Cartoon: Women’s Sports Will Be DESTROYED!!!


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Right-wingers have been complaining about trans women competing in women’s sports for decades. But when President Biden, not long after taking office, signed an executive order against anti-LGBTQ discrimination, conservatives fought it with a widespread attack trans women athletes.

This complaint can seem convincing to people who aren’t anti-trans themselves, but who don’t know much about the issues. The anti-trans attack, used again and again, is to show a clip or photo of an athletic competition in which a supposedly trans woman is competing and winning, with a caption saying that “biological” women or girls cannot win. And to many people, that looks like common sense.

But the out-of-context clips and photos are a lie. First of all, it’s not always the case that the athlete shown in the clips is trans! Sometimes it’s a cis woman who is large or muscular or has short hair. (The anti-trans movement is creating a culture of harassment and suspicion that harms all women – cis and trans – who aren’t sufficiently feminine-looking for anti-trans standards.)

More importantly, a single clip or photo can only show a moment, and that moment usually isn’t representative of the whole. I recently wrote a Twitter thread about a thirteen-second clip of a high school track event, in which two trans girls place first and second in a sprint. Anti-trans activists have been claiming this proves cis girls can’t compete against trans girls in athletics.

Except that some cis girls in that same clip actually beat the trans girls in other races. One of the cis girls who lost that race – and whose parents sued to get the trans girls barred from competition – won against those same trans girls in the next two races, and went on to win the state title for high school girls sprinting. As the judge wrote when he threw out the lawsuit, the evidence shows that cis girls have been able to compete and win.

No one – not even the greatest athlete of all time – wins every time they compete. Anti-trans bigots use this fact to create a false narrative that cis women and girls can’t compete against trans women and girls. But that’s objectively false.

Although a few trans athletes have won occasional events, they haven’t dominated girl’s or women’s sports. And although they’ve been allowed to compete as women since 2004, in all that time not a single trans women athlete has been among the over ten thousand women who have made it into the Olympics. (It looks likely that a trans woman will make it to the upcoming Tokyo Olympics – but one out over tens thousand hardly  justifies the claim that cis women can’t compete.)

It’s true that, on average, male athletes get higher scores than female athletes – running faster, lifting heavier, and so on. People who don’t know better assume that this means that trans women will have a similar advantage over cis women. But we now have years of trans women competing with cis women in athletics to look at, and we know this hasn’t been the case. If trans women had the same athletic advantages men do, trans women would be dominating a lot of women’s sports. But trans women are like women, not like cis men, and cis women have been entirely able to compete.


Language is always a problem for me when I write cartoons about anti-trans bigots. Realistically, the two characters in this cartoon wouldn’t use the term “trans women”; they’d use more bigoted language, and they’d misgender.

It’s one of those times where I weigh being accurate, versus possibly causing unprepared trans readers to wince. I came down on the side of being unrealistic. My cartoons are already unrealistic in many ways (real people rarely speak as efficiently as characters in a cartoon do, for example), and I don’t think it harms the cartoon to be unrealistic in this way as well.


TRANSCRIPT OF CARTOON

This cartoon has four panels.

PANEL 1

A bald man with a furrowed brow, wearing a shirt with a necktie, is sitting in what appears to be a radio recording booth; there’s a big microphone held up by a pro-looking microphone holder thingy (which is the technical term), a laptop open next to him and some notecards and a pencil on the desk in front of him, a coffee mug, and a wall clock behind him.  He isn’t yelling, but he looks a bit angry and intense.

A large caption says “2004.”

FURROW: Now that trans women can compete in the Olympics, no biological women will ever win! This will destroy women’s sports!

PANEL 2

We are looking at an iphone being held in someone’s hand. On the screen of the iphone, an angry woman, with a high hairdo and hoop earrings, is talking. A graphic at the bottom of her window says “FOX.” A chyron at the bottom says “Next: Is Obama Satan? Or does he just worship Satan?” Graphic boxes to the left and right of her head say “FEAR” and “PANIC.”

A large caption says “2013.”

TALLHAIR: If California allows trans girls on high school teams, they’ll dominate! Other girls will never be able to compete! This will destroy women’s sports!

PANEL 3

The same two characters are seated together at a round table, in what appears to be a coffee shop or diner; they both have cups of coffee on the table in front of them. He is again wearing a shirt and tie, but his tie is pulled down a bit and his top button is open. She’s wearing a more casual outfit, a open sweater over a striped shirt. They both look aggravated.

A large caption says “NOW.”

TALLHAIR: It’s been years and trans girls still haven’t dominated high school sports!

FURROW: And not one trans woman has even gotten in the Olympics! Other women beat them all the time!

PANEL 4

Same shot and scene. The tall-haired woman, even more frustrated, throws her hands in the air; the furrowed-brow man leans his head on his hands, looking dejected.

TALLHAIR: ‘Godammit, why aren’t women’s sports destroyed yet?

FURROW: I know. I’m disappointed too.

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32 Responses to Cartoon: Women’s Sports Will Be DESTROYED!!!

  1. 1
    Corso says:

    Edited: I struggled with my comment, and then decided maybe it’s better to say nothing.

  2. 2
    Ampersand says:

    Trans women have been allowed to compete in elite events (the Olympic qualifying events) for decades, and some have definitely competed. It’s just that they don’t make news unless they win. (Some sports are more accepting than others.)

    (To be an “elite” event, it has to not have extra divisions, like age; the divisions allowed are only sex and, in some sports, weight class. Most of the cases of trans women winning events that anti-trans groups hype up are either high school sports, or non-elite events). (As I understand it.)

  3. 3
    Görkem says:

    I look forward to the day when a trans person does win a gold medal at the Olympics. It will be a proud moment for trans people everywhere!

  4. 4
    Ampersand says:

    Hi, Polaris. I took your post down because on this blog, we don’t call trans women “males” or trans men “females.” If that’s not acceptable to you, then go post comments on some other blog.

    Feel free to resubmit with the error corrected. While you’re at it, please provide a link to support your claim about Olympics rules.

  5. 5
    Polaris says:

    https://www.outsports.com/2016/1/21/10812404/transgender-ioc-policy-new-olympics
    They would not have had enough time to meet those requirements before Rio.
    Ok so maybe they could have applied to Winter PyeongChang 2018.

  6. 6
    Grace Annam says:

    Polaris:

    They would not have had enough time to meet those requirements before Rio.

    Are you under the impression that trans athletes are universally holding back on our transitions until we find out what the new rules are, and only then do we act?

    When those rules were passed, there would have been trans athletes who qualified under them in that instant.

    But also, it didn’t all start in 2016. Under earlier rules, trans women have been eligible to compete in the Olympics since 2004.

    Like Görkem, I will celebrate when the first trans person wins a gold. I’ll also celebrate when the first trans person wins a silver. Or a bronze. Or competes. Or qualifies. None of which has happened, yet. (Though Laurel Hubbard is close to qualifying.)

    Over 14,000 athletes compete in each cycle of the Olympics. The best rigorous data, which almost certainly undercounts us, puts us at 0.7% of the adult population (with a skew toward youth (the competing population), but never mind that). In each cycle, we reasonably expect about a hundred trans athletes to compete.

    But in 16 years of Olympics, none of us so much as qualified. Which is strong evidence in favor of the possibility that we don’t have an unfair advantage. Or a fair advantage. Or any advantage at all.

    Grace

  7. 7
    Polaris says:

    Grace, one can’t submit test results 12 months in advance to adhere to regulations that came into effect less than a year before the competition.
    Now that regulations are more loose I guess we are going to find out.
    Also this is no longer just about whether someone has a unfair advantage but whether some countries have a unfair advantage.

  8. 8
    Eytan Zweig says:

    First, there’s a factual question that needs to be established – do trans atheletes have an advantage?

    If the answer is “yes”, then the question becomes “how much of an advantage?”

    Only once the answers to those questions are known does it make sense to debate whether this advantage is unfair, and how to best mitigate for any unfairness.

    As for the country thing – I’m not sure I follow. Are you saying that in general, international events should align with the practice in the countries that are most insitutionally bigoted? If, for example, the Taliban retakes control over Afghanistan and dictates that no unmarried women are allowed to compete in the olympics, should the IOC ban unmarried women to prevent giving other countries an advantage?

  9. 9
    Polaris says:

    In some sports its pretty clear that men have a advantage, like in Javelin throwing the men’s world record is 1.36 times longer than women’s and Olympic record is 1.27 times longer.

    As if Taleban would let any women compete in the first place.
    Besides its not like singles have a physical advantage over married people due to being single.

  10. 10
    Ampersand says:

    In some sports its pretty clear that men have a advantage, like in Javelin throwing the men’s world record is 1.36 times longer than women’s and Olympic record is 1.27 times longer.

    Yes. But that doesn’t establish that trans women have an advantage over cis women. And, as Grace points out, the real-world results of who gets the top levels of Olympic and elite events show that trans women don’t have an advantage over cis women.

    Tens of thousands of cis women athletes who would not be able to finish ahead of similarly-trained male athletes in their events, have come out ahead of trans women athletes. This shows that trans women athletes and cis male athletes are not interchangeable categories.

  11. 11
    Görkem says:

    “The best rigorous data, which almost certainly undercounts us, puts us at 0.7% of the adult population”

    That is definitely far, far too low.

  12. 12
    Jacqueline Onassis Squid says:

    In some sports its pretty clear that men have a advantage…

    In some sports it’s pretty clear that teens have an advantage.

    In some sports it’s pretty clear that horses have an advantage.

    In some sports it’s pretty clear that bears have an advantage.

    In some sports it’s pretty clear that dolphins have an advantage.

    Oh! I think I could go on all day with this flavor of irrelevancy.

  13. 13
    Polaris says:

    I don’t think that comparing genders to different species helps your argument.

    Yes. But that doesn’t establish that trans women have an advantage over cis women. And, as Grace points out, the real-world results of who gets the top levels of Olympic and elite events show that trans women don’t have an advantage over cis women.

    Tens of thousands of cis women athletes who would not be able to finish ahead of similarly-trained male athletes in their events, have come out ahead of trans women athletes. This shows that trans women athletes and cis male athletes are not interchangeable categories.
    Well as things are it’s not going to take too long before we have enough data to make a statistical generalisation.

  14. 14
    Jacqueline Onassis Squid says:

    I don’t think that comparing genders to different species helps your argument.

    I did no such thing.

  15. 15
    Grace Annam says:

    Görkem:

    That is definitely far, far too low.

    Yes.

    If memory serves, the same survey, or one also done by the Williams Institute around the same time, found a rate of about 1-2% in school-age children.

    Sometimes I wonder what other minorities we’re going to find in the human population, a generation or two hence, whom we couldn’t see because we brutalized them comprehensively into hiding.

    Grace

  16. 16
    Grace Annam says:

    Polaris:

    Grace, one can’t submit test results 12 months in advance to adhere to regulations that came into effect less than a year before the competition.

    One can if the test results meet whatever criteria the evaluating body considers correct, like routine hormone assays taken by a medical process as part of care provision. Some trans people who aren’t trans athletes would be able to produce such records just because of how their care has gone, and many trans athletes know perfectly well that they may be called upon to demonstrate their hormonal levels at any time, like a trans guy I know who is a competitive weightlifter and routinely has to fight just to compete, even though his T levels are routinely well within the typical range for men.

    Not all test patterns and regimes would fit, but some would, especially those done by athletes who know they are under the microscope.

    Grace

  17. 17
    Corso says:

    I’ve thought about what I was going to say and I think that some of what was said here helped, I’m going to try again.

    Eytan @ 8 (And sorry about the name last time)

    First, there’s a factual question that needs to be established – do trans atheletes have an advantage?

    If the answer is “yes”, then the question becomes “how much of an advantage?”

    I don’t think that’s the question at all. The winners obviously had an advantage over the other competitors, and the advantage isn’t better or worse if it’s bigger or larger. They were stronger, faster, won the genetic lottery, had a better training regimen, were in a better mindset, ate a better breakfast, all of the above, or something completely different. I’m not sure what the exact advantage was, but they had it.

    The question, I think, is “Why do we have women’s divisions?”

    Sport is one of the very few areas where sex matters, because men and women’s bodies are, on average, different. And the Olympics isn’t a competition between average people, it is a competition between outliers. 7 billion people on Earth, and these are the ones that run, jump and swim better than anyone else. Whatever differences exist between men and women’s bodies are going to be amplified at the extremes. And you don’t have to take my word for it, you can see it, obviously see it, in the records for Olympic events. The women that win gold in Olympic events often wouldn’t qualify to participate in the men’s divisions.

    And I take the point, I also don’t think people are transitioning to women so they can win at the Olympics. I believe that they’re transitioning because they want to transition, and they’re trying to compete in the Olympics because they want to compete. But I don’t know if it’s the IOC’s job to affirm their transition.

    Is there a reason for there to be a women’s division? If there is, what is it? Is it because men and women’s bodies are different? If it is, is that distinction still relevant if biologically male bodies compete in the women’s division?

  18. 18
    Eytan Zweig says:

    I don’t think that’s the question at all. The winners obviously had an advantage over the other competitors, and the advantage isn’t better or worse if it’s bigger or larger. They were stronger, faster, won the genetic lottery, had a better training regimen, were in a better mindset, ate a better breakfast, all of the above, or something completely different. I’m not sure what the exact advantage was, but they had it.

    I agree, it’s generally true that winners win competitions because they have an advantage over the losers. But not all advantages are equal. Some advantages are considered entirely fair – having a better trainer, for example. Some advantages are considered unfair, like performance enhancing drugs.

    Now, women’s divisions exist for several reasons, and that the reason you outlined – the average physical differences between men and women – is probably the primary one among those, at least in current times (historically, I’m not sure that cultural ideas on propriety weren’t more important).

    But I don’t see how either of those points are relevant at all unless you are making one of the following unstated assumptions:

    Assumption 1: Trans women are men, and therefore belong in men’s divisions.
    Assumption 2: Trans women are women, but they carry with them the differences that a male body confers and therefore it is unfair for them to compete against cis women, but it would be fair for them to compete against cis men (and vice versa for trans men).

    Now, if you believe in assumption 1, then there’s no room for debate here, since that viewpoint is not allowed on this blog (correctly in my opinion).

    If you believe in assumption 2, then the question becomes – why do you believe it? And at that point, actual evidence becomes essential. If trans women have an advantage that makes them unsuitable for women’s division, then that has to be demonstrated, and mitigated for – perhaps by requiring them to compete in men’s divisions. But you’d first have to show that that advantage exists, AND that it is not one of the advantages that, as you rightfully point out, are among the many advantages that are considered fair for some people in a division to hold.

    If you’re not assuming either of those things, then your post translates to “Women’s divisions exist because of physical differences with men, and therefore we won’t let some women in”, which is incoherent.

    If you’re posting in good faith, and not just trying to hide assumption 1 in plain sight by not stating it, then that tells me you are so committed to assumption 2 that you can’t even concieve of it being wrong. But that’s exactly the point of Barry’s post. The evidence, though limited, fails to support this assumption.

  19. 19
    Ampersand says:

    I’ll repeat what I said in comment 10:

    Tens of thousands of cis women athletes who would not be able to finish ahead of similarly-trained male athletes in their events, have come out ahead of trans women athletes. This shows that trans women athletes and cis male athletes are not interchangeable categories.

    Your last paragraph, Corso, implicitly assumes that cis men and trans women are interchangeable categories. But they’re not.

    Two points about the phrase “biologically male.”

    First, in the sentence ” If it is, is that distinction still relevant if biologically male bodies compete in the women’s division?,” you were using “biological male” to mean “trans women.” Don’t do that. Perhaps you think you were being clearer, but everyone here would still have understood what you meant if you had said “trans women” instead.

    It’s a rule of the blog. Don’t call trans women “male,” and don’t call trans men “female.”

    Second, you said “biologically male,” as if cis men and trans women are in a single, physically identical group. But, most likely because of different medical histories (such as hormone therapy), trans women and cis men are physically different in many ways. And – judging by the way trans women are not disproportionately winning sports – those differences from cis men seem to make a big difference in sports performance. How can we possibly discuss this if you refuse to acknowledge this?

    And while I’m throwing links down… Testosterone doesn’t work the way most of us think it does.

    This paper has a good summary of many of the arguments for including trans women in women’s sports.

    I’m sorry I can’t contribute more to the discussion, but I am really overloaded with work.

  20. 20
    Jacqueline Onassis Squid says:

    If one were interested in the difference in pre and post transition bodies (particularly as it relates to strength, speed, quick twitch reaction and endurance) and observer might wonder why one had not spoken with post transition folks and reported on those conversations (or at least read and linked to relevant studies on the subject).

    If one were not really interested, otoh, one would just continue to repeat their unsupported beliefs in the face of cited evidence in opposition to those beliefs.

  21. 21
    Corso says:

    Eytan @ 18

    Now, women’s divisions exist for several reasons, and that the reason you outlined – the average physical differences between men and women – is probably the primary one among those, at least in current times (historically, I’m not sure that cultural ideas on propriety weren’t more important).

    But I don’t see how either of those points are relevant at all unless you are making one of the following unstated assumptions:

    Assumption 1: Trans women are men, and therefore belong in men’s divisions.
    Assumption 2: Trans women are women, but they carry with them the differences that a male body confers and therefore it is unfair for them to compete against cis women, but it would be fair for them to compete against cis men (and vice versa for trans men).

    I’m definitely not making assumption one, two is closer, but I’m not saying that either.

    I’m going to be blunt, because I think we’re dancing around the point, and it lacks clarity.

    Women have separate events because they can’t compete with men in most events. That’s not bigotry, outside of a couple of events where women are either competitive or outperform men, the standings are a stark contrast. If there weren’t gendered divisions, outside of those outlier events, women wouldn’t see a podium. I can’t tell you why women’s events started, but they’re important now because they give women a space to compete.

    It is more important to gatekeep who can play in women’s sport than it is men’s sport because if you had the entire population in the same events, men would be well represented at the podium. And so to clarify: Regards to your point two, I don’t see a reason to keep trans men from competing in the men’s divisions. I encourage it.

    If you believe in assumption 2, then the question becomes – why do you believe it? And at that point, actual evidence becomes essential. If trans women have an advantage that makes them unsuitable for women’s division, then that has to be demonstrated, and mitigated for – perhaps by requiring them to compete in men’s divisions. But you’d first have to show that that advantage exists, AND that it is not one of the advantages that, as you rightfully point out, are among the many advantages that are considered fair for some people in a division to hold.

    The thing is that we have actual evidence. The standings exist. They are the epitome of the law of large numbers in play: We have gathered the most able men and women for generations, and had them do the same tasks over millions of times. They show us that men and women’s bodies are different.

    And current science shows us that those differences don’t disappear in the short term. Heck, there’s growing evidence that they don’t disappear in the long term, the Guardian printed a study just last year that showed that trans athletes maintain their advantages more than two years after transitioning.

    Thank about it this way: Obviously there has to be some kind of standard for who competes in the women’s division in order for the women’s division to exist. It makes the most sense to me that that standard be physical. If the line isn’t trans women as a group, what is it?

    I really do mean that question, and I’m explicitly not asking: When do they count as women? They’re women. But if there is a physical standard to compete in the women’s division, what is the point during transition where we think it’s appropriate for a person to fit the standard for competition in the woman’s division?

    I’m not set in my ways, and I’m willing to listen to anyone who wants to talk on this, but if I were cornered into giving my thoughts on this, my impression is:

    Assumption 3; Trans women are women, but their bodies are complicated. The advantages their bodies give them in both the short and medium term is, on average, greater than the advantages of PEDs. That may mitigate in the long term, particularly after years of transition, but I have no conception how we’d measure that. Perhaps, in light of that, it would make the most sense to either bar them from competition, or have them compete in the men’s division.

  22. 22
    Corso says:

    Amp at 19

    Tens of thousands of cis women athletes who would not be able to finish ahead of similarly-trained male athletes in their events, have come out ahead of trans women athletes. This shows that trans women athletes and cis male athletes are not interchangeable categories.

    This doesn’t really do what you mean it to. Just because *on average* cis men outperform women obviously doesn’t mean that every cis man will outperform every cis women, and so individual examples of trans women losing to cis women don’t *prove* that trans women *on average* don’t have capabilities similar to cis men, it just means that that one in particular didn’t.

    But that’s kind of irrelevant, I clarified a little bit above, but I want to be clear: I *explicitly* did not mean to conflate trans women and cis men. I’m going to say that, generally, there is going to be a difference in performance between your average cis woman and your average trans woman, particularly in the short term, and probably in the mid to long term.

    First, in the sentence ” If it is, is that distinction still relevant if biologically male bodies compete in the women’s division?,” you were using “biological male” to mean “trans women.” Don’t do that. Perhaps you think you were being clearer, but everyone here would still have understood what you meant if you had said “trans women” instead.

    No. No I wasn’t. I have absolutely no problem saying trans women, I prefer to say trans women, when I said “biologically male” I meant it as a classification that included cis men, trans women, Caster Semenya, and anyone else that the IOC bars from sport on those kinds of grounds. I get how that could be taken the way you did, I didn’t mean that, I’m sorry. I’m trying to think of an acceptable way to say this… I really don’t mean this offensively. At the risk of digging myself in deeper, perhaps “Not traditionally female”? My point is that the women’s divisions need a physical standard for qualification to the women’s divisions, and some people will not meet that standard. That doesn’t make them “not women” it just means they can’t compete. There are all kinds of people that can’t compete. I can’t compete in the men’s events, I’m still a man.

    And – judging by the way trans women are not disproportionately winning sports – those differences from cis men seem to make a big difference in sports performance. How can we possibly discuss this if you refuse to acknowledge this?

    I don’t think you have data that says this. You’d have to measure the rate of trans women in sport against cis women in sport, I have the feeling that would be incredibly disproportionate to begin with, and then you’d have to measure the rate those trans women won their events proportionally to their representation in the pool. I don’t think that’s ever actually been done. More than willing to read it if you have a source. My impression would be that because we’re talking about such a disproportionately small population, any win would probably be disproportionate.

  23. 23
    Jacqueline Onassis Squid says:

    I really do mean that question, and I’m explicitly not asking: When do they count as women? They’re women. But if there is a physical standard to compete in the women’s division, what is the point during transition where we think it’s appropriate for a person to fit the standard for competition in the woman’s division?

    The problem, of course, is that the line being defended excludes afab cis women from competing as women. Look at the case of Caster Semenya, for just one recent, obvious example. Then ask yourself, “Why aren’t men with inborn advantages barred from men’s sports the same way women with inborn advantages are barred from women’s sports?” You may also find it worthwhile to ask yourself why no trans women have qualified for the Olympics if the inherent short and medium term advantages of being amab really exist.

    Heck, there’s growing evidence that they don’t disappear in the long term, the Guardian printed a study just last year that showed that trans athletes maintain their advantages more than two years after transitioning.

    From the Guardian article linked above:

    Yet after suppressing their testosterone for two years – a year longer than IOC guidelines – they were still 12% faster on average than biological females…

    The scientists conclude by saying “more than 12 months of testosterone suppression may be needed to ensure that transgender women do not have an unfair competitive advantage when participating in elite level athletic competition”.

    Nowhere in that article does it say that, “…trans athletes maintain their advantages more than two years after transitioning. ”

    I’ll also note that the study subjects were all trans people in the US Air Force but of unspecified age. None, as far as the article tells us, were classified as elite level athletes.

    Alas, as far as studies of athletic advantage in trans women athletes goes, the preponderance of evidence does not support the conclusion that transgender athletes have an athletic advantage over cis athletes. This doesn’t mean, of course, that we have a conclusive answer to the question but it does mean that the best evidence we currently have indicates that no such advantage exists.

    You can continue arguing otherwise by citing the few studies that contradict that majority of evidence that we have, but it’s not an argument that should overrule that preponderance of current evidence.

  24. 24
    Corso says:

    Jacqueline @23

    Nowhere in that article does it say that, “…trans athletes maintain their advantages more than two years after transitioning. ”

    You quoted it yourself:

    Yet after suppressing their testosterone for two years – a year longer than IOC guidelines – they were still 12% faster on average than biological females…

    After transitioning for two years, they still maintained a 12% advantage. That might not be the size of the advantage at the beginning of their transition, but the difference between trans and cis performance at two years out was still measurable.

    Alas, as far as studies of athletic advantage in trans women athletes goes, the preponderance of evidence does not support the conclusion that transgender athletes have an athletic advantage over cis athletes.

    There’s no gentle way to say this….. Did you read that study? Because it doesn’t seem to say what you say it does. It looked at eight other studies and collated the data. 6 of those 8 studies were interviews, and focused either solely or mostly on the experiences of trans women in sport. Only one had a sample size larger than 30, and unless I missed it none actually measured performance. The closest they got was in the Discussion section:

    On average, men perform better than women in sport; however, no empirical research has identified the specific reason(s) why. Based mainly on indirect research with cisgender people, it is commonly believed that androgenic hormones (specifically high testosterone levels) confer an advantage in competitive sports (i.e. enhance endurance, increase muscle mass) and, while this belief has informed several sporting policies, testosterone may not be the primary, or even a helpful, marker in determining athletic advantage [73].

    To date, Harper’s study [72] is the only one to directly explore androgenic hormones and athletic ability. The aim of the study was to explore the long-distance (5–42 km) running times of eight transgender female individuals pre- and post-testosterone suppression. It was found that post-testosterone suppression running times were significantly slower in comparison to pre-testosterone suppression. Harper stated that owing to reductions in testosterone and haemoglobin, transgender female individuals post-transition would have the same endurance capabilities as a cisgender female individual. However, the sample size was very small (n = 8) and participants were asked to self-report their race times, which might have been subject to recall or social desirability bias.

    So basically… Men on average perform better than women on average, but we’re not sure why. It’s been generally suggested that it might be androgens, but there’s only been one study that looked at that, it was conducted solely on eight long distance runners, and the results aren’t clear.

    I followed the link to a copy of the Harper study because I thought it might be interesting to see how long after transition they ran the second test, and they ran them over *seven* years. Not only am I willing to grant that after seven years of transition and hormones, most advantages would be mitigated, but some of these runners were in their 50’s, I hope that I’m able to run as well at 54 as I was at 47.

    Some other findings:

    Reeser paid particular attention to the evolution of gender verification in competitive sport and whether current competitive sport policies for transgender people are fair. He concluded that, while gender verification has made significant advances, there is a lack of physiological performance-related data in transgender people. This is preventing an overall consensus from being made as to whether transgender sport policies are fair or not (i.e. fairness in the absence of advantage).

    Gooren and Bunck concluded that transgender male individuals are likely to be able to compete without an athletic advantage 1-year post-cross-sex hormone treatment. To a certain extent this also applies to transgender female individuals; however, there still remains a level of uncertainty owing to a large muscle mass 1-year post-cross-sex hormones. While this study was the first to explore, experimentally, whether transgender people can compete fairly, the sample size was relatively small (n = 36). Additionally, they did not explore the role of testosterone blockers and did not directly measure the effect cross-sex hormones had on athletic performance (e.g. running time).

    The most common question of people working within the sport domain will likely be: When it is safe and fair to permit a transgender person to compete in sport in line with their experienced gender? At the current time, this is a difficult issue to address considering that there is a lack of direct and consistent physiological performance-related data with transgender people, which is preventing a consensus from being made as to whether transgender people (especially transgender female individuals) do or do not have an athletic advantage.

    So your own citation said, multiple times, that there is no consensus when it comes to physical advantage. In fact, the preponderance of the evidence suggested that particularly in the short term, there probably was. However, it did say, also multiple times, that because the data was unclear, it might be appropriate to err on the side of letting trans women compete, particularly when you consider the issue from the position of the experience of the athletes.

  25. 25
    Jacqueline Onassis Squid says:

    After transitioning for two years, they still maintained a 12% advantage.

    Exactly. Two years is not more than two years.

    So your own citation said, multiple times, that there is no consensus when it comes to physical advantage. In fact, the preponderance of the evidence suggested that particularly in the short term, there probably was.

    That’s close to what I said but while you quote the short term (which I think all studies agree that until ~12 months of HRT, trans women maintain their physicality), it clearly says in the section entitled “Conclusion”:

    Currently, there is no direct or consistent research suggesting transgender female individuals (or male individuals) have an athletic advantage at any stage of their transition (e.g. cross-sex hormones, gender-confirming surgery) and, therefore, competitive sport policies that place restrictions on transgender people need to be considered and potentially revised.

    I guess you can take that to mean that the study says that trans women have an advantage in the short term. I’m not sure how, but I’ll take it that you believe it says that in good faith.

    I, otoh, think the study’s conclusion says that there is no consistent research suggesting that trans women (or trans men) have an athletic advantage at any stage of their transition.

    I of course think my interpretation is accurate and that yours is not.

    But you sure do write prettier than I do.

  26. 26
    JaneDoh says:

    I think that an important consideration (that is being overlooked) is that the vast majority of trans athletes that are potentially excluded from sports by restrictive (and by most evidence thus far unnecessary) rules are kids and young adults who just want to play on local or school teams rather than elite athletes. In the last 10 years or so (as society has become more accepting) there has definitely been an increase in the number of openly trans athletes in high school and college, but yet trans athletes have yet to sweep all the top spots in girls or women’s sports anywhere. One track season where a trans woman won one event and lost another does not mean that trans athletes have an innate and unfair advantage over cis athletes.

    The mere fact that trans woman do not already dominate high school and college sports after years of being able to compete suggests that banning them is more about discrimination than fairness. This is especially true for younger trans girls and women who may never have gone through puberty before receiving blockers and cross hormones (where you would really have to contort yourself to explain any sort of perceived biological advantage other than some mystic male-spiritedness that attaches when assigned male at birth).

  27. 27
    Corso says:

    Jacqueline @ 25

    Exactly. Two years is not more than two years.

    It’s comments like this that lead me to believe you aren’t an honest actor. I’ve presented you with data that shows that after two years, there’s still a measurable difference in performance between trans and cis women, and you’re going to say, “After two years doesn’t mean more than two years”? What… Do you think on day 731 whatever remaining differences there are evaporates?

    What I find interesting about this is that you’re treating this science like the Christians treat the God of the Gaps; Wherever the science doesn’t exist, or is unclear, you assume that the science cannot exist. I understand that you could attempt to say the same thing about me: Wherever the science doesn’t exist, I’m assuming that it eventually will.

    The difference is in the logic. I think from what you’ve said, that we both agree that on day 1 of a transition, there is probably, on average, significant differences between the performance of trans and cis women. My reading of the science, from 2020, is that those differences in performance persist for years, at least two, but *probably* more because I don’t believe that a light switch effect happens on day 731. I’m going to assume that those differences exist until we can show that they don’t because they 1) exist 2) persist for years, and 3) we don’t know *if* they ever fully mitigate. Your citation focused on androgens and running but hand size is a measurable advantage in basketball, and bone density is a measurable advantage in boxing, or MMA fighting. I could be wrong, but I don’t believe that transitioning effects hand size, and while hormones do effect bone density, it doesn’t do it quickly.

    Jane @ 26

    In the last 10 years or so (as society has become more accepting) there has definitely been an increase in the number of openly trans athletes in high school and college, but yet trans athletes have yet to sweep all the top spots in girls or women’s sports anywhere.

    This wasn’t just you, Jane, but there were a couple of people that made this argument. It’s bad.

    First; I’ve clarified, several times, that I don’t think that trans women and cis men are interchangeable categories. Why are you acting as if I need them to be for my argument to be valid?

    Second; As I said to Amp earlier: There are so few trans athletes that I don’t think that meaningful measurements are even possible. You would have to measure the number of trans competitors against the number of cis competitors, and compare that ratio to the ratio of events won by trans competitors to the number of events won by cis competitors. I’m not going to call this dispositive *because* we’re talking about such a small number, but when you have trans people at +-1% of the population, and even less than that in sport, almost any win would be vastly disproportionate. There probably aren’t enough podiums to make their wins proportionate.

  28. 28
    Eytan Zweig says:

    You would have to measure the number of trans competitors against the number of cis competitors, and compare that ratio to the ratio of events won by trans competitors to the number of events won by cis competitors

    No, you’d just have to look at all the competitions in which trans competitors actually competed, and compare their performance in those competitions.

    It seems to me that you cannot have it both ways – either there is data about trans competitor performance, in which case we should look at it, or there isn’t, in which case, there is no reason to ban them from their gender’s division. I accept some of your arguments and data that show that it would not be surprising if they had an advantage, but that’s a reason to monitor the data, not a reason to restrict their participation. Essntially, it is not appropriate to ban people from their appropriate gender’s division just because some people think it is plausible that they will have an advantage. Banning is the most extreme outcome, not the default one.

  29. 29
    Corso says:

    Eytan @ 28

    I accept some of your arguments and data that show that it would not be surprising if they had an advantage, but that’s a reason to monitor the data, not a reason to restrict their participation.

    Maybe that’s where we disagree then.

    Like I said @ 21

    It is more important to gatekeep who can play in women’s sport than it is men’s sport because if you had the entire population in the same events, men would be well represented at the podium.

    To expand, the point of the women’s division is not inclusivity. Because it is exclusive by nature, there are going to be standards that competitors have to adhere to to qualify. That might not be fair, but life often isn’t fair. I think it’s more reasonable to err on the side of caution.

  30. 30
    Eytan Zweig says:

    Yes – Women’s division are exclusive by nature, and the criterion for inclusion is specified in their name – they’re restricted to women. Therefore, I do not think it is reasonable to restrict any women from participating in them based on caution alone.

  31. 31
    Jacqueline Onassis Squid says:

    Then say, “After two years.” It’s just disingenuous to do things like change “At two years,” or , “After two years, ” to, “More than two years.” These things are not the same. Neither is claiming a study concluded something that directly contradicts the actual (section titled) Conclusion of the study.

    What… Do you think on day 731 whatever remaining differences there are evaporates?

    Based on this study, we don’t know. It could. The study didn’t determine that. If the remaining differences do indeed go away, do you think we’ll determine exactly what day that happens?

    But if you want to argue that “More than” is the same as “At” or “After”, okay. You win. “More than two years” does indeed mean “At two years.” Argument conceded.

    I have taken you at your word, no matter how hard I find it to believe that you can take a sentence from the study’s conclusion that says, “Currently, there is no direct or consistent research suggesting transgender female individuals (or male individuals) have an athletic advantage at any stage of their transition (e.g. cross-sex hormones, gender-confirming surgery) and, therefore, competitive sport policies that place restrictions on transgender people need to be considered and potentially revised,” and claim that the study concludes that, “… that there is no consensus when it comes to physical advantage. In fact, the preponderance of the evidence suggested that particularly in the short term, there probably was.”

    That strikes me as outlandishly dishonest, yet I took your claim in good faith, hard as that was to do. I guess I’ll spend a while overlooking your comments in the hope that your very pretty writing will be somewhat less obviously condescending towards me the next time I engage with you. It’s a scant hope, but a hope nonetheless.

  32. 32
    Corso says:

    I’ve never been told I write prettily before. Thank you.

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