" assumes that the male advantage comes solely from testosterone—and recent studies, including one in Sports Medicine in 2021, show that this isn't the case. Although testosterone suppressants reduce some of the biological factors that give males an advantage (like haemoglobin levels), they do not have a marked effect on many other factors—including muscle strength, lung capacity and the simple advantage of size. Male puberty provides advantages that simply can't be undone.
So biological males, even after a year of testosterone suppressants, have inherent physical advantages over biological females. This makes any competition between biological females and biological males, quite simply, meaningless.
Beyond this, however, is the question of opportunity. Whenever a biologically male athlete competes on a female sports team or in a female event, a female athlete loses an opportunity to compete. And when that biologically male athlete wins a women's competition, every female is bumped down from the spot she deserved. The higher up in athletics we go, the more devastating this loss is for female athletes.
Among several transgender athletes at the Tokyo games is a biologically-male athlete, Laurel Hubbard from New Zealand, who will compete in the women's weightlifting event. This is being lauded by some as a victory for the principle of "inclusion"—but that is not the real story. The unvarnished version is that a 43-year-old biological male with massive, inherent physical advantages took the spot of a female athlete at the Olympics. That is not a story of fairness and justice. It is a story of injustice being perpetuated in an ill-considered bid for political correctness.
While those supporting trans athletes may be loud, polls show them to be in the minority. In a survey by Gallup, barely one-third of Americans support trans women competing against females. Unfortunately many sports commissions and organisations are ignoring science and common sense, and they do not seem to care about fairness or female athletes either. Worse still, women and girls who stand up to—or even question—the policies face threats and punishments.
For example, Cynthia Monteleone, a champion track runner, raised concerns about the fairness of a biological male racing against females, but team managers, she says, warned her to stay quiet on the matter. Even questioning the claims of transgender activist groups gets female athletes in trouble. When Olympic cyclist Chloe Dygert liked a tweet in 2020 that said that biological males who identify as women are different from women, her team sponsor threatened to pull its support.
It seems like there is nowhere within organised sports for women and girls to turn. That is why, along with several other female athletes, I have filed a lawsuit against the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference, arguing that the policy violates a federal law that guarantees women equal opportunities in academics and athletics. The suit is currently before an appellate court, and asks the court to restore fairness by ensuring eligibility for women's sports to athletes who are biologically female.
Competing in the Olympics is the crowning experience of an athlete's life, and winning…well, that is the dream every athletic boy or girl harbours deep inside. It is not fair to tell girls who have worked for years and committed their lives, energy and very selves to athletic excellence that, in the name of "inclusion" and "diversity," they must resign themselves to being beaten by athletes with the inherent, unfair physical advantages that come from being male. True inclusivity, true diversity, true competition, true fairness—they all demand that we find another solution.
Chelsea Mitchell, an award-winning athlete from Canton High School in Connecticut, runs track at the collegiate level.
For more coverage of the Tokyo Olympics, visit our dedicated hub
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Chelsea Mitchell on the unfairness of trans women at the Olympics have 1383 words, post on www.economist.com at July 27, 2021. This is cached page on Europe Breaking News. If you want remove this page, please contact us.