Transgender Sport Debate

A debate has started in the sporting community recently about whether or not transgender athletes should be allowed to compete with their chosen gender. 


In 2003, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) created guidelines for transgender people who are participating in sports, it was the following year that transgender athletes were allowed to participate in the Olympics. Despite the guidelines being made 16 years ago, the debate has fired up recently. 


The guidelines had three conditions. Firstly, the person has to have undergone sex reassignment surgery. Secondly, they have to show that they have gotten legal recognition of their gender transition. And lastly, they must have had hormone therapy for a certain period of time, with two years being the suggested time. 


The IOC modified these guidelines in 2015 to adapt to legalities in other countries, where is wasn’t possible to get legal recognition of gender because transitioning was illegal and requiring people to get surgery was “inconsistent with developing legislation and notions of human rights.” 


The new guidelines that only trans women have to declare their gender (and not change that declaration for four years) and to show that they have a low testosterone level for at least one year prior to competition and period of eligibility.  


Despite guidelines being in place and modified where appropriate there is still a huge debate happening. It is concentrated on if transgender women athletes have an unfair advantage and could easily outperform cisgender women.  


Many sports athletes have gotten involved and given their opinions on the matter, and whether or not they think transgender athletes should be allowed to compete in the gender they transitioned to or if the rules need to be changed to adapt to a modern society. 


Martina Navratilova, a former tennis player, posted a tweet in December taking a stance against transgender athletes competing in women’s sports. She deleted the tweet soon after and promised to educate herself on the subject, but last month wrote a column backing up the opinion in her tweet. 


The tweet, which sparked outrage online, said “Clearly that can't be right. You can't just proclaim yourself a female and be able to compete against women. There must be some standards, and having a penis and competing as a woman would not fit that standard.” 


In a column in The Sunday Times, she says that it is cheating when a transgender woman competes with cisgender women. Which was met with backlash from transgender athletes, including Dr. Rachel McKinnon a transgender world champion cyclist, and non-athletes, saying that Navratilova is transphobic and uninformed. 


Former Olympian swimmer Sharron Davies has said that she believes that there is a fundamental difference between the binary sex you are born with and the gender you may identify as. 


She said, “to protect women’s sport those with a male sex advantage should not be able to compete in women’s sport.” 


The debate concentrates on how trans women competing in women’s sports, but very few are arguing that if trans men compete with cisgender men that they are at a disadvantage.