As society begins to percieve gender as a spectrum rather than a binary, powerful figures in the world of sports are dealing with a complex ethical dilemma regarding transgender athletes.
The success stories are undeniable. Male-to-female transgender athletes around the world have been making headlines for their athletic accomplishments prior to the inhibition of sports during the COVID-19 pandemic.
At the professional level, transgender olympic weightlifter Laurel Hubbard won two gold medals in the Pacific Open last year.
CeCé Telfer, a transgender collegiate track and field athlete, won the 2019 NCAA Division II National Championship. Telfer also competed at the Division II level as a male in 2016 and 2017, and ranked 200th and 390th, respectively, in the 400 meter hurdles.
Although some believe that allowing female transgender athletes to compete in women’s sports demonstrates progress, the practice can be unfair towards cisgender female athletes.
Biological men are generally stronger and faster than biological women, giving them a significant advantage in athletic competition. Two thousand professional male athletes had a faster 100 meter time than the fastest female sprinter in the world, according to “The Economist”.
Although social progress and tolerance might be the new paramount values in sports, human physiology must not be disregarded if society still believes fairness is essential to competition.
There exist different approaches to resolve the inherent unfairness that arises from allowing transgender athletes to compete in women’s divisions.
The NCAA has chosen to reduce the standardized amount of the male sex hormone testosterone in female transgender athletes’ bodies through blood sampling, which requires the scientific process of testosterone suppression.
A Swedish research group studied testosterone suppression in 11 transgender female athletes and found negligible decreases in strength and muscle mass.
There is a serious problem if governing bodies in the sports world turn a blind eye to the empirical effects of testosterone suppression.
Sports leauges can only resolve the contention surrounding male-to-female transgender athletes by deciding to what extent social progress should be a factor in a fair competition.
Fairness should be the most important factor in a competition and must always be upheld.