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Franzi Raupp

Franzi Raupp ‘23 discusses the current debate surrounding transgender female athletes competing with their own gender and why they are met with resistance. 

The rules for female transgender athletes have been a very controversial topic. The debate whether biological males who identify as female have an advantage over female athletes, and, therefore, shouldn’t be allowed to compete in the same competitions add to an already challenging discussion. The current guidelines state that female transgender athletes have to declare their identity as female for at least four years and have to demonstrate testosterone levels under 10 nanomoles per liter for at least one year prior to the competition.

In these regulations, many people see disadvantages to female athletes and believe that those who participate should be judged on biology. The opposition argues that when males go through puberty the higher testosterone release promotes the development of bigger muscles with more fast twitching fibers, sturdier bones, and a larger heart and lungs, which are seen as lifelong advantages over women. Moreover, it is questioned if the testosterone regulations make sense. Research shows that 90% of women’s testosterone’s levels are around 3 nanomoles per liter, which means that the limit of 10 nanomoles per liter is 3x more than what the wide majority of biological females have. Because of that, many athletes see a danger in transgender women dominating women’s sports so that it is nearly impossible for biological females to succeed, even if they do their best.

On the other side, advocates argue that this debate is fundamentally about equality and human rights. Rachel McKinnon, a transgender athlete, sees sport as a human right and argues that the principle of inclusion we have in society applies to sports just as to anything else in order for transgender women to be seen as equal members of society and a respected in their identity. Moreover, the proposition argues that sports have never been absolutely fair because of the huge range of human shapes, sizes, and heights, meaning that there are natural disadvantages in any sport. Advocates ask the question: Transgender women are legally and socially seen and respected as women, so why make an exception in sports?

I think we can all agree on the complexity of this topic. New problems require new solutions, therefore the idea of an open category inclusive for absolutely everybody has been put on the table—but as of today, no decisions have been made. Therefore, the postponed 2020 Olympics could turn out to be highly controversial Olympic Games. It is a question of fairness, but the definition of it in this case couldn’t be wider apart. Nevertheless, we always have to listen and respect each others’ opinions!