Spectator: “Will transsexuals destroy women’s sport?”


Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice“Will transsexuals destroy women’s sport?” is the second largest headline on the front of today’s Spectator Magazine – the largest, predictably, being in relation to the Comprehensive Spending Review. It’s not exactly a positive headline, for a start using “Transsexual” as a noun. For those unfamiliar with the territory don’t do it as it implies it is very othering – man, woman or transsexual? It also contributes to the erasure of trans-male identities in this case as the implication in the headline is that only Trans women exist.

Still, “Sure, if all the women athletes transition to become male, that could damage women’s sport” springs to mind as a humorous response to the front-page headline.

There is a copy of the copy of the Article online, but I fear you will need a paper version or subscription iPad/iPhone version to see the article in the context the editors unfortunately intended. It does improve a little on the contents as the article is billed as “Transsexuals on the track – A new divide in women’s sport”… well, it’s not new, really. Any slightly more positive spin on that page is undone by the photo of a female shot-putter with the caption “Gender games” under it. A shot-putter? Please.

Once we get free from the clutches of the magazine’s editors though, the article by Luke Coppen isn’t that bad. It’s jumping off point is the recent news about Lana Lawless, a Trans woman golfer, who has had to sue a US Golf Association over their Women-born-Women policy. It’s not too bad an article, starting off by listing the concerns of others – “enjoying the physical advantages of men” and then going on to deconstruct them.  It doesn a pretty good job of covering most of the well known (Within Trans circles) problems that the International Olympic Committee have had in trying to figure out who they should allow to compete… and the problem that as in this case, if a Trans woman does succeed, it’s clearly because she was “born male”, not actually because she’s a good athlete.

It’s shame this generally positive attitude is spoilt by one particular phrase in the last paragraph: “As long as there is a male-female division in sports, there will be people stealing across the border.” I’m not “stealing” across anyone’s border, thank you very much. And if anyone did try, I think they would be in for a rude awaking given that the penalty for transitioning when one shouldn’t is similar to not doing so when you need to – depression and suicidal thoughts.

There’s a reason for this post, other than just generally getting annoyed at the headline on the front page. Coppen’s article points out recent research shows that any advantage Trans Women have over cis-gendered wimen is lost after around a year on HRT. This is broady in line with current International Olympic Committee guideline that stipulates a 2 year gap between transition and competing in your aquired gender.

So, we return to our old friend, the Equality Act. Sadly, the sort of nonsense that’s happened in the US with this case could happen here too and it’s entirely possible someone in Lana’s position would lose the case because the act just makes vague references to “fairness” and “safety”. (If it’s not safe for someone to compete, regardless of gender, then you’re doing it wrong)

But if a random author of a magazine article can figure out that there’s no advantage to Trans Women (Where are the Trans Men?), why couldn’t the authors of the act figure out how to express it in terms that didn’t give anyone an excuse to discriminate indefinitely and justify it.

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  1. #1 by Dan Howells on 23 October 2010 - 22:35

    Um. For completeness sake, I must bring up the case of Hermann Ratjen of Nazi Germany, who claimed he was forced to compete as a woman in the years before World War 2 despite being a cis man. There is every evidence that he hated it.

    But the language of every sporting organisation I’ve ever encountered carries with it the assumption that men are better than women, at everything, up to and including lawn green bowls which was gender segregated at the recent Commonwealth Games. Transmen are therefore erased because no transman could _possibly_ compete with a cisman, faw faw faw, pass the claret. Until this underlying stupidity is challenged and beaten, nothing will change, and running riot through the Equality Act with a red marker pen strikes me as a good start.

    • #2 by Zoe O'Connell on 25 October 2010 - 23:15

      For completeness sake, I must bring up the case of Hermann Ratjen of Nazi Germany, who claimed he was forced to compete as a woman in the years before World War 2 despite being a cis man. There is every evidence that he hated it.

      I’m not too convinced by the Ratjen case, because it may be an Intersex rather than fraud issue. Given that doctors playing God was not unusual back then (And still isn’t now, sadly) it’s entirely possible Ratjen never knew the truth for sure either.

      Transmen are therefore erased because no transman could _possibly_ compete with a cisman, faw faw faw, pass the claret.

      So what you’re saying is that we need to find is a transman who is really good at a sport, just to put the cis folk’s nose out of joint? :-)

  2. #3 by Dan Howells on 26 October 2010 - 12:55

    Sounds like a plan to me. 8)

(will not be published)


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