The sex and gender of the individual is a relevant topic for modern society. One of the spectrums of this area is the participation of transgender people in professional women’s sports. This problem is ambiguous, because, on the one hand, it corresponds to the self-determination of a person, but on the other hand, it gives rise to sexism. In addition, such a phenomenon is unethical, since it creates inadequate benefits leading to a lack of fairness. It is necessary to analyze why exactly the participation of transgender people in women’s sports is a negative process that gives rise to sexism and unethical behavior.
Transgender People’s Problems in Women’s Sports
There are two main and serious interconnected problems in women’s sports. First is what rules should apply to transgender women, namely those who change their gender from male to female (Sherry & Rowe, 2020). Second is what rules should be followed in relation to those athletes in whose body there are any characteristics of the male sex (Harper, 2019). First of all, it should be noted that the body of a woman and a man differ significantly in physiological terms (Harper, 2019). The male body has a denser and stronger muscle group, which is explained by the hormonal background. To protect women’s sports, those with male advantage should not be allowed to compete in women’s sport events.
Otherwise, it leads to the manifestation of sexism, but not in a very obvious way. The fact is that society has been struggling with the advantages and privileges of men for a long time in order to equalize both sexes. However, in the analyzed case, women again find themselves an oppressed group, since male factors will win (Sherry & Rowe, 2020). Thus, this can be interpreted as a demonstration of the dominance of the masculine nature over the feminine (Harper, 2019). In addition, rights may be abused if stricter rules for transgender athletes are not adopted (Harper, 2019). While transgender women do not currently pose a threat to women’s sports, such danger may arise in the future (Harper, 2019). People will engage in manipulation if there is an opportunity to make money and receive medals.
As noted above, there are physiological differences between the average man and the average woman. Men have higher height, more weight, more muscle and skeletal mass, bone density, and more heart and lung volume. There are sports in which these differences provide an advantage (Harper, 2019). In 17 US states, transgender students can participate in sports without restrictions. They do not require sex reassignment surgery or hormone therapy (Sherry & Rowe, 2020). A person only needs to declare which gender he considers himself to be (Harper, 2019). In February 2018, at the Connecticut State High School Championships, the first two places in the 55m were taken by two transgender people in the process of gender reassignment (Schiappa, 2021, p. 34). The participants, who were born girls, were extremely cautious in commenting on the situation for reasons of political correctness. The parents of the losing athletes pushed for changes in state laws. This example most clearly demonstrates the oppression of girls as a social and biological group.
In addition to the fact that such a phenomenon generates sexism, it leads to a gross violation of ethical rules in sports and in society. First of all, medical specialists need to check the sexual and hormonal characteristics of each sports participant. Such processes are not a choice, but a necessity to avoid incidents at competitions (Sherry & Rowe, 2020). However, such checks are extremely unethical, since they affect a large number of intimate factors of the individual (Harper, 2019). In 1966, Time magazine published an article about men in women’s sports (Harper, 2019). In addition to the heavily distorted story of Dora-Heinrich Ratjen, the article contained accusations of gender reassignment against several Soviet athletes (Harper, 2019). Then, at the European Athletics Championships in Budapest, gender checks of athletes began for the first time. A commission of three female gynecologists examined all the competitors by stripping them naked and analyzing the genitals (Harper, 2019). This method, despite its unethical nature, is indispensable, since other methods do not give more accurate results (Harper, 2019). Analyzing the causal relationship, it is worth noting that it was the participation of transgender people in women’s sports that gave rise to such processes.
Finally, in addition to the above, it is worth highlighting the problem of biased attitudes towards specific groups. Due to the fact that the participation of transgender people in women’s sports leads to problems and complications, new prejudices and stereotypes appear in society. In particular, using the example of Caster Semenya, it can be seen that transgender individuals are bullied and ridiculed, and are interpreted as dishonest people (Harper, 2019). Similar social phenomena, similar to the previous ones, are the manifestations of the unethical nature of the analyzed phenomenon.
However, the medical examinations described above are not the only manifestation of unethical behavior. The fact is that one of the main principles of sport is an equal attitude towards all athletes, as well as equal conditions for them (Sherry & Rowe, 2020). In practice, the participation of transgender people generates obviously strengths and weaknesses (Harper, 2019). For example, out of six professional fights, transgender Fallon Fox won five. In the latter, her rival was the champion of the North American Fighting League, Tamikka Brents (Schiappa, 2021, p. 26). Brents suffered a concussion, a fractured orbit, and seven stitches (Schiappa, 2021, p. 27). After the defeat, she said in an interview with Whoa TV, “I’ve fought a lot of women, but I’ve never faced the kind of power I did last night” (Schiappa, 2021, p. 27). Despite the fact that the fight was conducted correctly according to the general standards, the admission of a transgender person to the participation violated the principle of equal conditions.
It is necessary to analyze the violation of equal treatment of all athletes. In 2004, the International Olympic Committee allowed transgender people to compete in the Olympics. Men – no restrictions, women – subject to confirmation of sex reassignment surgery and a two-year course of hormone therapy that reduces testosterone levels in the body (Sherry & Rowe, 2020). In 2015, the rules were relaxed, removing the requirement for surgery and reducing the mandatory duration of hormone therapy to a year (Schiappa, 2021). These examples illustrate the combination of sexism and unethical behavior, where some athletes are belittled not only because of the special treatment of the commission but on the basis of gender.
In conclusion, it is necessary to emphasize once again the thesis that the presence of transgender people in women’s sports leads to the manifestation of sexism and unethical behavior. This can be explained by the fact that organizations are forced to introduce new rules and checks on female athletes. This avoids cheating and manipulation and equalizes all participants. On the other hand, it is contrary to the principles and equality, since a biased attitude toward certain professionals is formed. In the case of ignoring such phenomena, masculine nature and transgender men will begin to dominate girls. This will be a vivid manifestation of sex winter, where men will have regular privileges but are already in the field of sports.
Harper, J. (2019). Sporting gender. The history, science, and stories of transgender and intersex athletes. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.
Schiappa. E. (2021). The transgender exigency. Defining sex and gender in the 21st century. Taylor & Francis.
Sherry, E. & Rowe, K. (Eds.). (2020). Developing sport for women and girls. Taylor & Francis.