Hello again! and welcome back, to Optimisticality's little tiny slice of the www. Its here that I jot down my thoughts and the wandering wonderings of a wistful mind.
What does it mean to be a good sport? Recently, as I alluded to last week in my quick response to GMB, that question has reared its head again in regards to the trans gender experience and how we view it's place in the world.
Sport, like any other form of human endeavour has those that pursue it professionally, and get very very good at it. Sport, which is a pastime and hobby for many becomes their livelihood and source of income etc.
So it not surprising therefore that some participants in professional sport will seek to protect that institution and speak out in support of their own and others vested interest.
But what if those vested interests seem to be mutually exclusive? Such was the issue at handwhen Sharron Davies and other prominent sports women again called into question the fairness of trans women competing against their cis gender counterparts. "Oh here is a can of worms" says I
So let's see if we can dig under the worms, look at the arguments, examine their underlaying premises and tease out the issues.
Sharon et al suggested that trans women would have an unfair advantage over cis gender women when competing side by side or in the same category. Now if this were true it would be of genuine concern since people would rightly say "no fair" or perhaps in the case of contact sport get hurt. Indeed examples were cited of just such occurrences. A cis gender women MMA fighter severely injured after losing a bout to a trans athlete, and cis gender track athletes being left in the dust by their trans competitors. Even a new women's power lifting record set by a trans weightlifter.
These were all examples of trans women.. those assigned as male at birth who had subsequently transitioned. Obviously there will be a physiological argument here, although perhaps not the one we assume, since the way our physicality works lends itself to a male puberty creating more powerful people than the female on average.
But what of the reverse argument? the transgender wrestler who, having been assigned female at birth was going the other direction and "wasn't allowed" to compete with the boys? (she understandably trounced her cis gender female competition, since she was much stronger as a result of the testosterone and training, but was still categorised for the purposes of the sport as "female" Or the Trans man (AFAB) boxer who beat their cis gender counterpart by a KO.. some would suggest this isn't fair, and that had the cis male boxer "known" his opponent was trans he would have "gone easy on them" and "could have beaten them if he wanted to"
Individually these instances nightlight something to be sure, but what?
What is it we actually want to question here? the presence of trans athletes in sport? their place in it? Or is it an assumption that physique of a trans person post transition will always be affected by their pre transition physiology? it's probably bits of all of the above so lets take and abstract view of each in turn.
Should trans athletes compete?
Well if the answer is "yes", fine, we move onto question 2. if however the answer is "no" then we have to ask why not? Perhaps because it wouldn't be fair to do so?. But fair to whom? is it fair to exclude them ? Not really but maybe a middle ground could be compete in a different way, maybe a different category perhaps?
Where and how should they compete?
If they could compete then how would we make that happen? and how would we ensure fairness? what do we base any new categorisation on? and what are the rules for eligibility that come from those parameters?
we enter definitional arguments here in trying to define people and fit them into categories.. which we have seen somewhere before and might just be a bit familiar... and of course this leads us towards. question three which must be answered as part of process to drive at solving question 2
Does a trans persons physique give them an advantage because they are trans?
Here we are stuck. why so? Well because those who suggest yes use arguments that link to metaphysical scepticism of transgender existence. Suggesting that how one is born is always what one "is" yet not really truly defining what they mean by that. Single term definitions won't work.
1) Genetics won't cut it, since people exist outside the simplistic but easily legislated for xx/xy model
2) Genitalia won't cut it because well, last I looked no one runs or throws things using their penis or a vagina..
3) Physique won't work either because people have such a wide variety of body types within existing categories.
4) Hormones .. this is the one currently in use but we still have these arguments that crop up, when trans athletes compete, & people start suggesting that any variation of 1,2 or 3 would be better. So what to do. Well for me the answer is kinda obvious. The issue isn't the athletes. The issue here is societies pre existing categorisation of humans and the social attitudes around the same. The IOC already have measures in place and have had since 2003. There is plenty of evidence to support the due process with this and it seem that people who argue the legitimacy of trans people in society at large have identified sport as a pinch point and use it as. platform to further extend their arguments.
That really isn't good sport now, is it?