Transgender Athletes and Sports

    Transgender Athletes in Sports
    DOHA, QATAR - JANUARY 07: Qatari goalkeepr Qasem Burhan is beaten by a shot from Server Djeparov #8 of Uzbekistan during the AFC Asian Cup Group A match between Qatar and Uzbekistan at Khalifa Stadium on January 7, 2011 in Doha, Qatar. (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

    Transgender “athletes” have existed in “sports” since the beginning of our United States. Progressives think that transgender athletes in sports is something that is new.  But what are sports and what is progressive?

    Progressive in general means, “happening or developing gradually or in stages; proceeding step by step.” Progressive in politics is, “progressivism is generally considered part of the left-liberal tradition.” In the 21st century, a movement that identifies as progressive is “a social or political movement that aims to represent the interests of ordinary people through political change and the support of government actions”. 

    And a progressive jackpot casino is a “jackpot (a gambling grand prize or payout) which increases each time the game is played but the jackpot is not won. When the progressive jackpot is won, the jackpot for the next play is reset to a predetermined value, and resumes increasing under the same rule.”

    Transgender Athletes and Sports

    Transgender People in the American Revolution

    Fighting in the military is not a sport, because it is not fun and games and people die in war. But the physical requirements to fight, especially when a person does not have modern tanks and automatic weapons, is physically taxing.

    Hence, the reason why women were forbidden from enlisting in the military during the American Revolution. But one woman was so dedicated to the American cause that she dressed as a man in order to enlist in the military. In essence, she was the first Transgender person to participate in “professional sports” (yes, I am using both terms very loosely).

    Deborah Sampson became a hero of the American Revolution when she disguised herself as a man and joined the Patriot forces. She was the only woman to earn a full military pension for participation in the Revolutionary army.

    Sampson was a descendent of Pilgrims. But her parents had financial problems to the point where her mother was forced to place her children into different households.  Deborah was five years old at the time. Five years later, when she was 10 years old, she was bound out as an indentured servant to Deacon Benjamin Thomas, a farmer in Middleborough with a large family.

    Black people were not the only ones who were slaves during the times of the American Revolution. But, unlike Black slaves, at the age of 18, her indentured servitude was completed and she was free. Sampson was self-educated, so she supported herself by becoming a teacher during the summer and a weaver during the winter.

    In 1782, Sampson disguised herself as a man and named herself Robert Shurtleff, and joined the Fourth Massachusetts Regiment. At West Point, New York, she was assigned to Captain George Webb’s Company of Light Infantry. She was given the dangerous task of scouting neutral territory to assess British buildup of men and material in Manhattan, which General George Washington contemplated attacking.

    In June of 1782, Sampson and two sergeants led about 30 infantrymen on an expedition that ended with a confrontation — often one-on-one — with Tories. She led a raid on a Tory home that resulted in the capture of 15 men. At the siege of Yorktown, she dug trenches, helped storm a British redoubt, and endured canon fire.

    She was ultimately discovered a year and a half into her service when she became ill, was sent to a hospital, and became unconscious. She received an honorable discharge on April 7, 1785.

    Black Minorities in Major League Baseball

    Shortly after the Civil War, the first public baseball game between two Black teams was played. Over the next 20 years, over 200 Black baseball teams would be formed around the country. While some Black athletes were allowed to play on traditionally white teams, especially in the North and Midwest, due to Jim Crow laws and racism they were prevented from making significant inroads. But in 1890, the National Association of Black Baseball Players rejected Black athletes from playing baseball on professional teams.

    In order to maintain a “gentleman’s agreement,” all Black baseball players were barred from all major league teams for the next 50 years in order to prevent “hurt feelings” and “injuries.”

    But all-Black teams were allowed to play against other all-Black teams. Sometimes all-Black teams would play against all-white teams in exhibition games.

    In 1920, the first black major baseball league was created. This was around the time of the great migration of Black people from the South to the North.

    But in 1946, when Jackie Robinson was signed to the Brooklyn Dodgers, a black man began playing on a white team.

    Robinson was the first African American to play a major league game on April 15, 1947. Jackie Robinson loved the sport of baseball. He had two major goals. One was to make the major leagues, and the second was to make a way for more African Americans to join the league. There were racist slurs from both the other players as well as fans in the stands. But Jackie Robinson was one of the best American Baseball Players in the history of Baseball.

    Black baseball fans followed their favorite players to the Major Leagues and slowly the Negro League teams disbanded. The last four teams remaining finally broke up the League in 1960.

    Women in Major League Baseball

    Between 1943 to 1954, the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League was formed. Men were fighting in World War II, so a lot of women took over jobs that were traditionally held by men. This included professional sports.

    Over 600 women played in the league and eventually consisted of 10 teams.

    Given the time, there were rules where women were supposed to behave that were not the same for men.

    “During spring training, the girls were required to attend Helena Rubinstein’s evening charm school classes. The proper etiquette for every situation was taught, and every aspect of personal hygiene, mannerisms, and dress code was presented to all the players.

    In an effort to make each player as physically attractive as possible, each received a beauty kit and instructions on how to use it. As a part of the league’s ‘Rules of Conduct’, the ‘girls’ were not permitted to have short hair, they could not smoke or drink in public places, they were not allowed to wear pants, and they were required to wear lipstick at all times.”

    Transgender Athletes and the History of Sports

    The issue of transgender athletes in sports has arisen in parallel to the increase in women’s sports. The main issue is that men who have already gone through puberty outperform women due to their masculine body structure and higher testosterone levels.

    In the 1940s, in order for a woman to compete in woman’s sports, the sports player had to present a ‘femininity certificate’ from their physician. In the 1960s, a visual genital inspection was used to confirm gender. This was followed by chromosomal analysis to ensure that all athletes had an XX or XY chromosomal makeup. These tests were all designed to ensure that all athletes competed only in their birth gender.

    The main issue now is testosterone levels.

    Renee Richards and Tennis

    Renee Richards, in 1977, was forbidden from playing professional tennis because she had undergone gender reassignment therapy. Richards sued, and new guidelines were created in 2003. First, the athlete must have undergone sex reassignment surgery, including changes in the external genitalia. Second, the athlete must show that, legally, their new sex was recognized. Third, the athlete must have undergone hormone therapy for at least two years.

    In 2004, the International Olympic Committee allowed transgender athletes to participate in the Olympic Games.

    In 2015, the IOC modified these guidelines in recognition that legal recognition of gender could be difficult in countries where gender transition is not legal. They also eliminated the requirement for surgery for healthy individuals due to claims of human rights violations.

    The new guidelines require only that female transgender athletes declare their gender and not change that assertion for four years, and demonstrate a testosterone level of less than 10 nanomoles/liter for at least one year prior to competition and throughout the period of eligibility. Athletes who transitioned from female to male were allowed to compete without restriction.

    Testosterone and Transitioning From Male to Female and Sports

    Athletes who transition to female after puberty will have a greater muscle to fat ratio compared to genetically-female athletes. Helen Donohoe, from the United Kingdom Women’s Sports Foundation, explains that by having these beliefs, one is also assuming that “anyone exposed to testosterone before puberty will be a good athlete, all males are better athletes than all females, [and] males will change gender in order to reap the benefits of women’s sport that they are unable to achieve in men’s sport.”

    Lia Thomas and Women’s Swimming

    Lia Thomas is a student at the University of Pennsylvania. Between 2015 and 2019, Lia Thomas competed as a man in male swimming. In different Ivy League competitions, she got between 2nd place and 7th place in male competitions.

    In 2020, there was COVID-19, so no sports competitions. It was during this year that Lia Thomas said she transitioned to a female.

    In 2021, Lia Thomas competed as a woman. She broke several U Penn records, with one teammate finishing in second place in the 1,650-meter freestyle some 38 seconds behind her. In December 2021, the USA Swim official Cynthia Millen resigned after 30 years and stressed that she hoped others in the sport will agree that Thomas has an unfair advantage over female competitors. “There was nothing fair about the NCAA rules allowing Thomas to swim on the Ivy League women’s team.”

    From the University of Pennsylvania’s historian, Jonathan Zimmerman, “we need to be able to talk about trans athletes without shouting each other down and labeling each other transphobes.”

    At the current time, legally transwomen are allowed to compete in professional woman’s sports, including the Olympics. Different people have different views on it.

    Transgender Women and Non-Professional Sports

    When talking about non-professional sports, transwomen is usually a non-issue. This is due to two main factors. One, a lot of non-professional sports are mixed gender to begin with. Second, the sports are played for fun, so no money or college scholarships, or, “world record breaking” is involved.  It is just a bunch of people getting together having to good time.

    Transgender Individuals and Bathrooms

    My personal view on this situation is that in places that are above a certain size that there should be three bathrooms: a Women’s bathroom, a Men’s bathroom, and a single-user handicapped, gender-neutral bathroom. All new construction should have this requirement.

    This would help transgender people, handicapped people, elderly people, and people with small children.

    It is a win-win for everybody.

    Transgender Individuals and Dressing Rooms

    I feel the same way about dressing rooms and bathrooms. There should be three categories: Men’s changing rooms, Women’s changing rooms, and single-user handicapped, non-gendered dressing rooms.

    As with the bathrooms, it would help handicapped people, elderly people, transgender people, and people with small children.

    What is the solution?

    I will be honest: I do not know. This is not the exact same thing as having Black-only baseball teams or not allowing a woman to enlist in the military.

    If you focus on the rights of transgender women, it affects the rights of women who were born female. If you focus on the rights of women who were born female, it affects the rights of transgender people.

    In terms of bathrooms and dressing rooms, everybody has to have some place that is respectable to use and change in. In today’s society, a lot of large department stores and shopping malls have men’s bathrooms, woman’s bathrooms, and non-gendered single-user bathrooms. So everybody has a choice.

    In some places, it is the same with changing rooms.  There are men’s, women’s, and single-user non-gendered changing rooms.

    It is when a place does not have the single user non-gendered option available that there becomes a problem. Because somebody is going to feel hurt. It may be the transgender woman or it may be the person who was born a woman, but if there is no single user non-gendered option available, somebody is to be hurt.

    And whose feelings do we protect? You can’t. It is not possible.

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