Are Olympics right to remove testosterone guidelines for trans athletes to compete?
- On November 16, 2021, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced new guidelines, detailed in a six-page document, that outlines changes for transgender athletes that allow them to be able to “compete in the category that best aligns with their self-determined gender identity,” and bars all athletes from having to undergo “medically unnecessary procedures or treatments to meet eligibility requirements.”
- Previously, in 2015, the IOC relaxed the eligibility criteria for transgender females to compete in natal female sport. The requirement for genital reassignment surgery was removed and eligibility instead was determined by reducing testosterone to 10 nM for at least 12 months.
- The 2020 Summer Olympic Games took place in Tokyo, Japan, airing from July 23-August 8, 2021 on NBC. The top three countries were the US, earning 39 gold medals, China with 38 gold medals, and Japan with 27 gold medals.
- Following the 2020 Olympics, in September 2021, the UK-based Sports Councils Equality Group released a report, which found transgender athletes have an unfair advantage in female sports “due to the retained differences in strength, stamina and physique between the average woman compared with the average transgender woman or non-binary person assigned male at birth, with or without testosterone suppression.”
The IOC has released new guidelines for inclusion and fairness, notably removing testosterone testing in transgender competitors. In their report, the IOC states they intend to avoid discrimination based upon 'Unverified…competitive advantage due to…sex variations, physical appearance and/or transgender status.' The IOC has rightfully sided against transphobic fear-mongering. As the National Center for Transgender Equality states, 'All people, even those whose identities you don't fully understand, deserve respect.'
Questions regarding sex are more complicated than the labels of 'male' and 'female.' In India, hijras have been considered the third sex for thousands of years. Estimates place the number of people born with intersex traits number that of those born with red hair. The prevalence of these variations logically leads to scenarios where a woman has more testosterone. Studies also show that testosterone levels can rise in women based on psychological factors and during menstruation.
Concerns over testosterone levels lead to evasive testing. According to the New York Times, 'protocol involves measuring and palpating the clitoris, vagina, and labia, as well as evaluating breast size and pubic hair.' This dehumanizing process is irrelevant, as cultural anthropologist Katrina Karkazis points out, 'The root belief that testosterone is the miracle molecule of athleticism isn't supported by the science.' Considering that the advantages drawn from increased testosterone don't affect the skill-sets involved in many Olympic events, the outcry over transgender athletes amounts to a culture war stoked by conservatives. With over two million transgender people living in America, our institutions need to consider their rights, too.
In the recently released updated Olympic guidelines for players, the IOC has removed the requirement that transgender women reduce their testosterone levels to compete as female athletes. This is a move primarily made due to political pressure and is sadly not based on scientific fact. Another societal institution has bent the knee to 'woke' extremism under the guise of 'fairness, inclusion, and non-discrimination.'
This rule change clearly discriminates against biological females who now must compete against men with male levels of testosterone, which has been studied and confirmed to prove there is a physiological advantage between biological male and female bodies even despite 'lowered testosterone.'
Now that the IOC has removed all medical barriers keeping biological men from simply 'self-identifying' into the female sports category, this further reduces the chances of biological females' chances of having fair and safe competitions. By now, there have been many instances of biological men participating in women's sports at the high school and collegiate levels, dominating their events. Men, who otherwise can't compete at a world-class level when competing against other men, now can be world-class athletes competing against women.
If the IOC wants to eliminate any distinction between men's and women's competitions, it can try to make the case to do so. But to pretend this is about fairness and inclusion or non-discrimination is wrong. In actuality, these guidelines strongly favor male bodies, with all their physiological advantages, over female bodies. Males and females have different and dimorphic bodies. To be a part of a movement that denies this fact leads to these unfair policies and further diminishes many of the gains women's sports have accomplished over the last several decades.