Jenner speaks out against transgender athlete inclusion in cis sports

Transgender inclusion is a new topic of discussion in multiple realms.

Alexandro Grosso

Transgender inclusion is a new topic of discussion in multiple realms.

On May 1, 2021, Caitlyn Jenner, former Olympian, television personality and transgender woman, told a TMZ reporter that having transgender girls participate in “cis girl’s sports” is a “question of fariness.” She opposes the idea, stating that it is a matter of needing to protect girls’ sports in schools. This statement followed her announcement to run for governor of California to replace governor Gavin Newsom.

Jenner has been criticized by transgender activists for years since she publicly came out as transgender, with her most recent comments drawing a great deal of backlash from the transgender community.

Most recently, Kai Shappley, a ten year old transgender girl, via her personal Twitter account called for Jenner to “stop hurting” trans kids.

As a cis woman, who does not have the experiences of a transgender person, nor do I have any idea what it truly means to live as a transgender person, while acknowledging my own privilege, take the side of those transgender activists who disagree with Jenner: transgender girls participating in cis girls’ sports is not a threat to athletics nor do they pose any genetic advantage that should disallow them from participating.

According to the Human Rights campaign, an LGBTQ advocacy association, over 30 state legislatures have proposed over 100 bills that are aimed to limit the rights of transgender people. And while recent polls have indicated that a majority of Americans are more supportive of transgender rights as opposed to five years ago, the fact still remains that only 47% of Republicans, and 40% of conservative republicans, do not support transgender rights. This is extremely dangerous, considering that 60% of United States legislatures are republican-controlled, (30 out of the 50 states), with two states having split legislative control.

The real issue is the argument that transgender girls are being told by people of power that they shouldn’t have the right to participate in sports with the people who match their gender identity. This implies, and stems from the argument that, transgender girls are not “real” girls. As such, it is important to dismantle this notion before the idea of transgender sports participation can even be addressed.

According to Dr. Julie Bakker from the University of Liège, Belgium, in a study done that utilized MRIs to scan the brains of gender dysphoria adolescent boys and girls, found that their brains more closely resembled those of their desired gender, as opposed to their assigned gender. Also, when participating in visual and spatial activities, GD girls demonstrated the activation patterns within their brain that more closely resembled that of a male brain.

We shouldn’t have to use science to validate the existence of transgender people. Gender identity is not a phenomenon of “woke culture,” but a real, scientifically and psychologically proven concept.

And now we arrive at the issue of transgender girls playing in sports alongside the people who match their gender identity. The main arguments against this concept are those who champion the idea that transgender girls still possess the genetic advantages in sports that come with being born a male.

In regards to the genetic differences between a transgender female athlete and a cisgender female athlete, scientific evidence points to very little advantage.

Joana Harper, transgender medical physicist at the Providence Portland Medical Center, argues that estrogen supplements and testosterone blockers lead to a decrease in muscle mass and oxygen carrying red blood cells. These leads to a decrease in speed, strength, and endurance.

Dr. Eric Vilain, pediatrician and geneticist who studies sex differences in athletes, says men have a 10-12% advantage over women. But these advantages are only helpful in certain sports disciplines, such as a hammer throw. However, a greater height, for example, that a transgender female may possess over a female is certainly not helpful in all disciplines, such as gymnastics.

Now, consider this. Michael Phelps was born with double jointed ankles, which give his kicking span such a great range. His body also produces half of the amount of lactic acid that the body of the average person produces. Lactic acid is one of the sources of what causes fatigue in athletes, meaning that he biologically does not get as tired when participating in athletic events as the average person. He is also 6′ 4″, with an arm span of 6′ 7″, greater than the average person, and his lung capacity is double that of the average person as well, of 12 liters as opposed to 6. If the lungs can send more oxygen to the body, you can imagine how much of an advantage that would be when participating in a sport that primarily takes place under water.

Now, that wasn’t a swipe at Michael Phelps. That was simply biological facts about his body that prove that these different components combine to create the perfect storm of a swimmer athlete. Essentially, Michael Phelps’ body was built for swimming. No amount of training can force the lungs to consume more air or grow wingspan or produce less lactic acid. Those are genetic advantages which he has over each of his competitors.

Not to mention, being 7 feet tall and being a basketball player is a genetic advantage which certain players have over basketball players who are equally as talented but around only in the five foot range. An athlete that is two feet taller is more likely to be selected to play on certain teams. You can’t train to be taller; you just are. That’s also a genetic advantage.

What these two facts have in common is that the sports which these genetically advantaged athletes participate in are not segregated by those advantages; not by height, not by wingspan, but by gender. These differences very much exist, but people aren’t in uproar about it. Michael Phelps could receive the exact same training and possess the exact same amount of talent and athleticism as another athlete, but he’ll likely still win in a race every time. But people aren’t outraged about that.

Or, similarly, consider the family with a net worth of millions upon millions of dollars, who spend thousands to make their children better athletes, but are still allowed to compete against students who only have a basic school level of training? This training doesn’t even guarantee a win, as that student might simply just be more talented. And who’s to say that that more talented student isn’t genetically advantaged within the same gender as the richer one. Or, the richer athlete’s expensive private training could result in a significant advantage over non-privately trained student.

Point being, sports are FULL of genetic advantages, which are not all because of gender. Those biological and environmental advantages that female athletes possess over each other pose a significant impact within their respective sports. It’s not a question of genetic advantages: if it was, the argument would be to separate sports by weight class, height class, etc., as is the case in wrestling.

These arguments are just thinly veiled transphobia.

Differences in athletic ability is what makes sports competitive, whether this be biologically or environmentally. But if it’s so concerning to lawmakers, separate based on genetic factors, as opposed to just gender. Serena Williams could destroy a male tennis player easily, and she was born a female.

But it seems like the only concern is limiting the rights of transgender students. There’s no scientific evidence or data to back it up, it’s just lawmakers and politicians and transphobic individuals trying to make the lives of transgender girls harder. Because they can.

So, if you really care about making sports fair, look into genetic abilities and natural advantages. Until then, leave transgender girls alone.