Advantage

Is sport ever really fair? Consider the comments made by Michael Phelps regarding Lia Thomas. While he was delicate in the way he talked about a level playing field the reality is that Phelps had a huge advantage over his career in the men’s field which included a larger arm span, double-jointed ankles and bigger than average lung capacity which led to 28 medals (23 of them gold). My point is that these advantages already happen naturally within men’s and women’s sports and introducing trans athletes who despite suppressing testosterone to normal female levels, are often attacked by transphobes who just want them gone altogether from society.

I don’t have an unusually strong opinion on athletics, and I understand people who have put so much effort into their sport only to witness a perceived unfair advantage. My issue is more with using sport as way of encouraging discrimination in other areas. This problem didn’t come up when I was growing up because very few trans people were out and we were just mostly curiosities for the tabloids (the notable case being Renee Richards in the 1970’s). Given our increased presence in society and since so much weight is being placed on measuring physical prowess, that scrutiny should perhaps be extended to the entire spectrum of athletes some of whom have natural biological advantages beyond just their training methods.

Comments

  1. There is a question of who to ensure a fare contest in sport where trans women are concerned. But it is a complicated question, and will therefore have complicated answers.

    In my own sport of Rugby Union, I played to a decent club standard, but was a long way from being an elite athlete, at 14 stone (196 lbs) and five foot ten I would not have been considered big enough to play at a higher level, by normal standards I would have been considered to be pretty strong, but as a prop forward I had to constantly work at weights to stay competitive. ~ at that time playing mid level club rugby I was just about adequate, but would still have been bigger and stronger than many top level women player in the same position today. If I had transitioned in my 30s rather than my 50s and had wanted to play women's rugby I would question whether this would be fair, judging simply on hormone levels.

    I think it could be totally different in other sports where strength and size are not so important. However I do think that there are so few trans women competing at the top level in any sports that the whole thing has been blown out of proportion, and become unpleasantly politicised.

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    Replies
    1. I could not agree with you more on this Paula and it has clearly become a strawman argument to denigrate trans people in general

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