Trans Women in Sports

Updated: Jul 21, 2021

By David Cho

In recent years, the discussion of whether or not transgender women should be allowed to play in women’s sports has sparked a great deal of controversy throughout the nation. The two opposing sides of this debate have very different outlooks on the issue at hand, and notable figures have shared their opinions. In particular, Caityln Jenner, a transgender woman who was known primarily as the reality TV star Bruce Jenner from the show Keeping Up with the Kardashians, made some statements to the public about how she is opposed to transgender women playing in women’s sports. Early on she was extremely supportive about the idea of transgender women playing in their sports following their gender identity. However, recently she retracted her statements, regarding this behavior as a “question of fairness.” She states, “It just isn’t fair. And we have to protect girls’ sports in our schools.” As an athlete herself before her transition, and a great athlete at that -- gold medalist track star, set a world record in the decathlon at the 1976 Summer Olympics, and placed third in the Olympic trials and tenth at Munich Games -- many consider her statements to be very interesting.

Many seem to agree with Caityln Jenner’s remarks about the “unfairness” of transgender women playing in women’s sports, and this statement is supported mainly by data comparing female and male world records. Studies showed that the female world records were consistently about 90% of that of men’s, illustrating the advantage men may have in terms of physical capability against women. The stigma against transgender women in women’s sports stems from the scientific evidence proving that people born in male bodies have a higher ceiling than people born in female bodies.

Still, others claim the opposite, pointing to the statistics of transgender women in female sports. They point out that in many cases, transgender women have been defeated by many cisgender women in sports, and that there is no significant evidence that shows the “unfairness” that many people point out to. Adding onto that, as Jack Turban of the Scientific American, “[transgender youth] suffer from higher rates of bullying, anxiety and depression -- all of which make it more difficult for them to train and compete.”

Supporters of transgender women playing in women’s sports make the argument that the issue connects to transphobia. The statistic used to compare women’s world records to men’s world records assumes that transgender women are men, and many people who are against transgender women in women’s sports often support the notion that born men will always be men and born women will always be women. This belief threatens transgender people’s gender identity, which is extremely demoralizing and inconsiderate. In fact, this type of treatment can be seen as a form of transgender coversion therapy, a method used to try and force transgender people to be their cisgender identities.

Overall, the controversial topic of whether or not transgender women should be allowed to participate in women’s sports has many advocates on both sides. Although there are places such as California and Canada that allows transgender youth to compete in sports according to their gender identity, there are still many places that reject any transgender athletes from playing according to it.


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