Months ago, I tweeted that sports would be “where the rubber hits the road” on deference to trans ideology, because affirmation in sport of biological males who identify as women cannot co-exist in harmony with a level playing field for women. That burning smell? Rubber is hitting the road—hard. The latest incident in women’s medal erasure comes from Connecticut, where two transwomen sprinters took gold and silver at a girls’ track championship.
Sport is one area where the community will resist “social justice” initiatives if they conflict with sport’s bedrock principles of a level playing field and zero tolerance for cheating. Up until about five minutes ago in the long history of sport, that meant women competed against women and men competed against men in all sports where advantage lies in size, power and/or speed.
When a biologically male runner or cyclist who ranks as middle of the pack in men’s races becomes the gold medallist in a Women’s race, he cheats the silver and bronze women athletes beside him on the podium, and especially the woman who came in fourth. But he also cheats people who came out to see a clean race. Joe and Jane Public know unfairness and reality denial when they see it, and it sucks all the joy out of the word “competition” for them.
“Inclusion” has become an obsession in our culture. But normally there are logical limits to inclusivity that nobody objects to. Only citizens can vote. Only people with a certain level of health and fitness can join the Armed Forces. But sport associations that used to accept limitations and categories based in principles of reason and fairness are now prepared to sacrifice both on the altar of trans reverence.
Gender Studies and Sociology, including Sport Sociology, are currently marinated in theories of gender fluidity and social construction. The PhDs in these specialties are then hired as “gender identity experts” by sport associations in order to help formulate policies on “inclusion.” They invite LGBT advocacy groups as consultants as well. Nobody involved in these working groups even pretends to bring objectivity to their task. Back in the day, they were activists for women’s interests. Now they are activists for trans interests. But in sport, inclusion for trans cannot help but result in exclusion for women.
These advocacy groups will go to extraordinary lengths to make their point. We saw that last week when 62-year old, 18-time Grand Slam tennis singles champion Martina Navratilova, one of the greatest athletes of all time—and an icon for leadership in gay acceptance—was unceremoniously thrown under the juggernaut of trans activism.
Navratilova’s “crime” was to publish an op ed in London’s Sunday Times decrying the penetration by transwomen of women’s sports, asserting that it was “cheating and unfair” for biological males to compete against women.
Martina, for all her celebrity and stature, is spitting into the zeitgeist. She is part of Sport’s unwoke binary past. Athlete Ally, a U.S. non-profit LGBT-supportive organization, for whom Martina was an ambassador, stripped her of her title and turfed her from their editorial board. They accused Martina of transphobia, alleging her comments were “based on a false understanding of science and data.” (The irony of the charge is pretty rich, coming from an organization whose assumptions can only be sustained by a rigorous rejection of “science and data.”)
Athlete Ally is one of a constellation of LGBT advocacy groups that “are helping sport organizations in Canada become more inclusive.” This quotation is taken from the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport’s most recent policy paper, “Creating Inclusive environments for Trans Participants in Canadian Sport.” Designed as a policy guidance tool for sport organizations, it was developed by the ‘Trans Inclusion in Sport Expert Working Group,’ which I will hereafter refer to as the EWG. If you want to get a flavour of the kind of anti-science Kool-Aid our sports brain trust is drinking, read this document.
It begins factually enough. The paper notes that the vast majority of sport participation in Canada is focused on recreation and development. At this level, trans inclusion is not a big deal, because it’s all about fun and skill building. It is only for the “very small minority” of Canadian athletes who continue into high performance that competitive advantage becomes an issue. Enter the EWG. And here we leave facts behind and enter La La Land.
Sex, the EWG says, “is usually assigned at birth.” No. Sex is established during gestation according to chromosomal development. Sex is observed at birth, not assigned. Gender, the EWG says, “is not inherently connected to one’s physical anatomy.” No. Sex and gender are connected for 99% of humanity, and therefore “inherent” by normal metrics.
The definition of the word “trans,” for sports purposes, according to the EWG, “includes but is not limited to people who identify as transgender, transsexual, cross dressers (adjective) or gender non-conforming (gender diverse or genderqueer).” This is quite a puzzling mashup. Cross-dressing males do not believe they “are” female. Neither do non-conforming males and females who have no wish to transition.
But the document does not address this important inconsistency, nor the alarming imprecision of “not limited to.” From what they state in this definition, EWG is okay with cross-sex competing by biological males who do not believe they are females and females who do not believe they are male, but whose appearance or fetishes are atypical for their sex. We’re off to a very confusing start. Things don’t improve.
Indeed, to be trans can mean almost anything an individual wants it to mean (“not limited to…”), according to this document: “It is important for sports organizations to understand that each individual is different. There is no single transition process and each person will make different choices,” including, significantly, “whether they undertake hormonal or surgical transitions.”
And “[a]n individuals’ personal choice to not use hormones does not make them any less trans nor do these choices change their right to be recognized as the gender with which they identify—man, woman, both or other.” In short, the definition of trans, to be accepted by official governing sports bodies, is left entirely to an individual’s “sense” of gender identity, completely untethered from biology.
For contrast (for now): The International Olympic Committee (IOC) requires female trans athletes to take hormones for a year before competition (they used to require two years). The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) asks for one year of hormone therapy on the grounds that androgen deprivation and cross sex hormones reduce muscle mass.
The EWG does not deny that transwomen may have an advantage. Shockingly, they don’t care. They say: “the EWG acknowledges the concern that trans women athletes who grew up biologically male and who do not undergo hormonal intervention may be at a competitive advantage when competing in high-performance women’s sport. Nonetheless it is recognized that transfemales are not males who became females. Rather these are people who have always been psychologically female, but whose anatomy and physiology, for reasons as yet unexplained, have manifested as male.” (Emphasis mine.)
“Always”? Many adults who develop gender dysphoria after puberty or later had normal childhoods. Most children who exhibit gender dysphoria in childhood reconcile their gender with their natal sex in adolescence, although a high number of them turn out to be gay. Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria (ROGD), which exhibits many elements of a social contagion, is an escalating phenomenon that occurs without warning after puberty. A certain number who thought they were transgender desist later. In fact, those who “always” considered themselves the opposite gender from earliest childhood and who never waver in this belief for a lifetime, are a minority in the domain of gender dysphoria.
In any case, this statement is in direct conflict with the EWG’s assertion elsewhere in the guidelines that “these individuals should be able to participate in the gender with which they feel most comfortable and safe, which may not be the same in each sport or consistent in subsequent seasons.” (Emphasis mine.) They are saying that a transwoman may “be” a male in one sport and may “be” female in another from one season to the next. There is no “always” present in such a scenario.
Even if some transwomen athletes have “always been psychologically female,” sport is not about athletes’ psychological state; sport is about athletes’ bodies, and what they do with them. Which begs the paramount question of why individual psychology should trump physiological reality on the playing field at all.
As if the rabbit hole were not already deep enough, the EWG concedes that although “participants in men’s sport, on average, out-perform participants in women’s sports, current science is unable to isolate why this is the case.” (Emphasis mine.)
Can anyone with a working brain read this statement without laughing? Could it be that males outperform females because women are on average about 9% shorter than men? Because peak male bone mass is around 50% more than women’s? Because men are 40-50 muscle% by weight and women are about 30-35% muscle by weight? Because men on average have larger hearts and lung capacity, higher metabolic rates?
Hand grip is a marker for overall strength. The strongest 10% of females can only beat the bottom 10% of men in a hand grip contest. In speed events of all kinds, women are about 90% as fast as men. The fastest women will be beaten by boys on high school track teams.
Women’s ligaments are thinner and softer than men’s. Which is why women in combat training suffer far more injuries than men.
For heaven’s sake, when a women’s national soccer team loses 7-0 to a team of under-15 age boys, we are way beyond “anecdotal” evidence. So you simply can’t say “unable to isolate why” men are in general stronger and faster than women with a straight face. The weasel words here are “current science.” Translation: pseudo-science promulgated in the pseudo-discipline of Gender Studies. According to “current science,” the data and statistics that are considered settled by, you know, science, are ignored and replaced by theories that have no basis in evidence or the scientific method.
The guidelines offer even more unintentional humour, when they insert “A note of caution.” The EWG recognizes “that an unintended consequence of this policy guidance on hormone therapy for high-performance sport may be that a trans individual consider, or be pressured to consider, delaying the use of hormone therapy in order to realize some perceived or real competitive advantage in their sport.” (Ya think?)
Additionally, “sport organizations may want to consider how it might deal with any complaints about ‘gender impostors’ in high-performance sport. It is important to recognize that cheating of this type—presumably men masquerading as women in order to achieve a perceived advantage in women’s sport—is unprecedented and considered highly unlikely.”
There it is again: the admission that biological males have an advantage over biological women. The “presumably” is a coy deflection; it reeks of disingenuity. I reached out for comment on this issue to EWG member, former Olympian runner (1964) and the most influential academic voice in Canadian sport, Professor Bruce Kidd of the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education.
Kidd conceded in an email to me that biological males might have an advantage in competition, but “we did not think that any advantages that MF trans might possess…have been shown to be so significant that they merit policy exclusions.” He added, “No one would ever say that sports offer a completely level playing field. As a social scientist, I can point out that personal and national income is the most closely associated with Olympic medals.”
At first I found the first comment baffling. The International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF), which is quoted in the CCES guidelines that Kidd signed off on, accepts that “male athletes have a competitive advantage over female athletes to the order of 10-12%.” How are these stats not significant in a domain where medals are won on the basis of .01 seconds?
But then I realized he was saying men do have advantage, but the advantage of transitioned male-to-females athletes is no different from the random distribution advantage within a sex category (biological, economic or social), as per his second comment.
In response, I say that as long as biological sex is the primary categorizing principle in sport (for now), the categories need to be either enforced or eliminated. Para sport, for example, is divided into many categories for degrees of disability. But they would certainly not allow an able-bodied person to compete against paraplegics, no matter how deep their “sense” of transableism.
As to economic advantage, Kidd certainly makes a good point, even if it is not relevant to the discussion here. It is indeed troubling that a multitude of talented youngsters are constrained by financial obstacles from opportunities to realize their dreams. But there is an easy solution to that form of inequality: Increase funding to ensure Canada’s talent pool widens and deepens. Biology, however, is an immutable form of inequality. No amount of money, no form of regulation, can change that.
If the EWG really believes that the male advantage is not significant, they should consider abolishing sex categories altogether. But they won’t do that, because even ideologues know that would be the end of women in sport. The fact that nobody, not even those arguing most strenuously for parity between women and transwomen, is complaining about the reverse problem, transmen winning medals in men’s sports, should shame the ideologues into admitting the hard truth this disparity represents. But they won’t do that either.
Their compromise was to inflict a handicap on every woman in sport competing against a transwoman, and hope that the relatively few women athletes affected would have drunk enough social-justice Kool-Aid to accept that transwomen are exempt from the zero tolerance for cheating rubric. (Which by and large they have done—so far.)
And why does the EWG consider it “unprecedented” and “highly unlikely” that cheating of the kind they do recognize as cheating—identifying oneself as trans when one isn’t—would occur? The history of high-performance sport is rife with athletes who have cheated by doping. Offering the legal opportunity to enter the record books by competing against females, with no questions asked and no moral judgment levied against them, is tantamount to allowing any male athlete who is willing to lie about his psychological state the right to dope, is it not?
In fact, the more one thinks about it, the more it looks like “gender imposterism” could end up as a feature, rather than a bug, in the execution of CCES guidelines.
There are some observers of the lunacy that the CCES document exemplifies, such as conservative Selwyn Duke in this American Thinker article, who sees this great injustice to female athletes, as feminists’ own petard upon which they have now been hoisted. Feminists have insisted all these many decades now that social construction, not biology, has been the only obstacle to women achieving parity with men in every field of endeavor. If only women had the same opportunities, they have claimed, they would perform equally well. Duke says there is “poetic justice” in this logical extension of presumed equality.
I agree that radical feminists dug themselves into this hole, but I take no pleasure in their comeuppance. They aren’t the ones training five or six hours a day for years to realize their dream. Radical feminists are the proponents of anti-scientific theories about women and men’s psychological natures. They are way off base in their repudiation of evolutionary biology, true, but most athletes are not ideologues of any kind, let alone gender theorists. They just love sport. They know their bodies intimately and what they are capable of. They are very well aware of the differences between male and female bodies, and they do not observe these differences through the lens of social justice, but of realism.
So most athletes reading this document will know in their hearts that they are reading a catechism, not a policy paper grounded in any reality they recognize. But athletes tend not to rock political boats, as it takes time and effort to beat against the current, a distraction from personal goals. They keep their heads down and focused on their disciplines. Those girls and women athletes need these injustices redressed on their behalf, not smug taunts that they had it coming to them.
We are seeing the trickledown consequences of the EWG’s trans-reverential stance in the wholesale adoption of these guidelines, after a two-year consultation process with the CCES, by U Sports, the governing body of Canadian university sports. They are now in effect at U Sports’ 56 member institutions. All these institutions have, consciously or not, embraced a misogynistic policy in the name of gender inclusivity. On the up side, nobody could possibly call them “transphobic,” a fate worse than death to many cultural elites.
The rubber hitting the road in sports sparked a flame that now threatens to break out into a wildfire. It is clear that many of sport’s ethical gatekeepers have lost sight of their mission. The sport world needs to give its head a shake, break out of its politicized trance, and step back from ill-considered policies like those of the CCES.
Stakeholders in sport should understand that activists of all stripes always demand more than they expect to get. I am sure that delighted trans activists were quite surprised that the amateur sport world, when told to jump, didn’t negotiate limitations that would protect women athletes’ rights, but simply asked, “how high?”
Female athletes need to know that their coaches, managers and associations will stand up to politically correct tyranny. CCES’s political masters must do whatever it takes to protect women athletes from medal erasure, in order to restore honour, presently corroding in plain sight, to Sport’s founding principle, “Play Fair.”