The world of track and field is immersed in controversy regarding transgender and intersex athletes competing as female runners. The two issues are slightly different; yet, the base questions when males compete as females remain the same. I believe such issues will continue to proliferate in the coming years.
We can’t deny that every human being is born with specific chromosomes that determine his or her anatomy at birth. We also can’t deny that biological males are anatomically different than biological females. These differences typically make males bigger and stronger than females.
What that means when males compete as females
Males have more skeletal muscle than females. This usually translates to 40 percent more upper body muscle and 33 percent more lower body muscle. Basic anatomy and physiology science shows that this increased percentage gives advantage when it comes to strength and speed.
Some people believe biological males identifying as females should be allowed to compete in female track and field races. Yes, tennis great Billy Jean King once beat a male. However, especially regarding running, odds are that males will usually win competitions involving strength and speed.
Testosterone and other issues
When biological males compete as females, they have more testosterone in their bodies. This also creates an advantage. Usain Bolt, the world’s fastest male sprinter is more than a full second faster than Florence Griffith-Joyner, the world’s fastest female sprinter. Griffith-Joyner’s personal best time is 10.64 in the 100 meter dash. Bolt’s time is 1.06 seconds faster. In track and field, that might as well be an eternity.
Money is on the line when males compete as females
It’s understandable that most female runners oppose allowing athletes with male chromosomes to compete as females. At the high school level, many girls train their entire lives to earn college scholarship monies. Numerous female athletes have filed complaints after losing top races and scholarship monies to transgenders allowed to run as females. In fact, three high school female runners from Connecticut recently filed a lawsuit in federal court for this reason.
When males compete as females under intersex category
It’s one thing if someone born with male chromosomes identifies as female. Caster Semenya brings another issue to light. Born as both male and female, this superstar track and field athlete has lived as a female her entire life. She has male chromosomes, however, and much higher levels of testosterone than single-sexed female athletes.
International Association of Athletics Federations judges recently issued a ruling. Intersex athletes must reduce their testosterone levels before competing in female athletics. The court stated that this is the only way to even the playing field between female runners and intersex athletes. Perhaps a better way to make it fair is to have every runner submit to testosterone testing. This way, any competitor whose level is above the average standard would have to lower the level to enter. All runners in female competitions would be subject to the same test, not just certain runners.
Difference between transgender and intersex
A person who identifies as transgender was born with 100% biological male or female sex anatomy. This person identifies as a gender opposite of the anatomy and biological chromosomes with which he or she was born. Intersex, on the other hand, means that a person is born with variations of both biological sexes. It’s typical for an intersex person to live as one or the other gender.
Much more at stake than ‘gender rights’
When biological males compete as females, it can personally affect a female runner’s ability to win and to earn scholarship money. At the Olympic level, it may stifle an athlete’s opportunities for future, professional employment. Athletics must protect all competitors’ rights. Many track and field female athletes say that allowing biological males to compete as females is discrimination against them.
Biological females have a natural disadvantage against intersex runners or those born 100% biologically male who identify as female. If athletes with biological male DNA are allowed to run against females, then why have separate categories at all? Why not just have co-ed track and field competitions? Perhaps the answer lies in the fact that most people understand how unfair such competition would be as the males would have natural advantage over the females.
Do other options exist?
Should there be separate categories for transgender or intersex runners? They would compete against other athletes who have similar biological makeups. Would this create equal performance potential?