Is something wrong with sports? Or is something wrong with transgenders?

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  • #38091

    Unseen
    Participant

    This week a women’s soccer player came out as a transgender male. The issue of transgenders in sports almost always involves women’s sports. The female wanting to compete as a male is a classic black swan event. Sure, there are high school girls who want to be on the boys’ team either because there is no girls team or they are just head and shoulders above the other girls in talent and want more of a challenge. I don’t know if it’s ever happened in pro sports. I kind of doubt it.

    What transgender means is a complicated topic since it ranges from people who merely feel like a female in a male body to people who are being physically altered to have a body that matches their identity. Which of the two does make a difference. A previously male player whose hormones have been readjusted and has or is getting a vagina is different from a male player who just identifies as female. On the whole, though, a previously male athlete is likely to have a physical advantage over most of the female competition.

    Sports have always been based on a binary view of gender, whereas in other contexts gender is recognized as a continuum from very male to very female. But is competitive sports an area where the continuum notion works?

    Advocates for transgender athletes will argue that the most important thing is that they get to compete. Others will argue that the most important thing is the famous “level playing field” and that there’s nothing level or fair about typical but athletic women competing against an antypical “female” who is in many regards a physical male. They will add that not everybody gets to compete anyway, even “normal” (whatever that means) people.

    What is a level playing field? One widely-used definition is that it’s where no one has an unfair advantage, which is obviously open to widely divergent interpretations. The people who become superstars have abilities and bodies that place them head and shoulders above the rest. LeBron James, Lionel Messi, Usain Bolt. These players are almost unnaturally better than the rest.

    Some will say that, “Okay, so they feel female, but the original reason for having the male/female gender division in sports was always to keep it fair for the females, because athletic males have clear advantage over their female counterparts. Their skeletons and musculatures tend to be different, and their hormones are key as well.

    For example, male and female skeletons are so different that most of the time a medical examiner, given a skeletonized corpse can tell if the body is that of a male or female almost at a glance. Hip bones are particularly telling.

    Sports have clumsily tried to level the playing field by setting limits on testosterone in female athletes, for example, requiring hormonal adjustment to bring it into a more normal range. A little googling into this topic will probably leave you appalled, reminding you of past times when we fixed schizophrenia by means of prefrontal lobotomies.

    A totally different approach to the “identifying as female” thing is to assert that this is actually a psychological problem that can’t be addressed by the sports. These people need to get help. Creating turmoil in sports by asking sports to make accommodations won’t solve anything.

    Obviously, where that logic leads is that identifying as female doesn’t make a male a female in this world or any other.

    One last thing: Some may say that if you take the attitude that gender dysphoric people need to get fixed rather than fixing sports, won’t the next thing be that gays and lesbians have a mental problem and need help? I’m sure some bigots will say that, but homosexuality isn’t dysphoric. Society can create a dysphoria by convincing lesbians and gays that they are defective when, left to their devices, they won’t feel that way. This artificial dysphoria is something teens are particularly prone to, and it results in suicides. However, transgenders (the “T” in “LGBTQ”), unlike the others letters, start off feeling that something is wrong and needs fixing, and far fromi fostering this feeling, society feels blindsided by it.

    Your thoughts?

    #38092

    _Robert_
    Participant

    More and more “bionic” people will be around and want to get on teams. I would like an open division such that any bio-electric-mechanical-chemically enhanced entities could compete. Now that would be exciting.

    Of course there is no easy solution to your question and setting up detailed and ever evolving guidelines to exclude people who cross some threshold unnaturally is shitty but needed to maintain gender based divisions. Personally I am only mildly entertained by competitive sports these days. In the big picture who wins or loses is of miniscule import and I can’t tell you who won the Superbowl 2 years ago or who won last year’s NBA championship.

    #38093

    On the whole, though, a previously male athlete is likely to have a physical advantage over most of the female competition.

    It feels intuitively true that males who have transitioned would have an advantage. I will stand corrected on what follows as I have not investigated it too deeply but…..I don’t think this is necessarily the case.

    When a male has reduced testosterone levels over a period of time, they will produce less hemoglobin which supplies oxygen from the lungs to the muscles. With less being produced the person now has to work harder to move the same “mass” over the same distance. They will never be able to be “athletically efficient” (my term) as they were previously.

    #38094

    Unseen
    Participant

    More and more “bionic” people will be around and want to get on teams. I would like an open division such that any bio-electric-mechanical-chemically enhanced entities could compete. Now that would be exciting. Of course there is no easy solution to your question and setting up detailed and ever evolving guidelines to exclude people who cross some threshold unnaturally is shitty but needed to maintain gender based divisions. Personally I am only mildly entertained by competitive sports these days. In the big picture who wins or loses is of miniscule import and I can’t tell you who won the Superbowl 2 years ago or who won last year’s NBA championship.

    I think we may have almost reached the limits of accomplishment in many sports. Let’s face it: a human will never run as fast as a greyhound, barring bionics. No human will ever be able to clean and jerk a ton. In fact, the whole sports=health thing has become a joke because in so many sports, participating in them actually does peramanent damage to the sportsters’ bodies.

    I do have s solution to the transgender problem which is practical though I’m not sure how popular it will be, and that is to add to men’s and women’s sports an “other” category for dysphorics, bionics, and the rest.

    #38095

    Unseen
    Participant

    When a male has reduced testosterone levels over a period of time, they will produce less hemoglobin which supplies oxygen from the lungs to the muscles. With less being produced the person now has to work harder to move the same “mass” over the same distance. They will never be able to be “athletically efficient” (my term) as they were previously.

    You are referring to only one kind of transgender. Some want to make a physical transition, others simply want to live presenting themselves as female, no hormones, no surgery. Dysphoria over what they feel is a mismatch between their physical gender and their psychological identity seems to be the common element.

    Here is the Mayo Clinic’s explanation of the range that “transgender” covers:

    Those who have a gender identity that differs from the sex assigned to them at birth

    Those whose gender expression — the way gender is conveyed to others through clothing, communication, mannerisms and interests — and behavior don’t follow stereotypical societal norms for the sex assigned to them at birth

    Those who identify and express their gender fluidly outside of the gender binary, which might or might not involve hormonal or surgical procedures

    I still think the main abiding concept across the whole range of transgenders is a dysphoric discomfort or even rejection of their physical gender. This strikes me as a problem that cries out to be addressed psychologically and not by forcing women’s sports to accept something they view as patently unfair.

    That said, in many sports the women who excel clearly have (one hopes naturally) higher than normal levels of testosterone giving them boyish or even manly features. ln other sports, the women have suppressed their estrogen levels, which I gather can be done through exercise (and diet?), and so they have the hard muscles normally associated with males. Female runners, for example.

    It also seems that many top female athletes are lesbian, at a higher rate than in the general population. I have no idea how that fits in to this discussion. I only offer it in case someone else can make it fit.

     

    #38096

    Unseen
    Participant

    On the question of fairness, the late John Rawls thought that only those inequalities are permitted which benefit everyone. This principle in his theory applied to societies and other social groups. For example, it’s okay to give the police or a President a power only if we all benefit by it. (Obviously, it’s a bit more complicated than that: whether we benefit by police or presidential powers depends upon how those powers are used.) Still, the basic idea seems applicable to sports groups. It’s okay to have a coach if the team benefits by having one. Ditto for a team captain. Likewise, justifying letting physical males participate in women’s sports, it seems, can only be justified in terms of how women’s sports participants in general benefit from it. Clearly, a team might benefit from having one or more physically male “females,” but what about the teams they defeat thereby?

    This is why I still like the men/women/other solution, the third category being a catch-all for not just transgenders but bionics, substance-enhanced, or anything other than natural “born that way physically” athletes.

    #38097

    Autumn
    Participant

    Just as a usage note, but ‘transgender’ is pretty much only used in the adjectival case these days. You may find some references that list in in the nominative (perhaps modelled of an older use of ‘transexual’) or use ‘transgendered’ Over the years the shift in usage has been pretty decisive.

    With regard to the topic, generally, something is wrong with sport. Lots of things, probably. Virtues such as inclusivity, equality/ equity, and fairness are often touted, but pretty selectively and sloppily enforced or realized.

    Add to that the place of sport in society has become rather distorted. It’s about sponsors and boosters and endorsements and the like. Maybe not for all of the athletes—many of them get very little in terms of pay, funding or scholarships—but for the regulatory bodies, team owners, schools (et al). Still, purity of sport?

    How advantage should even be measured is still a mystery. Some of the attributes that might differentiate transgender women from cisgender women are situationally advantageous or disadvantageous in theory, some of them fall along considerably overlapping gamuts between transgender and cisgender women, some can be mitigated but to unknown effect. How all of this adds up in practical terms isn’t as easy to parse as some make it out to be.

    On top of this, issues pertaining to transgender people are typically used as wedge issues. There is a lot of rhetoric flying around. Veronica Ivy was cited often as a source of transgender women shattering the competition, but despite claims she shatters the competition, she’s easily within competitive range of the other women in her sport and age category. Laurel Hubbard’s best competitive result would have placed her fourth in the last Olympic games, and is far from the women’s world record.

    Fallon Fox is often met with jeers of ‘you shattered a woman’s skull’, but she’s not the only woman to break her opponent’s bones (including skull). MMA is a dangerous sport, and at least one cisgender woman has killed another cisgender woman. Did Fox represent an unreasonably increased risk of causing injury? I don’t know, but the mere fact that she caused an injury at all tells us nothing. And being trans in and of itself doesn’t tell us a whole lot. Fox might have an advantage over Ronda Rousey, but Rousey would almost certainly demolish Jazz Jennings even if Jennings had been training for the last couple of years.

    There are so many variables that change competitive advantage, and sure, for competition to make sense there have to be limiters to how much variability there can be such that the outcome isn’t entirely predictable, but the trans/cis/intersex divide probably isn’t quite as useful or fair as people would like it to be despite its simplicity.

    If trans inclusion causes any real problem for sports, it’s that it opens up discussion on a number of things that probably weren’t that great with sports to begin with. Really, we should all just be shutting the fuck up and drinking our Coca-Colas like the sponsor wants.

    #38098

    Unseen
    Participant

    Autumn, are you a sports person at all? Do you watch games or competitions with interest? I’m no superfan but I watch soccer and volleyball, often the women as well as the men. I enjoy the male and female teams about equally. I ask because outsiders often don’t “get” sports.

    I ask, because if you did you’d know that athletes today, on the whole, are pretty “woke” when it comes to social issues. Your complaint, such as it is, would apply more to the the management of the teams and the fans. But fans are becoming more “woke” as well and you don’t see fans booing a player who has come out. There are some backwaters where the administrators of a sport are ahead of the fans, such as when NASCAR banned confederate flags from their grounds, which upset many fans though I’m unsure those fans were much more than a vocal minority.

    But, if you’re not really terribly interested in sports, which you’d have to be to understand the mindset, you don”t have, as they say, a dog in this fight.

    I agree that a physically male “woman” isn’t guaranteed to be better than the best female participants, but you cited examples of some quite near the top. Where would they be in the male sporting world? They benefit from being permitted in the women’s competitions. In the male world, their performance would likely be somewhere in the midrange. That’s a point where some of the unfairness gets to creep in.

    You see, you didn’t really address Rawls’ point, that advantages are tolerated when they provide a general benefit. Not a benefit laser-focused on particular individuals, but a benefit to the group. In this case, that would be the female athletes. Suppose a transgender male “female” doesn’t make it to #1 on the awards stand, but comes in at #3. How is #4 supposed to react? I can’t imagine that it’s going to be anything like “It’s okay because having transgender men competing provides a benefit to us all.”

    I also asserted that since the whole transgender thing is based on a dysphoria, which can be viewed as a kind of delusion, perhaps curing the dysphoria is a better approach than asking the world to just roll with it.

    • This reply was modified 5 months ago by  Unseen.
    • This reply was modified 5 months ago by  Unseen.
    #38101

    Autumn
    Participant

    I watch Euro and World Cup soccer, though I won’t be watching in Qatar. I watched the last women’s Olympic soccer event, but missed watching World Cup. Once upon a time I used to watch lots of Olympic events, but I think the spirit of the games is on life support. In the past, I competed at the local level for climbing/ bouldering. Recently I was considering competing again—I miss it—but doubt I will.

    But fans are becoming more “woke” as well and you don’t see fans booing a player who has come out.

    Athletes still tend to cite homophobia and transphobia being an issue in sports from fans, teammates and organizers. It definitely varies by sport and region, but in general, there seems to be some lag in areas such as men’s team sports, for instance. Even some of the recent progress tends to really lag society in general, but we’re talking about such a huge category of activity occurring world-wide that it’s difficult to generalize meaningfully.

    I agree that a physically male “woman” isn’t guaranteed to be better than the best female participants, but you cited examples of some quite near the top. Where would they be in the male sporting world? They benefit from being permitted in the women’s competitions. In the male world, their performance would likely be somewhere in the midrange. That’s a point where some of the unfairness gets to creep in.

    Who knows? Comparing against a hypothetical isn’t that useful. Hubbard set a NZ jr. record in her youth in 1998, but quit lifting in 2001. How that would translate to her performance had she continued lifting as a male, who knows?

    The comparison has a lot of problems. In many of these sports, the male categories are simply more competitive. That isn’t a statement on the abilities of women, but rather the disproportionately smaller number of female competitors. Back in my climbing days, I would have made finals competing as a women in a lot of comps for sheer fact that not enough women were even entering. In the case of Ivy, track cycling isn’t a huge sport, and cycling at that age bracket draws from an even smaller pool of contenders. There are more men in the equivalent division than women. Same for weight lifting and I am certain MMA.

    But at the end of the day, what does it matter if their actual ability is within range? There was never going to be a scenario where all competitors were starting from an equal playing field. What age they were able to access the sport, available funding, coaching resources, opportunities to compete, genetic variables, chances to be scouted and so on will advantage and disadvantage competitors. There really is no such thing as an equalized playing field. At most we can determine if the field is competitive.

    You see, you didn’t really address Rawls’ point, that advantages are tolerated when they provide a general benefit. Not a benefit laser-focused on particular individuals, but a benefit to the group.

    What am I supposed to address? This becomes a sort of mantra for discrimination in cases of minorities because ‘advantage’ can’t be easily defined. What makes 4th place more entitled as an individual to compete for awards than 3rd place? The fact that we crudely used sex as a divisor even though it’s created issues before transgender participation was even on the table?

    If it simply comes down to an issue of where transgender women fit with regard to biological advantage, then yes, that is a complicated question. Some transgender women will have innate biological advantages beyond what is even remotely competitive. Others won’t. I am not arguing carte blanche or an absolute agnosticism toward biological variables.

    But if the issues at hand are things like fairness, competitiveness, inclusivity, and equality, than ham-fisted policies with blanket prohibitions on transgender athletes almost certainly don’t make sense.

    I also asserted that since the whole transgender thing is based on a dysphoria, which can be viewed as a kind of delusion, perhaps curing the dysphoria is a better approach than asking the world to just roll with it.

    It can’t be viewed as a ‘kind of delusion’. It lacks any element of belief contradicted by reality. The idea that we are ‘asking the world to roll with it’ is, frankly, a load of shit. The world isn’t a globe on which you are entitled to belong and participate and I am not just by virtue of numbers. But even if we accept the premise, ‘curing the dysphoria’ isn’t an option. Best available treatments to date involve an array of options including social and medical transition, as well as a reduction in exclusion, stigma, discrimination, harassment, and violence. These are the measures that best alleviate dysphoria, though sadly some of them rely on societal change which is not something any doctor can proscribe as a therapy.

    #38102

    jakelafort
    Participant

    What is that you say? Bouldering/climbing?

    That is my luuuuuuv. Stared death right in the face from a mountain side. What a high to have survived. Best one yet. Had cuts all over my body. Didn’t feel a fuckin thing except euphoria when i scampered clear at the summit.

    #38103

    Unseen
    Participant

    Who knows? Comparing against a hypothetical isn’t that useful. Hubbard set a NZ jr. record in her youth in 1998, but quit lifting in 2001. How that would translate to her performance had she continued lifting as a male, who knows?

    When confronted with hypotheticals, one always has common sense and judging probabilities. We each get through our lives judging what is advantageous, what is dangerous, what will/won’t work somehow. Mama Nature gave us brains with the capacity to make such calculations, mostly to help us cope.

    I think the notion that a male “female” who’s near the top in weightlifting or running as a female athlete won’t be nearly so high up competing as a male athlete is kind of a no-brainer in common sense terms. How close are the very top female runners’ speeds by comparison with Usain Bolt, for example? Mama Nature gave the male and female somewhat different bodies and those differences turn out to be significant pushed to the limits.

    The nonphysical sports may be different: archery, for example, though someone who knows more about archery might want to correct me on that. The sports requiring larger size and high energy output seem to be dominated by males, in terms of setting records. And, BTW, any women’s record performance achieved by a transgender male will have an asterisk associated with it, just like a longest golf drive that happened with a hurricane force wind behind it.

    How is “I have a male body but I’m really a female” NOT a delusion? If I, a white male insisted I’m really an Australian aboriginal, that would clearly be a delusion. How is gender dysphoria substantially different?

    Gender dysphoria, scientifically understood tends to arise from a strong feeling of discomfort arising from a person’s biological sense. That’s a strict psychological definition, and it sure sounds like a mental problem to me. One would normally think that mental problems require a mental approach.

    As I said earlier, this isn’t like gays or lesbians, who only become dysphoric under external pressure and otherwise are quite happy about their identity.

    This “identifying as” something is a notion that we’re so familiar with in terms of gender identity that we never seem to ask ourselves what is really going on. Suppose, for example, that I were to announce that “I might look like a white person of European heritage, but I identify as Inuit, and I go on to insist that Inuits roll with it and accept my identity. Surely they would think I’m delusional and need to get some help.

    And once again back to Rawls’ idea that if we’re going to accept that it’s okay for some people to have an advantage over their peers, it needs to be justified in terms of a benefit to all. I suggest that only highly dubious pretzel logic can argue that we all or those in the female sports world somehow benefit from the introduction of males who identify as female.

    • This reply was modified 5 months ago by  Unseen.
    #38105

    Unseen
    Participant

    What is that you say? Bouldering/climbing? That is my luuuuuuv. Stared death right in the face from a mountain side. What a high to have survived. Best one yet. Had cuts all over my body. Didn’t feel a fuckin thing except euphoria when i scampered clear at the summit.

    I used to do whitewater kayaking. Loved it.

    #38106

    jakelafort
    Participant

    Unseen, i only tried whitewater rafting once. That was a hoot. I can imagine whitewater kayaking is rafting on steroids.

    #38107

    Autumn
    Participant

    When confronted with hypotheticals, one always has common sense and judging probable probabilities. We each get through our lives judging what is advantageous, what is dangerous, what will/won’t work somehow. Mama Nature gave us brain with the capacity to make such calculations.

    It’s an outlier scenario with way too many variables and uneven comparison.  It’s pretty useless conjecture when you’re trying to apply it to support such a narrow position.

    I think the notion that a male “female” who’s near the top in weightlifting or running as a female athlete won’t be nearly so high up competing as a male athlete is kind of a no-brainer in common sense terms. How close are the very top female runners’ speeds by comparison with Usain Bolt, for example? Mama Nature gave the male and female somewhat different bodies and those differences turn out to be significant pushed to the limits.

    There is no such thing as a ‘male “female”‘.  There are transgender women and men, if that’s what you are referring to. If you want to be taken seriously, you might want to at least come somewhat close to relevant terminology. The problem with your usage is I don’t actually know what you are talking about. Is a ‘male “female”‘ supposed to be a transgender man like Chris Mosier or Mack Beggs?

    The reality is, we don’t actually have that much data athletes who have undergone medical transition and continued to compete. Their circumstances vary so considerably. We have pretty much no data on those who have competed having undergone hormone therapy at the onset of puberty.

    How is “I have a male body but I’m really a female” NOT a delusion? If I, a white male insisted I’m really an Australian aboriginal, that would clearly be a delusion. As I think to myself, “Am I really a female?” it feels like if I answered in the affirmative it would be a delusion.

    What are you actually talking about? Being transgender is about a persistent sense of gender identity. There is no delusion involved. Saying “I’m really a female” only acknowledges the significance of gender identity. It doesn’t deny or contradict any element of material reality.

    Gender dysphoria, as commonly understood tends to arise from a strong feeling of discomfort arising from the biological sex of the person. That’s a strict psychological definition, and it sure sounds like a mental problem to me. And mental problems require a mental approach.

    Gender dysphoria is not synonymous with being transgender. Gender dysphoria typically arises as a result of being transgender. The specific cause of transgender identities is not known, but the idea that it is a strictly psychological phenomenon is not well supported. Furthermore, studies have been conducted on therapeutic approaches. We have studies indicating which work better than others. I don’t know what ‘mental approach’ means, but it’s not a substitute for medical intervention. Some people require a psychologist/ psychiatrist/ therapist to address facets of gender dysphoria, navigating identity, or managing associated stress, anxiety and depression often due to external influences. Some people do well strictly with medical interventions. Some people need neither or both. They are different things. But things like conversion therapy are not known to be effective. They are actually known to be generally not effective and specifically harmful, though outliers exist.

    Suppose, for example, that I were to announce that “I might look like a white person of European heritage, but I identify as Inuit, and I go on to insist that Inuits roll with it and accept my identity. Surely they would think I’m delusional and need to get some help.

    We already went through decades of that treatment and it’s still on-going though to a lesser extent.

    This isn’t a conversation that started blank slate today. We have data and research indicating what is most applicable with regard to gender identity, specifically. It’s not magically transferrable to race or nationality, or age, or species or other things that are not gender. The move toward acceptance today isn’t just based off of some whimsical, “Hey, I think I’m a girl now, so fuck you” and then the world went “Okay, rad, I guess.”

    Do you even science, bro?

    #38108

    Unseen
    Participant

    As regards Chris Mosier and Mack Beggs, they both underwent the reassignment surgery, right? Well, the male to female case isn’t the one that raises the fairness issue. If a female to male wants to compete in male sports, that’s pretty much a neither here nor there.

    It’s all about what’s fair. How does allowing a male who feels like a female or has undergone sex reassignment surgery materially benefit the sport?

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