The IOC’s Transgender Inclusion Threatens the Integrity of Women’s Sports

Runners at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. (Reuters)
Well meaning though they may be, new rules have put biological females at a disadvantage.

Two unnamed British athletes born male are reportedly set to become the first transgender women to compete at the Olympic Games in Rio, and preparation to hail this human-rights breakthrough is already underway. But what the Olympic Committee and the media are loath to discuss is that their system for allowing transgender athletes to compete in the women’s category is ripe for abuse.

The sports world largely avoided analyzing the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) new policy regarding transgender athletes when it was announced back in January. The IOC and its supporters in the media preempted any objections by citing a supposed “scientific” consensus, but the reality is much more complicated. The new guidelines for those wishing to compete in women’s events eliminate the previous requirement that transgender women undergo sex-reassignment surgery, instead mandating that prospective athletes undergo at least a year of hormone-replacement therapy and maintain testosterone levels below 10 nmol/L.

This latter standard is a particularly fraught issue. It comes after years of controversy over biological female athletes with naturally elevated testosterone levels, and amid a debate over the competitive advantage extra testosterone may or may not afford those athletes. What that controversy tends to obscure, however, is the other competitive advantages that come from competing as a transgender women who underwent puberty as a male. It is simply inconceivable that athletes who have spent most of their lives as men wouldn’t have greater muscle mass, skeletal growth, and lung capacity than someone born female even after undergoing the hormone treatments the IOC requires, which halt male development without entirely reversing it.  

POLL: Is It Fair for Transgender Women (Born Male) to Compete in the Olympic as Women?

Sadly, feminism is not in a position to fight the IOC, because the movement has bought into the doctrine of intersectionality, which dictates that transgender persons constitute a victimized group whose wishes must be granted at all costs. At a time when women ought to stick up for one another, only a few observers, such as Times columnist Janice Turner, have had the courage to declare the new rules unjust.

#related#That is a shame, because the IOC’s standards are part of a disturbing trend that threatens the very integrity of women’s sports. The Obama administration’s reimagined Title IX standards are even more incoherent, hewing to the line that gender is entirely a matter of one’s own private identity, and creating the potential for abuse by not even bothering to require hormone therapy for biological men wishing to compete in women’s collegiate athletics.  

Because sports have in the past been viewed as a “guy thing,” it is far too easy to turn a blind eye to the injustice facing female athletes who want to compete on a level playing field. But female athletes have brought glory to the United States at every level, and they need a voice now more than ever. It is time we defended the dignity of women’s sports by defending the dignity of biological femaleness, in all its unique possibilities and limitations.


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