Trans athletes create a competitive imbalance in sports
Only theoretical extremists consider the principle of “inclusion” more important than a level playing field.
On Nov 20, outrage was sparked in the world of sport by yet another case of a natal male making mincemeat out of competitors in a women’s division.
Trans-identified swimmer Lia – formerly Will – Thomas “blasted” University of Pennsylvania swim records in the 200m and 500m freestyle, achieving times of 1:43:47 and 4:35:06 respectively, which would have placed Thomas second and third, respectively, in the NCAA Women’s Championships. Thomas’s performance was also key to the team’s success in a tri-meet against Princeton and Cornell in the 400m freestyle relay.
Up until Nov 2019, Thomas had competed against males on the university’s “All-Ivy League” (second) men’s team, where he was successful, but never a star. Here, where “her” winning margin was four standard deviations faster than “her” now-female peers, Thomas is in supernova territory.
I wrote that last paragraph on Dec 3. On Dec 4, I became aware of another Thomas bombshell out of Akron, Ohio, at the Dec 3 Zippy Invitational, where Thomas surpassed teammate Anna Kalandadze’s time of 4:48.99 by an astonishing 12 seconds to win the 500 free by 14.39 seconds. For context, Paige Madden of Virginia won gold in the 500 free at the 2021 NCAA national championships with a time of 4:33.61. Thomas is now well placed for triumph at the highest level of women’s swimming. This is a pinnacle Thomas could only have fantasized about in the male division. (At the 2019 Men’s NCAA swimming and diving championships, University of Texas senior Townley Haas won his third 500 free in 4:08.19.)
It therefore doesn’t matter whether there is still one biologically female NCAA swimmer who can still beat Thomas, and it won’t matter even if she continues to beat Thomas, something the pro-inclusivity advocates doubtless pray for as “proof” that biological females are not disadvantaged by natal-male competition.
Whether Thomas ultimately wins NCAA gold or silver — or even has a bad day and comes 10th at the NCAA Championships in March — is irrelevant. The switch from male to female competition so significantly upgraded Thomas’s athletic status, it made the difference between anonymity and stardom. But most significantly, it meant a worthy female competitor was unfairly bumped downward in the standings so Thomas could feel included. As in other cases of transwomen athletic performances, celebrated by activists, natal-male inclusion came at the expense of a female competitor’s exclusion.
NCAA rules state a male athlete must complete one year of testosterone suppression in order to be eligible for the women’s division. But testosterone is only one factor in the male advantage, and not a determining one. The UK Sport Council recently issued guidelines on transgender participation in sport, following a lengthy review process, and they state: “[A]t this time, emerging evidence does not support the view that testosterone suppression for 12 months will achieve parity of strength, stamina and physique for transgender women compared with females, and hence cannot guarantee fairness.” The guidelines also state: “categorization by sex is lawful.”
Any male who has gone through puberty has acquired a host of benefits that don’t go away with testosterone suppression. Data on run, jump and throw tests show that even before puberty, boys have an enormous advantage over girls in speed, power, and strength. If they didn’t, there would have been no obvious need for a women’s division.
Indeed, no trans activist has ever given a straight answer to the question of why males and females have always competed separately, or why, if high-performance natal males do not have a significant advantage over women as they insist, women athletes who identify as male have never been a threat to males in sport. Even if female athletes in high-level sport were permitted to take the maximum level of testosterone commensurate with medical safety guidelines (they aren’t), they still wouldn’t be a threat to natal males.
Ordinary people with common sense do not require proof of what their eyes can see — namely, it’s biology, duhh — but as definitive proof, if you must debate ideologues who cling tenaciously to theory over reality, you might cite researcher Allan Stratton, who writes in one segment of a comprehensive three-part Quillette series, titled “The Progressive Case for Renouncing Gender Extremism”
“One need only compare women’s Olympic records to those set by boys still in high school to see the stark physical difference between male and female elite athletes — or the humiliation of the Australian national women’s soccer team by 15-year-old boys. In 1998, tennis legends Venus and Serena Williams (ranked #5 and #17 in the world respectively at the time) played against an aging male player named Karsten Braasch (ranked 203rd among men). Braasch beat Serena 6-1 and Venus 6-2. CeCé Telfer ranked 390th among American male 400m hurdles runners in 2017 NCAA Division 2 athletics. After a year off for hormone therapy, Telfer won the women’s NCAA championship. (Hilariously, she claims to be at a disadvantage because, at 6’2”, she encounters greater wind resistance. Oddly, that didn’t hurt Usain Bolt.)”
Fairness in sport is a universal desideratum that crosses all cultural, class, and political lines. Only theoretical extremists consider the principle of “inclusion” more important than a level playing field. Unfortunately, those extremists have captured the institutions that set the rules presently destroying sport as we know, or rather knew it.
Even women’s most basic right, physical security, is disregarded by the militants. Recently viewers were disgusted to see trans Mixed Martial Arts fighter Alana McLaughlin — formerly, as Ryan McLaughlin, a member of the U.S. Army Special Forces — defeat Frenchwoman Celine Provost, in a legal but disturbing iron chokehold that caused blood to spatter from Provost’s mouth.
McLaughlin’s mentor and coach is transwoman MMA fighter Fallon Fox, who once knocked out a woman opponent in 39 seconds, and fractured the skull of another opponent. Bad enough, but Fox then tweeted: “For the record, I knocked two out. One woman’s skull was fractured, the other not. And just so you know, I enjoyed it. See, I love smacking up TERFS in the cage who spout transphobic nonsense. It’s bliss!” Any reasonable observer would see the pathology behind these words. But trans reverence is a pandemic for which no vaccine so far exists. Fox was hailed as “the bravest athlete in history” and inducted into the LGBTQ sports hall of fame.
As Stratton wrote, “It’s a measure of the culture of gaslighting that now pervades this sphere that we’re all supposed to pretend this person is the Rosa Parks of trans athletics. To call these gruesome spectacles ‘social justice’ is a betrayal of the movements for black, Indigenous, women’s, and gay rights — campaigns that were fought in order to secure equality and fair play.”
One would like to think sober minds at the apex of international sport would take a more responsible stance. But they have all drunk the Kool-Aid. In mid-November, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) released its Framework on Fairness, Inclusion, and Non-discrimination on the basis of gender identity and sex variations. It’s what might be called a non-policy. They offer only “process recommendations,” but don’t dare define what a woman is. Instead of “sex category,” which is now apparently taboo, they twist themselves into pretzels with tropes like “disproportionate advantage” that make no sense to the average reader.
After news of the UPenn meet broke, several sport stakeholders voiced their disappointment on social media in no uncertain terms. Sport performance coach and president of Athletics Alberta Linda Blade tweeted, “Well, of course women’s records are being smashed! Lia competed as a male for three years in NCAA. This is not right.”
Blade, principal author of the recently published book, Unsporting: How trans activism and science denial are destroying sport (I am the co-author), told me she likens the role she will be forced to play in her position as president of Athletics Alberta to that of “the remote town sheriffs in the Wild West, policing our own territory until clear guidelines return.” She believes the international sports federations “will be tying themselves into knots for the next decade.”
Albertans can be proud of Edmonton-based Blade. She has been for years, and remains, the only high-performance coach in Canada — and to my knowledge North America — who has taken a public stand against the misogyny of the inclusion policy that is upheld by the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport (CCES), from which most Canadian sports associations take their cue, and who courageously continues to advocate for girls and women athletes’ sex-based rights to a level playing field in sport.
Barbara Kay is a senior columnist for the Western Standard.