American Trans athlete Lia Thomas has been making headlines in the last week by smashing a number of records in competitive swimming.
But before Lia Thomas transitioned to female, they swam competitively as a male. Lia Thomas broke multiple records at the Zippy Invitational held at the University of Akron, including the fastest finish in the country for the 200 metres freestyle with a time of 1:41:93. That time is currently the best in the United States for a women’s collegiate event.
Thomas began their transition in May 2019 where they continued to compete on the men’s swimming team.
Even though Lia Thomas meets all the requirements to participate in their chosen elite sport, they have still received a massive backlash for competing.
In addition to Lia Thomas, there are other trans athletes making headlines in their sport:
Trans athlete CeCe Telfer became the NCAA National Champion in the 400 metres run.
And New Zealand trans weightlifter Lauren Hubbard competed for gold at the Tokyo Olympics, the very first Olympics that transgender athletes have been openly able to compete.
Is ‘Fairness’ Even a Thing?
But is it fair that trans females can compete in elite sport against biological born female athletes? Personally, it seems that trans athletes would have a competitive advantage. But do they?
For me personally, it makes me uncomfortable that an elite biological female athlete could miss out on a title or gold medal to a trans athlete because of their physical advantages – so are biological women missing out?
Let’s do some digging and find out.
Transgender swimming Lia Thomas (right). Image via News.com.au
What are the Current Rules for Trans Athletes?
In the United States, a trans athlete is eligible to compete after completing one full year of testosterone suppression treatment. That is except in the nine US states that have totally banned transgender athletes from competing in sports against athletes of the other biological sex.
The IOC Olympic Guidelines are the same, but they also state that trans athletes must have their testosterone levels under 10 nanomoles per litre a year before their first competition.
What Does the Science Say?
Currently, there are no published studies on trans people’s athletic performance. However, there have been a few papers published, especially in the lead up to the Tokyo Olympic Games.
Research carried by Dr Timothy Roberts, a pediatrician and associate professor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City found that trans women who underwent hormone therapy for one year continued to outperform non-transgender women (or cisgender women), though the gap largely closed after two years. But even after this period, trans women still ran 12% faster.
Joanna Harper, a medical physicist at Britain’s Loughborough University and a transgender athlete and researcher stated:
“Pretty much any way you slice it, trans women are going to have strength advantages even after hormone therapy. I just don’t see that as anything else by factual.”
Tommy Lundberg from the Sweden’s Karolinska Institute that focuses on skeletal muscle strength of trans people on hormone therapy states:
The advantages for trans women in strength are to the point where fairness cannot be ensured in most sports.
And Benjamine Levine, a professor of Cardiology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Centre states:
“Regardless of gender identity, people who go through puberty with male levels of testosterone, on average, will grow taller and stronger than cisgender girls and women, with more muscle mass, larger hearts and advantages in several other physiological factors that affect athleticism.
Brazillian Volleyball Player and Trans Athlete Tiffany Abreu (photo via Andre Penner)
What Does the LGBTQ Community Say?
Mr Ricardo Martinez, the Chief Executive of the LGBTQ Rights Group ‘Equality Texas’ says that a recent bill introduced in nine different US states banning trans athletes, that the new rules were:
“A hateful, targeted attack on transgender people”
My 2c Worth
I think it is wonderful that trans people are being represented in the community and in sport. Inclusiveness is something for all people, something I support. I have absolutely no issue with trans people whatsoever except in one single area. Elite sport against cisgendered women.
I just don’t know how it would be physically fair for anyone born female to compete against someone born male.
It’s biology. People born male have a massive physical advantage over those born female.
And this worries me. Are we to see all the Olympic records slowly be taken away from female athletes to trans athletes? That doesn’t seem fair.
Trans Athletes ARE Playing by the Current Rules
With regards to both Lia Thomas, CeCe Telfer and Laurel Hubbard – they played by the rules outlined and qualified. They did things by the book. But I think those rules need to be looked at for the sake of naturally born female athletes who could never ‘fairly’ compete against a trans athlete.
Evens Piers Morgan (who I think is a fucking tosser) has contributed to the uproar about trans athletes.
“Staggering how few feminist women dare speak out against transgender athletes destroying women’s rights to sporting fairness & equality. They’ve been cowed into silence by the woke trans bullies.”
Olympic Weightlifter Lauren Hubbard (image via Chris Graythen)
On the topic of having a biological advantage, Cece Telfer stated:
“There are people who say I have the benefit of testosterone. But no. I have no benefit. I’m on hormone suppression, it doesn’t help. It’s another disadvantage. Cis women are producing more testosterone than the average trans female.
So it’s crazy. I’m the crazy one, to be the weakest female, the weakest link in the chain, to be competing against the top ones. I should be fingered as the stupid one, for wanting to do that in the first place.”
What’s the Solution Then?
To tell the truth – I have absolutely no idea. Maybe everyone competes against those with the same chromosome?
Maybe trans athletes should have their own category?
Or maybe they have a measured handicap?
I’m by no means against trans athletes competing. They have every right to represent their sport if they are fast or strong enough. It’s only the category that I’m against.
Trans athlete CeCe Telfer at the Texas A&M University in Texas