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Fallon Fox: The Toughest Woman in Sports
December 28, 2013 1:53 PM   Subscribe


 
Interesting. I've been in other threads agreeing with Rousey's position that someone who transitions as an adult has an advantage given they will still have certain physical characteristics which are set during puberty and young adulthood like aspects of bone structure. But the argument that because someone who transitions has neither testicles nor ovaries they will suffer from the lack of testosterone is an interesting one and one I hadn't considered. So now I'm not sure of my previous position.

Seems like it would be an easy thing to study, though.
posted by Justinian at 2:07 PM on December 28, 2013


I think we can agree that gender is a social construct. But sex isn't.

Growing up male, having male hormones build denser bones and muscle mass, these things are physical truths that put transwoman athletes at an advantage over ciswomen.

You can be a transwoman and take anti-angrogens and drop your testosterone levels to the levels of a ciswoman, but the muscle that was already built and the metabolism that comes with that are still there. The bone density that was already built and it's ability to carry more muscle is still there.

I don't know how or if we can solve this fundamental fairness issue with current technology. One day, I hope, some form of gene therapy will be able to actually swap X chromosomes for Ys of vice versa and truly transform sex physiologically. It's clear some people are born into bodies that don't match their gender, and science should definitely pursue a path to being able to truly change sex.

We can't do that today, and so as much as we are slowly working toward a world where gender is based on self-identity, and as much as there are currently progressive circles in which transpeople can be accepted and not have the horrible things shouted at them that Fallon Fox has to endure in the ring, we still live in a world where physical realities limit some aspects of transitioning.

It's complicated, and to me it's tragic that we cannot completely physically transform sex, but at the same time, it's a fact of reality. I have to say that today, I don't think it's fair for transwomen to be compete with ciswomen in most feats of physical prowess.
posted by MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch at 2:09 PM on December 28, 2013 [8 favorites]


MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch: "You can be a transwoman and take anti-angrogens and drop your testosterone levels to the levels of a ciswoman, but the muscle that was already built and the metabolism that comes with that are still there. The bone density that was already built and it's ability to carry more muscle is still there."

This is really incredibly false. I'm googling to find the relevant info now.

Also, sex is hells of a social construct.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 2:12 PM on December 28, 2013 [21 favorites]


Don't be ridiculous. It's not like people are transitioning just so they can win MMA titles.
posted by dilaudid at 2:16 PM on December 28, 2013 [15 favorites]


Since transsexual women have under gone the medical change they no longer have testosterone production from the testes, additionally they do not have testosterone from the ovaries. Transsexual women have only one source of testosterone which comes from the adrenal glands, whereas cisgender females (females whose self-perception of their gender is the same as their assigned sex) have testosterone production from the ovaries and adrenal glands. In fact studies consistently show that cisgender females have higher testosterone levels than transsexual females.

What does this mean? After transgender individuals have undergone the medically accepted two years of hormonal replacement therapy it takes to change sexes, it is HARDER for transsexual women to attain and maintain the same muscle mass as their cisgender counterparts.
This isn't the article I was thinking of but it'll do for now. I'll come back with more if I can find it. The tl;dr of it is that unless you've actually studied the effects of transition your assumptions about it are 99% likely to be wrong, and wrong in a way that supports and reinforces the structural oppression of trans people.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 2:21 PM on December 28, 2013 [53 favorites]


Previously

(Also, I hope this thread is respectful because transphobia is a horrible look on the human race.)
posted by Kitteh at 2:21 PM on December 28, 2013 [4 favorites]


There are no second acts in American lives ...but there are dramatic 3rd act reveals and reboots and reimaginations and and some prequels and fanfic sequels with tie-in extended universe books.
posted by The Whelk at 2:22 PM on December 28, 2013 [10 favorites]


Sex is determined by chromosomes. Gender is a social construct. You can't change your biological sex. Not yet. Again, I think we should strive for a world where it's possible, but to say it is possible today is delusional. If a transman or transwoman stops taking supplemental hormones, aspects of their physiological transition begin to become undone.

And bodies don't completely change from their previous state due to hormone therapy.

I understand the radical progressive impulse to want these things to be possible. I want these things to be possible. But physical reality is physical reality, no matter what we want it to be.

Until it is physically possible to truly transform sex, down to the chromosomes, down to growing a real uterus and ovaries or penis and testes that are indistinguishable from those that cis people are born with, there will be some aspects of transitioning from one gender to another that leave us with dilemmas.

As we move forward, these dilemmas will be smaller and less significant, but to pretend they aren't there today, or at any stage before indistinguishable physiological transition is possible: that is lying to ourselves. These dilemmas need to be acknowledged and addressed, honestly and with compassion. Pretending they aren't there is detrimental.
posted by MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch at 2:23 PM on December 28, 2013 [21 favorites]


And I'm not saying people are transitioning to win MMA titles. Don't be ridiculous.
posted by MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch at 2:25 PM on December 28, 2013 [5 favorites]


Yo, MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch, we have done the HAHA TRANS PEOPLE YOU ARE WHAT I SAY YOU ARE thing a lot of times before, you might want to dial it back a bit and listen to the nice trans woman telling you what's what.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 2:26 PM on December 28, 2013 [30 favorites]


transathletes.org, btw.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 2:26 PM on December 28, 2013


[Preemptive warning, I will be standing over this thread with an axe. We are not going to get into a debate about what "real" sex or gender is, proper terminology, or similar. Also, just a reminder, use the pronouns that the people referred to prefer. Anything else is highly likely to be deleted. ]
posted by restless_nomad at 2:33 PM on December 28, 2013 [58 favorites]


Deep breath everyone. Let's not wreck this thing before it even gets started.

Maybe we just need to get used to the idea that when we split sporting competitions into different classes, those divisions are arbitrary.

We think segregating male and female in sport is natural, but we could easily imagine a world where division was done through measured muscle mass, testosterone levels and the like. Saying trans women get an unfair advantage over cis women and thus should be excluded ignores this possibility.

Perhaps we can rearrange sporting competition such that we compete against those closest to us physically and not those that share sexual characteristics with us.

Please excuse any terminological issues in my post, any I have made are unintentional and due to typing this on my phone.
posted by knapah at 2:36 PM on December 28, 2013 [5 favorites]


Not gonna touch the gender bomb. Just want to point out that whether or not you agree that Fox should be allowed to compete, hopefully we can all take heart in the UFC's decision that you can't be calling her a "lying, sick, sociopathic, disgusting freak" and stay on their roster.
posted by kafziel at 2:37 PM on December 28, 2013 [23 favorites]


I'm sorry, but I'm actually making a subtle point here, and you don't get to treat me like I'm some kind of bigot for it. I'm not laughing at anybody. I condemned the way Fallon Fox is yelled at in the ring. And I've repeatedly said that I support the goal of making true physiological transition possible.

But there are plenty of other complicated issues that come up here, even if there are preliminary studies showing that someone who's done as much physiological transitioning as is currently possible has physical prowess on par with cisgendered people of the same gender.

Sample sizes can't be particularly large in those studies at this point. Even if the studies turn out to hold up in larger samples over time, we're left with questions: How does one prove that one has transitioned sufficiently to be a fair competitor? How does one prove that one's transition happened long enough ago that they don't currently retain physiological advantages held over from when their sex was different? For transmen, do they get to, unlike cismen, decide what their testosterone levels are artificially? Or do cismen who compete against transmen get to artificially regulate their own testosterone without being sanctioned for doping?

This is complicated. I understand that social justice oriented radicals don't like things that are complicated, but this just is complicated.
posted by MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch at 2:37 PM on December 28, 2013 [10 favorites]


Also, if you do want to have that fight, just go read the last Fallon Fox thread and pretend that's happening again. Because it just will.
posted by kafziel at 2:38 PM on December 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Not all cis men can beat all cis women in physical tests, so it seems a little weird to leap to the conclusion that transwomen will automatically always be better (stronger, faster, whatever) in sports against cis women.

And at this point in history, I really don't think we have a large enough data set to declare absolutely that "it's [un]fair for transwomen to be compete with ciswomen in most feats of physical prowess" and I don't see why we have to go there right off the bat.
posted by rtha at 2:39 PM on December 28, 2013 [4 favorites]


We think segregating male and female in sport is natural, but we could easily imagine a world where division was done through measured muscle mass, testosterone levels and the like. Saying trans women get an unfair advantage over cis women and thus should be excluded ignores this possibility.

Perhaps we can rearrange sporting competition such that we compete against those closest to us physically and not those that share sexual characteristics with us.


I like this idea very much. It'd be a hard sell on the current sports world, which is patriarchal and heteronormative as fuck. But it is absolutely the logical thing to do.

It makes total sense, for instance, for elite women cyclists to be allowed to compete in a men's division that's one step down from elite. Divisions should be about people's finish times, not gender. Mind you, in a racing or lifting or throwing sport, it's easier to find empirical points of comparison that it is in a one-on-one competition sport.
posted by MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch at 2:40 PM on December 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


It's kind of weird that you apparently want to talk about Fox's reproductive capabilities in a thread about her martial arts capabilities.
posted by LogicalDash at 2:42 PM on December 28, 2013 [12 favorites]


We have a few transwomen in my sport. Interestingly, the biggest objections to the one who is most successful is that she competed at a high level for a long time as a male. The others I know came later to the sport, and as women, and compete in the over-40 age group.

All of them have more estrogen than I do, as I'm post-menopausal.
posted by Peach at 2:43 PM on December 28, 2013


This is complicated. I understand that social justice oriented radicals don't like things that are complicated, but this just is complicated.

this is a shitty, fighty thing to say.
posted by nadawi at 2:43 PM on December 28, 2013 [45 favorites]


Also, there are many many many categories in which people can compete, some of which are gender-related. I have competed in gender-restricted events, age-restricted events, rating-restricted events, and events with no restrictions, and I've won events in each and every one of those categories.
posted by Peach at 2:47 PM on December 28, 2013


[MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch, you do not get to stomp into a thread and declare everyone else an [x] who is going to behave like [y]. Participate with the people who are actually here. Thank you. ]
posted by restless_nomad at 2:49 PM on December 28, 2013 [5 favorites]


Regardless of the less than perfect framing--"no one knew she'd once been a man"--I am super excited to see yet more positive coverage of trans women kicking arse, literally in this case, in fields that are not only cis-dominated but in which gender separation is really policed.

All the hurrahs for Fallon! :)
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 2:53 PM on December 28, 2013 [10 favorites]


We are not going to get into a debate about what "real" sex or gender is, proper terminology, or similar.

The sex-as-biology vs gender-as-construct dichotomy makes a lot of sense to me, seems potentially useful to the discussion, and it doesn't seem to imply trans people should be abused or considered less than human. Why is this way of looking at things a problem, and what's the better set of concepts to fit to the issue at hand?

If this is ground that's covered well elsewhere, please link.
posted by namespan at 2:53 PM on December 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'm stunned by Fox's bravery -- not only in entering these assorted lion's dens, but also in subjecting herself to a public conversation in which passersby palpate and dissect her body in order to determine whether they find it permissible.
posted by thesmallmachine at 2:53 PM on December 28, 2013 [9 favorites]


You know what? I'm glad to know of this most recent article on Fox. The first FPP posted on her was fleshed out and attracted the very best and very worst of Metafilter (the bigotry, the actual transpeople and science-familiar people to answer and rebut, etc.). I have a hard time understanding how we're not going to just end up jumping down the same rabbit holes with this one in the comments--we've already summed up everything said--helpful and not--in the first FPP just in the first hour. I'm reading the article and skipping the comments in the blue as flagged as "double."
posted by blue suede stockings at 2:58 PM on December 28, 2013


I think when you come into something contentious you can't complain to much about a fight if you fail to cite. Are there enough trans competitors to have any idea about whether there are advantages to being trans? I'm guessing pelvic shape is different, but I have no idea if that's an advantage.
posted by BrotherCaine at 3:00 PM on December 28, 2013


restless_nomad--I very strongly feel meanwhilebackattheranch is getting unfairly singled for what might be an unpopular point of view on this board but it is a point of view ( legitimate or illegitimate) that furthers discussion with out belittling any person or group.
posted by rmhsinc at 3:05 PM on December 28, 2013 [10 favorites]


In MMA, I bet wide hips are actually a disadvantage, assuming an opponent who's practiced against cismen his entire career can adapt technique.

Passing someones guard when your hips to waist ratio is greater seems like it would be way more difficult. Way more gripping surface available.

Can anyone think of advantages to wider hips in this context? Maybe in imposing guard on someone you get better leverage?

Interesting.
posted by MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch at 3:05 PM on December 28, 2013


As long as Antonio "Bigfoot" Silva's acromegalia is noncontroversial in MMA, it should be fair to fight with any rare cocktail of hormones and bone density one happens to have at the time.

He has abnormally large hands and feet, an impressive jaw, and is allowed to fight even if he has to artificially boost his testosterone levels.
posted by Doroteo Arango II at 3:07 PM on December 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yeah, honestly I think what edge cases like this reveal is that sorting athletes by sex or gender is sloppy as fuck. Which sucks, because at this point we've got the (medical and statistical) technology to do things right.

Here's what we oughta do. Let's train up a statistical model that will predict the outcomes of matches based on a dozen or so biometric variables: let's say height, weight, some measures of muscle and bone density, maybe hormone levels if the athletes are willing to submit to regular testing, plus whatever else proves to have good predictive value.

Now let's allow anybody challenge anybody, with no restrictions whatsoever. (Maybe we'll stipulate that you can freely refuse a challenge if the model predicts you'll lose by a predetermined margin — that prevents burly fighters from just doing straight-up RPG-style grinding, racking up dozens of wins against much punier competitors.) You earn points for surprising the model: maybe winning when the model gave you a 90% chance is worth 10 points, and winning when the model gave you a 10% chance is worth 90. Your standing in the division is your points total divided by the number of fights you've been in. The champion in a division like this will be a fighter who consistently performs better than their physical type would suggest.

(An interesting side effect of this sort of competition: there would be a niche for athletes who nerf themselves physically on purpose — keep their T levels and muscle mass very low, ideally take estrogen to avoid bone loss — and then adopt fighting styles that rely on agility more than power. I would think that was pretty awesome, actually, but I suspect many MMA fans would disagree.)
posted by Now there are two. There are two _______. at 3:12 PM on December 28, 2013 [8 favorites]


OK, so if they get to come at me repeatedly for that comment, and I don't get to respond without being erased, that is indeed messed up.

I'm not pointing out "just so stories about biology". I'm pointing out biology. And I'm pointing it out in a nuanced way that is ultimately very pro-trans.

As for the 2% issue. I said before, and got deleted, that what I'm talking about is narcissism of small differences. I say a bunch of stuff that includes sensitivity to the chronic mistreatment of transpeople, the patriarchal nature of sports. I agree with someone who says gender based segregation in sports should be rethought.

But I also think that technology has not yet been achieved to truly physiologically change sex. And I'm pretty sure medical consensus is on my side. And for that, I got accused of transphobia.

I think it's entirely fair for me to make a general quip about radicalism being inflexible, directed ad others on the thread when someone else made a general remark about transphobia clearly directed at me.
posted by MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch at 3:12 PM on December 28, 2013 [10 favorites]


As long as Antonio "Bigfoot" Silva's acromegalia is noncontroversial in MMA

That's the thing, historically, what's "fair" in sports is what you're born with and what you can achieve based on genetics. I think we should strive for a different, better world and a better definition of fairness, but that in this context, there are a lot of unknowns about that.
posted by MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch at 3:14 PM on December 28, 2013


In MMA, I bet wide hips are actually a disadvantage, assuming an opponent who's practiced against cismen his entire career can adapt technique.

Fortunately, we don't have to assume in this case, since the article says that Fox didn't discover MMA until after she'd transitioned.

Also, a fighter who can't adapt techniques they've learned to new types of opponents - who may sometimes be taller or wider or faster or skinnier - isn't going to last very long no matter what.

Also, also, you may have seen in the article that she gets the crap kicked out of her in the first round by a cis female opponent.
posted by rtha at 3:14 PM on December 28, 2013 [8 favorites]


She is beautiful, brave, and strong, and that first photo in the article makes her look so fierce and amazing. I wish I had both her emotional and physical strength.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 3:16 PM on December 28, 2013 [4 favorites]


She is beautiful, brave, and strong, and that first photo in the article makes her look so fierce and amazing. I wish I had both her emotional and physical strength.

Absolutely. And I wish I'd said something to that effect before launching into talking about meta issues about the situation. It takes a lot of guts just to transition, and a lot more to enter into an ordinarily super cis, heteronormative and violent world and take all the shit she's taking.
posted by MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch at 3:19 PM on December 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


I might be alone in this, but I've never understood the need for "men's" and "women's" sports in the first place. So what if men tend to dominate some events? There would still be women who could compete at an equal level and overtake plenty of men. We don't freak out because people who were born with various genes, which may or may not correlate with other physical characteristics like skin color or facial attributes, dominate a given physical competitive activity. Why do sex and gender have to play such a pivotal role in who gets to play sportsball?

I don't really care about sports, so it's possible I just "don't get it" but if women and men can both be in the infantry, I feel like this whole separation might just be outdated and something we're stuck in due to tradition.
posted by trackofalljades at 3:23 PM on December 28, 2013 [5 favorites]


So what if men tend to dominate some events?

Because playing sports but never, ever having a chance of winning is tedious at best. Having two separate top-tier categories means that more people (and different people) get to play at that level.
posted by restless_nomad at 3:29 PM on December 28, 2013 [12 favorites]


Does her MMA league test for performance-enhancing drugs? I would think that if it's "open", there should hardly be an issue with her competing against other women.
posted by indubitable at 3:31 PM on December 28, 2013


I might be alone in this, but I've never understood the need for "men's" and "women's" sports in the first place.

I follow road cycling. There is no overlap between the men and women. It just wouldn't be fair. I do believe that womens' and mens' events should have equal standing, prize money, etc. but it wouldn't be fair to make them compete against each other.
posted by klanawa at 3:32 PM on December 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


For those of us who don't follow MMA, this page has a highlight video of the flight with Evans-Smith; there are plenty more videos of Fallon Fox on youtube.

Personally I find it very, very strange how so many discussions of trans issues focus on some small potential benefit the trans person might be getting, as if people transition in order to game the system and as if there aren't (sadly) enormously more discriminations and costs to being trans in our society.

Not all cis men can beat all cis women in physical tests

I am a reasonably in-shape, reasonably large cis man. I am 100 percent confident that every female MMA fighter could kick my ass, probably blindfolded and with one arm behind their back. I'm sure it makes sense to have separate divisions by sex in most sports, but it's also worth remembering how far above the norm all elite athletes are.
posted by Dip Flash at 3:32 PM on December 28, 2013 [8 favorites]


Read about the fight between David Haye and Nikolay Valuev, and think for a bit about how getting worked up about the physical differences between Fallon Fox and her opponents is really a silly thing to waste mental cycles on.
posted by Space Coyote at 3:34 PM on December 28, 2013


I only care that there are men and women's sports to make sure that women get a fair and equal shot at all sports (and the attendant success/failure) while growing up, in school and university. Without some external support for women's sports it would be the mid 20th century all over. BTW--this is a very different issue from professional sports and some collegiate sports.
posted by rmhsinc at 3:34 PM on December 28, 2013


I follow road cycling. There is no overlap between the men and women. It just wouldn't be fair.

I'm a guy in my 20s. Were I able to follow a cycling pro's training regimen, it's a good bet that there would still be "no overlap" between my performance and theirs. Is that fair?
posted by indubitable at 3:34 PM on December 28, 2013


Dip Flash: "Personally I find it very, very strange how so many discussions of trans issues focus on some small potential benefit the trans person might be getting, as if people transition in order to game the system and as if there aren't (sadly) enormously more discriminations and costs to being trans in our society. "

It's very telling than the go-to first topic when it's trans women in anything is, "What kind of super special advantages do they have?" It's so at odds with reality it'd be funny if it wasn't also the root cause of so much of the oppression we face.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 3:35 PM on December 28, 2013 [27 favorites]


I might be alone in this, but I've never understood the need for "men's" and "women's" sports in the first place. So what if men tend to dominate some events? There would still be women who could compete at an equal level and overtake plenty of men. We don't freak out because people who were born with various genes, which may or may not correlate with other physical characteristics like skin color or facial attributes, dominate a given physical competitive activity. Why do sex and gender have to play such a pivotal role in who gets to play sportsball?

Because men don't just dominate "some" events, they dominate every event, by a wide margin. The purpose of a ciswoman-only category is to allow ciswomen to win, ever. There's a reason you don't see stories about transwoman in the women's leagues who are only middle-ranked - Fallon Fox is 5-0, having won every fight she's had in the first round.
posted by kafziel at 3:36 PM on December 28, 2013


I'd love to find the reference, but a former teacher of mine told our class about a mountain climber who had transitioned from male to female, and said that as a woman, she found mountain climbing significantly harder.
posted by filthy light thief at 3:36 PM on December 28, 2013


There would still be women who could compete at an equal level and overtake plenty of men.
Certainly at the dilettante level, but at the elite level, no, that's not really true (of course it may be true for certain specific sports, but I mean generally speaking). It's not uncommon for the woman's world record for a particular sport to be worse than the US boy's high school record for the same event.
posted by Flunkie at 3:38 PM on December 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


It's that strange thing about competitive sport, we want the best person to win but set limits on who they can compete against when we see it as *too* unfair. Setting up the right balance and categories is really hard.
posted by knapah at 3:39 PM on December 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


She is beautiful, brave, and strong, and that first photo in the article makes her look so fierce and amazing. I wish I had both her emotional and physical strength.

This is all true, and she deserves a world of praise for even attempting this knowing the public attention and sheer red-faced hate she's faced. MMA fans, while I count myself among them, are not exactly a tolerant bunch.

But here's the thing that gets lost among all this gender and sexuality discussion: she's not a good fighter. She's not anything remotely resembling a good fighter. She lost her last fight, badly, to another no-name journeyman who was the first opponent she had faced who was anything close to a professional. For all the people who want to talk about How This Matters, it really doesn't, because frankly she just doesn't and never will have the skills to rise above the freak-show circuit. This is not a slight against her as a woman, as a transperson, or as a human being, because most likely no one in this thread does either.
posted by Soultron at 3:41 PM on December 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


...to rise above the freak-show circuit. This is not a slight...

Careful who you call a freak. We're right here.
posted by Now there are two. There are two _______. at 3:44 PM on December 28, 2013 [19 favorites]


Fallon Fox is 5-0, having won every fight she's had in the first round.

Umm, this is just not true, and it doesn't take more than a glance at wiki to check it.
posted by Soultron at 3:44 PM on December 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yeah I apologize for the choice of language there. I meant freak-show as in "people fighting in a cage in the back of a bar" or "people fighting in a cage between events at Wild Bill's Midwest Rodeo." She is in no way a freak herself, but on the scale of the events she has competed in MMA is largely sold as "get drunk and watch fat guys hit each other" and not elite athletes at their physical peaks.
posted by Soultron at 3:47 PM on December 28, 2013 [7 favorites]


Maybe we just need to get used to the idea that when we split sporting competitions into different classes, those divisions are arbitrary.

Well, pretty much all classification decisions that we make are arbitrary, and there will always be edge cases and ambiguities. The problem is when we start believing that those categories are not arbitrary and try to force everyone into fit into one and only one part of the scheme.

I think it's curious that a sport that is supposed to be about fighting ability turns out to be about bigotry instead. (Not that this is exactly rare in the world of sports, now that I think about it, so maybe I shouldn't be surprised). I wonder if she'll find more acceptance as she builds a record of wins, or whether her wins will always be slighted for "advantage" while her defeats are a seen as "real."
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:54 PM on December 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


People who transition from male to female actually lose quite a bit of muscle and bone mass in the process. I'm not at all sure that whatever physical advantages a biological male has over a biological female would persist permanently after transition, or that if present they wouldn't be canceled out by the negative physical effects that come with transitioning.

Also, I'm not sure what changing the chromosomes would have to do with anything. If one's position is that the greater muscle and bone mass developed by biological males during puberty persists permanently throughout adulthood, I can't see how that would be affected by swapping out chromosomes. If the changes are already set, then presumably it doesn't make a difference whether the hormonal changes from a transition are coming from internal or external sources.
posted by Scientist at 3:54 PM on December 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm a guy in my 20s. Were I able to follow a cycling pro's training regimen, it's a good bet that there would still be "no overlap" between my performance and theirs. Is that fair?

Nope! It's not fair on a personal level and I'm sorry if this is something you really wanted. That said, you're not not an entire class of people who would be completely excluded from reasonable competition. I get the idea of "top league for everyone" and I understand the appeal but what that would really mean in practice would be "top world league" which would just be for men and "secondary league" which would be women and men who couldn't make it in the top league, making super high level women seem like inferior men instead of awesome women.

I get why having a specific "women only" category doesn't seem like an ideal solution, but at least it means that there's a top level place for women to compete and set records and stuff instead of being unable to participate in any meaningful way.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 3:58 PM on December 28, 2013 [4 favorites]


I'm a guy in my 20s. Were I able to follow a cycling pro's training regimen, it's a good bet that there would still be "no overlap" between my performance and theirs. Is that fair?

You're ultimately arguing that only the very finest male specimens should be able to compete with the chance of winning. If you think that's fair, you're welcome to your opinion.

It would be sad, though, if we were deprived of our Sugar Ray Leonards and Jeannie Longos. Not to mention the Paralympics, etc.
posted by klanawa at 3:59 PM on December 28, 2013


I follow road cycling. There is no overlap between the men and women. It just wouldn't be fair.

I was at a bike race recently and they had at least 3 divisions for both men and women: elite, A and B. The women's elite times seemed to be better than men's B times.

The point is that if any human can make the average times that competitors in a division make, why should their gender be relevant?
posted by MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch at 3:59 PM on December 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think it's worth noting that 'sex is absolute, gender is constructed' as a statement is extremely contentious for a lot of trans women because it's perhaps the most common basis on which trans-exterminationist radical 'feminists' try to claim trans women are still fundamentally men, are and always will be distinct from 'real' women and so on. Which isn't to play into the suggestion that trans radicals, or whatever cartoon villains of the month, are twisting reality to fit an ideology. The position that the commonly understood idea of sex as a chromosome-determined hard dividing line is more social than scientific is one there are damn good reasons to hold. But like many of the ways biological orthodoxy has interacted with systems of power and oppression, choosing to make a discussion about a trans woman the place where you proclaim your support for the traditional definition of sex carries significant baggage.
posted by emmtee at 4:04 PM on December 28, 2013 [13 favorites]


restless_nomad--I very strongly feel meanwhilebackattheranch is getting unfairly singled for what might be an unpopular point of view on this board but it is a point of view ( legitimate or illegitimate) that furthers discussion with out belittling any person or group.
posted by rmhsinc at 22:05 on December 28 [1 favorite +] [!]


And as a trans woman I feel belittled.
posted by Dysk at 4:08 PM on December 28, 2013 [17 favorites]


if any human can make the average times that competitors in a division make, why should their gender be relevant

And why shouldn't Contador be allowed to ride in the Special Olympics? It's not fair!

The divisions in cycling are transitional. The objective is that the best cyclists will ascend to the highest divisions. If the women competed against men, they would never reach Cat I. Maybe that's OK with you, but some women might have a problem with it.
posted by klanawa at 4:10 PM on December 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


The position that the commonly understood idea of sex as a chromosome-determined hard dividing line is more social than scientific is one there are damn good reasons to hold.

You know, I actually can completely understand that. The idea of hard dividing lines is not something I like in general. Maybe it's better to look at the physiology of sex as something that isn't automatically definitive. But even so, the physiology and it's consequences in various situations needs to be acknowledged to exist. It can exist, and it can be fluid at the same time, can't it?
posted by MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch at 4:11 PM on December 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch, are you under the impression that things that are social constructs don't exist? Because they totally do! That's what separates social constructs from fictions!

Of course there are physiological differences between humans, and some of them are loosely correlated with the not-always-at-all-as-neat as you'd tend to think chromosomes those humans have. Our need to privilege these differences as as fundamental and totally defining for a person as we do, our need to categorise this endlessly variable cluster of themselves infinitely variable traits into two (sometimes grudgingly three) categories, this is the social construct that is sex.
posted by Dysk at 4:16 PM on December 28, 2013 [8 favorites]


The point is that if any human can make the average times that competitors in a division make, why should their gender be relevant?

I'm not really following your point here? If it's that any woman who can qualify in a "men's division" should be allowed to compete in that division then I agree. But that's already true for a lot of sports. It's just that at the elite level it's virtually impossible for it to happen.
posted by Justinian at 4:22 PM on December 28, 2013


Yeah I apologize for the choice of language there. I meant freak-show as in "people fighting in a cage in the back of a bar" or "people fighting in a cage between events at Wild Bill's Midwest Rodeo." She is in no way a freak herself, but on the scale of the events she has competed in MMA is largely sold as "get drunk and watch fat guys hit each other" and not elite athletes at their physical peaks.

Yeah, fair. It wasn't a great choice of words, but I knew what you meant and I shouldn't have jumped on you for the way you put it.

Here's the thing. Even if she's a crappy fighter? Even if she's only getting attention because of her transition? This still matters. Maybe not to you — and it doesn't have to matter to you; you don't have to watch her fights, follow her career, cheer for her, bet on her, or pay her any attention at all. But it matters to me.

Usually the available roles for a trans woman in the public eye are "pathetic victim," "hilarious sassy freak sidekick," "relative of a minor celebrity," "political prop" or "corpse." Compared to all that, "stubborn but mediocre prizefighter" is actually a really awesome role.

What it comes down to, for me, is that any time she fights, she gets to be a protagonist in her own story. In every fight, even the ones she loses, she is visible to the world as someone who has goals unrelated to sex, "identity politics" (ugh) or makeup. In every fight, even the ones she loses, the viewers see her making choices which relate to those goals. In every fight, even the ones she loses, anyone watching has an opportunity to consider the situation from her point of view — if only to say "that's not the move I would have made."

It's not much. But it's actually a lot more than we get 99% of the time.
posted by Now there are two. There are two _______. at 4:25 PM on December 28, 2013 [39 favorites]


are you under the impression that things that are social constructs don't exist?

Absolutely not. Of course they exist. But broadly, I think things that are social constructs, when they create unfairness, should be questioned and challenged and upturned far more rigorously and often than things that are physical and physiological constructs that create unfairness.

I am absolutely not trying to belittle anyone here. Have you not seen my perspective evolve as the thread has progressed?

I think I just learned a few things about sex as a social construct. I still think it can be both a physical and social construct simultaneously. And that simultaneous situation, along with the confusion it creates, in a world where people want everything to be rigidly defined in very hetero/cisnormative ways, needs to be talked about in detail. Until the physical constructs of sex can be truly be transformed by medical science to create indistinguishable transitions, details still are relevant at times. Not many times, but this is one of those times.

And that's why still think that my earlier questions about the limits of contemporary medical science and the thresholds of fairness in terms of transitioned transitioning athletes were worth asking.

This is not the same as the bathroom problem, which is transparently about purely social constructs and fears of difference. We're talking about physical competition, not interaction in the same space.

I concede I don't really have the answer to the questions I asked above, but I don't think they shouldn't be asked.
posted by MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch at 4:28 PM on December 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


The thing is, those questions get asked in every single thread around here (and probably most other places) about trans athletes. We never get to kick off a thread about a trans athlete by discussing how they came to this particular sport, or how many championships/races/matches they've won or lost or why they've seen more success under Coach A than Coach B. Every single time, it starts with someone pointing out that it might not be fair for the athlete to be competing against the other athletes they're competing against. It gets old and it gets really noticeable.
posted by rtha at 4:34 PM on December 28, 2013 [16 favorites]


[Metadiscussion can go to MetaTalk if it has to. Come on, people, none of you are new here. ]
posted by restless_nomad at 4:34 PM on December 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


I might be alone in this, but I've never understood the need for "men's" and "women's" sports in the first place. So what if men tend to dominate some events? There would still be women who could compete at an equal level and overtake plenty of men. We don't freak out because people who were born with various genes, which may or may not correlate with other physical characteristics like skin color or facial attributes, dominate a given physical competitive activity. Why do sex and gender have to play such a pivotal role in who gets to play sportsball?

I don't really care about sports, so it's possible I just "don't get it" but if women and men can both be in the infantry, I feel like this whole separation might just be outdated and something we're stuck in due to tradition.


I'm staying the hell out of the larger debate here but I think this is worth addressing. MMA, like all combat sports, is segregated not only by gender but by weight class as well, and for much the same reasons: 1) the physical safety of the fighters, and 2) creating a spectacle that will draw in fans (and convince them to part with their money). Without weight classes, MMA fans would be deprived of ever seeing great fighters like BJ Penn, Jose Aldo, and Georges St Pierre in action, because they'd never get a chance to do their thing against skilled fighters who outweigh them by 80-100 pounds. And the same thing applies to female fighters. Current 135lb champ Ronda Rousey has genuine, elite-level grappling - in terms of technical skill, probably better than 90% of the men - but if MMA wasn't divided by weight and gender we would never get a chance to see it.
posted by Broseph at 4:36 PM on December 28, 2013 [4 favorites]


Differences
The differences between men and women in sport depend on a great deal more than current hormone levels and muscle mass. For example, men have a higher ratio of type II to type I muscle fibres, which is associated with improved speed and explosive power, and a heart that is larger relative to body size. It’s not clear to what extent either of these would change after sex-reassignment surgery, or what implications that would have for performance in this case. Because of the bone structure that is developed while still growing, men also have a greater lung capacity and a narrower pelvis, giving a biomechanical advantage – factors which are highly unlikely to be reversed by hormone treatment.
Statistics
What we can say from this admittedly small sample of data is that Ms. Fox appears to be winning decisively at an age that is significantly older than the average female competitor in or near her weight division. At least as far as the age at which she is successful in competition, Ms. Fox DOES appear to be significantly different than a sample of mixed martial arts fighters who were born female.
posted by crayz at 4:44 PM on December 28, 2013


Every single time, it starts with someone pointing out that it might not be fair for the athlete to be competing against the other athletes they're competing against.

That's because that issue is totally unresolved, interesting, relevant and challenging. The issue of doing physiological transition for people under 18 is likely to elicit it's own repetitive sets of challenges for the same reason.

I don't imagine any other trans related issue or story on this site would get stuck in the same spaces. It seems pretty obvious that things like workplace discrimination, adoption, and dozens of other ways in which right wing America would like to mistreat the trans community are not controversial to this site's very forward thinking user base.
posted by MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch at 4:44 PM on December 28, 2013 [5 favorites]


Elite athletes in most fields are already freaks: the biology needed to be a successful Olympian runner or swimmer means having the ideal muscle construction plus the ideal frame plus the ideal lung capacity and so forth, combined with an astonishing degree of commitment and comparatively vast resources. It's like rolling a natural d20 seven times in a row. The laws of statistics mean that the vast majority of people are excluded by birth from ever being able to compete at anything like an elite level. I think we're being a bit precious if we say it's unfair to let transwomen compete: sport is already unfair; it is unfair by its very nature, and we need to acknowledge that.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:50 PM on December 28, 2013 [17 favorites]


@Broseph: There's actually an argument that the lower weight classes in boxing/MMA/combat sports in general are if anything more competitive, because those guys have fewer opportunities in other sports. A guy who is 200+ lbs and an elite athlete can be successful at any number of sports, most of which pay significantly better and are less inherently dangerous than fighting. Demetrius Johnson might be the best athlete in the UFC, but he's 5'3 and fights at 125 lbs. He simply couldn't be competitive in most traditional, non-weight-limited sports.

@Now there are two ______ : I get what you're saying. I'm a big supporter of women's MMA in general, and it has come a long, long way over the last two or three years. The idea that a women's world championship would be fought on a major pay-per-view UFC card (as it is tonight!) was unthinkable just a short time ago. I support Fallon Fox, I've watched shitty webstreams of events simply because she was on them and I wanted to track her career, but the outrage among certain segments of MMA fans against her far outweighs the actual impact of her career on fighting at large.

(Of course, her career has a huge impact on trans people as a community, as you reminded me, and thanks for that.)
posted by Soultron at 4:52 PM on December 28, 2013


An even playing field is an illusion in almost all sports to begin with. "Red Nails, Black Skates" has some good readings on the topic (focused on gender particularly) and David Epstein's recent book "The Sports Gene" (which I've only read excerpts from) covers the biological side of what makes certain people very good at certain sports. Some people's genes will help them become very good swimmers, or very good gymnasts, or very good distance runners.

I am not well-researched on the topic but I doubt that trans women have much of an advantage over cis women, beyond what is in the normal range of human variation. The fact that she's not the top female MMA fighter would seem to prove that just by itself-- if she had such an advantage over other women, wouldn't she be #1?

[on preview: Joe in Australia is saying much of what I wanted to say]
posted by matcha action at 4:53 PM on December 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


That's because that issue is totally unresolved, interesting, relevant and challenging.

This statement sits wrong with me. Having spent a while staring at the screen hoping someone would come along and say this more eloquently, I'll just say that while it may be "interesting" to you, for some of us this is an experience and a conversation which is getting pretty damn old. Especially for those of us who are athletes ourselves. (Ask me sometime, or maybe don't, about trying to be a trans triathlete, even with USA Triathlon's relatively permissive policies.)
posted by dorque at 4:54 PM on December 28, 2013 [10 favorites]


it is unfair by its very nature, and we need to acknowledge that.

Taking to its logical extent that is an argument for not having men's and women's divisions at all, and we aren't willing to do that.
posted by Justinian at 4:57 PM on December 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think I just learned a few things about sex as a social construct. I still think it can be both a physical and social construct simultaneously.

Yes! Right!

To elaborate a bit: there are a fuckton of real physical properties people have. For instance, we all have real sex chromosomes — often two per cell, sometimes more or fewer, and usually it's the same set of chromosomes in all cells but sometimes it varies. We've all got homeostatic processes that regulate our hormone levels. We've all got a BMI and a chest size and a waist size and a facial profile. We've all got something to piss out of. Many of us have gonads.

If you take all those possibilities together you've got a huge space of logical possibilities. Most of those possibilities have been instantiated in the real world, though some are rarer than others.

But as soon as you start drawing regions within that space, and defining categories based on those regions, you're constructing something that isn't "naturally" there. (Which is okay! Categorization is useful! The point is just that we need to be careful to choose the right category system for the job.) Meaning that any system of "sex" categories we adopt are socially constructed categories defined over a range of real, physical properties.

So, yeah, it's true, if Fallon Fox was 100% XY before than she's 100% XY now. But the assumption that "XY versus non-XY" is the only distinction that matters is definitely socially constructed. We could make a lot of other distinctions in the same space. Some of those distinctions could be more useful if the goal is "setting up a fair competition."
posted by Now there are two. There are two _______. at 4:57 PM on December 28, 2013 [32 favorites]


Discrete elements are definitely actually testable, such as a given hormonal state generally causing the development of greater bone density, muscle mass etc. But it's clearly a game of probabilities and likelihoods with a huge number of variables as to whether these conditions and results actually occur in a given individual. And that's kind of my point: not only is it unfair to a given trans woman to assume she has this theoretical grab bag of developmental advantages without actually testing for it (bearing in mind that we effectively only test for 'abnormal' bone density, muscle mass and so on in cis competitors by letting them compete), but it plays into this transmisogynistic (and transphobic in general, although I rarely see sex essentialism levelled at trans men) and ultimately unproven notion of trans women being permanently more like cis men and less like cis women under the surface.

I suspect what we typically call intersex conditions (and which I might recontextualise as normal configurations that our understanding of sex needs to evolve to encompass as such) are pretty severely under-detected and under-reported, since unless they're visible or actually harmful, we simply don't routinely test for them. Does every single person actually know that their bone mineral density or muscle mass are above or below the line that's supposedly normal for their sex? Regular endocrine tests? Lots of people don't even know definitively whether they're XX or XY or XXY or any of the other viable configurations. We're just taught to take it on faith because we have a penis, or ovaries, or facial hair or breasts.
posted by emmtee at 5:07 PM on December 28, 2013 [9 favorites]


I think trans men should absolutely be allowed to compete in any men's division of any sport. Does anybody disagree? I doubt it, except possibly some jerkish bigots who oppose the very existence of transfolk and will soon be consigned to the dustbin of history.
posted by Justinian at 5:11 PM on December 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


But the assumption that "XY versus non-XY" is the only distinction that matters is definitely socially constructed. We could make a lot of other distinctions in the same space. Some of those distinctions could be more useful if the goal is "setting up a fair competition."

Yes, all of reality is socially constructed. Electrons are socially constructed. However I believe this thread is about a transwoman competing in a sport which is divided along that exact socially constructed line. So, the context of the sport in which she is competing makes the discussion over whether the fact that she spent much of her life on the other side of that line relevant. Otherwise why aren't all humans allowed to fight in the women's MMA?
posted by crayz at 5:24 PM on December 28, 2013


However I believe this thread is about a transwoman competing in a sport which is divided along that exact socially constructed line. So, the context of the sport in which she is competing makes the discussion over whether the fact that she began on the other side of that line relevant. Otherwise why aren't all humans allowed to fight in the women's MMA?

The point is that "male" and "female" are really poorly defined terms, especially considering the social weight we put on them. If chromosomes are the key criteria for making the decision, there are a not-insignificant number of people who would have no chance to compete at all, not being either XX or XY. If other criteria are going to be included, I'd like to know how someone would draw the line (using science as opposed to bigotry) to keep Fallon Fox on one side and all the other women on the other.
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:36 PM on December 28, 2013 [6 favorites]


It grinds my gears that transgender athletes have to "buy in" to the concept of binary transition and then transition fully before being taken seriously. The suggestion upthread that people should/could be given gene therapy was especially grating - if I am a boxer, I do not box with my genitals, nor my chromosomes, so as long as we're in the same weight class, it should not matter.

I am a transman and it infuriates me that people pay lip service to the idea of preferred gender (saying the right pronouns, saying someone "thinks of themselves as ___") while still upholding dimorphism as an absolute truth, because as soon as transpeople have to interact with the world with their real, natural bodies, the subtext of our interactions with cis people is "I'm willing to pretend with you that you're ___, but the BIOTRUTH is that you are ___."

Re: unfairness in sports, it seems to me that there's a lot of "what if" involving unfairness, but no one has given evidence that there is unfairness.
posted by pony707 at 5:42 PM on December 28, 2013 [14 favorites]


The point is that "male" and "female" are really poorly defined terms, especially considering the social weight we put on them. ... I'd like to know how someone would draw the line (using science as opposed to bigotry)

So please, go ahead. How would you draw the line?
posted by crayz at 5:44 PM on December 28, 2013


pony707: Do you think weight classes should be the sole class division in boxing?
posted by Justinian at 5:46 PM on December 28, 2013


Justinian wrote: that is an argument for not having men's and women's divisions at all, and we aren't willing to do that.

I acknowledge your point, but we don't have women's divisions because we're worried about fairness to individuals; we do it because we don't want to have yet another area where women are excluded. That problem doesn't arise when transwomen are allowed to enter women's divisions in sport, because by definition they're already part of the category "women". Yes, it's possible that transwomen will be over-represented amongst elite women athletes (although I don't know this for a fact) but that will hardly affect the overall fairness of elite sports: it's already as exclusive a set as it is possible to achieve.

I think that it's inevitable that transwomen will be allowed to compete at an elite sports level. Excluding them from elite competition altogether is inherently unfair, but forcing them to compete in men's divisions is outrageous and insulting. In fact, the ad-hoc sex/gender/whatever tests that are performed to "prove" that women are eligible are already outrageous and insulting. I don't think that we should tolerate this ritualised humiliation: unless and until we have a gender-neutral society, the qualification for entry into a women's division should match the qualification for being recognised as a woman generally.
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:46 PM on December 28, 2013 [5 favorites]


In fact, the ad-hoc sex/gender/whatever tests that are performed to "prove" that women are eligible are already outrageous and insulting.

Should a transwoman pre-transition be allowed to compete in women's sports? What if she doesn't want to ever undergo a medical transition?
posted by crayz at 5:50 PM on December 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


So please, go ahead. How would you draw the line?

This is an issue that is tangled over by the IOC and many other sports organizations, various endocrinologists, internists, biologists, psychologists, and so on. I understand the desire for there to be This Line Right Here, but bodies are often not very cooperative that way. When we decide where to put the line, we should at the very least have a decent understanding of which people are going to fall on which side, and what the benefits and costs may be.
posted by rtha at 5:53 PM on December 28, 2013 [9 favorites]


So please, go ahead. How would you draw the line?

Honestly, I have no idea. I am not a medical scientist, a biologist, a geneticist, or a sports doctor of any sort. I have studied classification a lot, though, and I can say that our classifications surrounding biological sex, sexual identity, sexual expression, and sexual attraction are some of the most arbitrary and rigid that we have, based often on nothing more than prejudice that "this [body type/hairstyle/profession/item of clothing/sexual behavior/hobby/etc] is male and that is female."

At a guess, since it seems the purpose of "women's sports" as a category is to allow women to complete with some parity (given how much women are forced out of sporting altogether), if chromosome-level testing was possible and practical, you would want to ID all the factors that lead to success in each sport and determine "competition classes" based on them rather than the crude and ambiguous "male" and "female" classes. Whether this sort of typing is possible or practical, I am really not the person to say. But XY and XX are neither accurate nor fair for a criteria.
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:56 PM on December 28, 2013 [4 favorites]


MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch, your jest about radicals and simplicity is still rankling, even though I have managed to read all the way through the thread without the top of my head blowing off or my heart leaping right out of my chest.

If you really find this stuff interesting, and want to have this conversation, you need to go read a bunch of Judith Butler, then Kate Bornstein as a chaser. Anne Fausto-Sterling has awesome science on this; Cordelia Fine has a nice overview of the literature, and Dean Spade on the state of the law ... you can do a whole post! But stumbling in here with a layperson's understanding to make pronouncements about what's real, what's not, and what's fair is ... I dunno. Annoying at best.

My 2 cents.
posted by allthinky at 6:00 PM on December 28, 2013 [9 favorites]


As usual, rtha said it better and more cogently.
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:00 PM on December 28, 2013


Should a transwoman pre-transition be allowed to compete in women's sports? What if she doesn't want to ever undergo a medical transition?

You're always going to find edge conditions, and we already have them: we can be pretty confident that at least some female athletes are hormonally, developmentally, or genetically unusual. If the next Usain Bolt wants to be recognised as a woman, fine. The point of having women's divisions is that women can be elite athletes; if a competitor is an elite athlete and a woman then they're filling that social role. The alternative is going down the "not a real woman" rabbit hole, which would (a) exclude transwomen from both men and women's divisions; (b) rely on arbitrary and humiliating tests; (c) have all sorts of unforeseen consequences when existing female athletes turn out to be funny in some way. I mean, what will you do about genetic mosaicism?
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:04 PM on December 28, 2013 [8 favorites]


My my, gender verification has come a long way since Caster Semenya's hermaphroditism.
posted by dabitch at 6:08 PM on December 28, 2013


The alternative is going down the "not a real woman" rabbit hole,

Not to mention the really weird idea that men who want to compete in a sport are going to transition for that reason. It's not like being trans* is something people decide to do on a whim or to advance their careers, like some sort of kickboxing version of Some Like It Hot. If that's who we're trying to exclude, maybe that's casting a really wide net for a very small (and almost wholly imaginary) target....
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:12 PM on December 28, 2013 [12 favorites]


GenjiandProust: "Not to mention the really weird idea that men who want to compete in a sport are going to transition for that reason."

Note that we've seen the same idea--that trans women have an ulterior motive for transitioning--trotted out in attempts to prevent us from accessing public toilets and changing facilities, swimming pools, rape counselling, homeless provisions, etc. et-bloody-c.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 6:14 PM on December 28, 2013 [22 favorites]


If other criteria are going to be included, I'd like to know how someone would draw the line (using science as opposed to bigotry) to keep Fallon Fox on one side and all the other women on the other.

Scientists draw the line as follows - (for animals) male = produces small, motile gametes, female - produces large, non-mobile gametes. And that's it.
posted by nooneyouknow at 7:01 PM on December 28, 2013


...like some sort of kickboxing version of Some Like It Hot.

Someone needs to make this movie immediately.
posted by Now there are two. There are two _______. at 7:50 PM on December 28, 2013 [7 favorites]


As a network engineer, we have the notion of quality of service, which tags network traffic according to priority and queues. Network packets are then classified together along those queues, depending on application requirements and behavior.

In my line of work product owners all jockey for inclusion of their applications into the most privileged queues. I oftentimes find myself having to take a defensive posture in order to protect the whole class when evaluating whether or not to include a new application flow into a privileged queue.

I bring this up because I see myself and other trans women lobbying for inclusion of other trans women athletes into an already created "queue", and I see cis people using the same types of logic I do all the time!! at work in response, which is to think about the figurative class of service, it's purpose, size and reason for being, then try to figure how this new request could potentially harm or degrade the overall functionality of the classification.

Which is to say: there is a group of people who behaves towards trans athlete acceptance into male/female categories much like I, your resident grumpy network engineer does with regards to accepting a new application into a privileged queue, employing the same frustrating overly detailed, worrisome argument over and over in an attempt to swat down your request with the hopes that you'll eventually just give up and be happy with the lowest privileged queue.

On preview, I don't know if this attempt at an analogy is useful or not, really. it's just something I noticed and thought might be illustrative of the process of trans athlete inclusion. (...And my own professional development, but that's another story)
posted by Annika Cicada at 7:57 PM on December 28, 2013 [8 favorites]


Some sports adjust based on size, some don't. Fighting has weight classes - track, basketball and football [amongst many] do not. Dimorphism has nothing to do with politics. It exists whether we like it or not.

I think that if an adjustment is to be made the adjustment should be based on size rather than gender. That way I can beat Usain Bolt in the 100 with my little Popeye legs. [Flo-Jo would of course kill me].

Mostly and more seriosly though, I don't get why it is wrong to observe that men are generally stronger as long as you don't use that observation to say that men are better.
posted by vapidave at 9:16 PM on December 28, 2013


An addendum. Your local Y likely has an 'under six foot' basketball league if that's your game. I got so tired of getting roofed by the giants.
posted by vapidave at 9:27 PM on December 28, 2013


One of the best Starcraft II players in the world right now is a trans woman. And you know what? People in threads about professional Starcraft elsewhere on the internet constantly bitch about her "biology" giving her an advantage over cis women (in a videogame) even when they aren't busy deliberately insulting her. She used to participate, when she was up-and-coming, in woman-only tournaments (she won most of them, because she is mind-bogglingly good - she is the best non-Korean at Starcraft, which is like being the best white person at basketball or something). She doesn't anymore - not just because the prize pools in woman-only tournaments aren't enough to attract her these days, but also because it is not worth it to her to endure the horrible fucking bullshit people throw at her for entering explicitly female spaces.

Upthread someone said that MMA was "unique" and that surely nobody would object to trans women participating in other sports. My eyes are too blurry with tears to find their name, but they are dead fucking wrong. It doesn't matter what trans women try to do. People object to it. They concern troll. They loudly voice their "common sense" feelings about it. They spout stupid bullshit like was spouted above that they are completely wrong about because they have never read about trans bodies for more than five minutes, but feel inclined to weigh in anyway because they are cis and trans people are trans.

In MMA it's juju about mythical bone density or "twich muscle fiber." In Starcraft it's about "reflexes" or "being raised on videogames like only men can be raised on videogames."

It's all the same fucking bullshit. When Fox wins it's because she has all these supposed advantages, and when she loses it's because she supposedly sucks. Trans people can't win, and when they do they're alone in the celebration.
posted by Corinth at 10:33 PM on December 28, 2013 [42 favorites]


In Starcraft it's about "reflexes" or "being raised on videogames like only men can be raised on videogames."

Uh. Why does Starcraft even have segregated men's and women's competition in the first place? Or am I missing something?
posted by Justinian at 11:19 PM on December 28, 2013


In any case we can all agree that Scarlett's real trespass is being a zerg player.
posted by Justinian at 11:20 PM on December 28, 2013


It's all the same fucking bullshit. When Fox wins it's because she has all these supposed advantages, and when she loses it's because she supposedly sucks. Trans people can't win, and when they do they're alone in the celebration.

I'm sorry in advance, because I think I'm judging this by different standards than other people who are more emotionally invested, but in what way can or should Fallon Fox win?

She's 37 years old, well past her athletic peak. In her one fight against an opponent who was any sort of legitimate prospect, she lost quite soundly. I don't think she has any sort of inherent advantage over other women, I absolutely think she should be allowed to compete against other women, and therefore I interpret this loss as evidence that she is in fact not a good fighter.

I liked this article, I like the attention her career has gotten, but I can't help feeling that it's sort of like handing her a participation trophy. I support her career, I wish there were more trans athletes who I could support, and even moreso I wish there were more good trans athletes who I could support while feeling that their attention is due to their accomplishments and not their identity.

Again, I apologize. Any sort of transperson making news because of their successes and not their existence as a novelty is a good thing. But as a fan of sport, my interpretation always comes back to the results. Maybe even participation-trophy status is a decent enough step forward for transpeople at this point.

This shit is complicated, yo. Sorry for working out some of my thoughts in this thread.
posted by Soultron at 11:50 PM on December 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Re: "fully" changing one's sex

Ah, the goalpost perpetuum mobile. Sorry, but this one never gets old.

I appear female. Just how, do you think, you would go about determining whether I'm a "full" female? Difficulty: you can't ask about my history.


... so after finding out that a pelvic exam is of no help, inevitably we arrive at sex chromosomes (which even assuming that I have a bog-standard set, is really only another way of examining a historical record, and would exclude some cis women, but never mind that). What if, in a couple years, it became possible to rewrite those? Would one, upon administering that particular retrovirus/nanomachine/mcguffin, immediately pass your test? Or would they also have to, you know. look the part? Conform to stereotypes? Be bad at sports? Forget how to play videogames? Always have been female?

A lot of the other trans women on this site are crazy smart, and carry a wisdom they wouldn't wish on their worst enemies. Might be worth listening to them.
posted by tigrrrlily at 1:29 AM on December 29, 2013 [8 favorites]


I'm sorry in advance, because I think I'm judging this by different standards than other people who are more emotionally invested, but in what way can or should Fallon Fox win?

I don't think anyone is arguing that Fox should win. Sorting competitors into winners and losers is the major goal of any sport, after all. The question is whether Fox can or should compete in the women's class. There are plenty of people loudly yelling "no," claiming she has unreasonable advantage if she wins and deriding her when she loses. I guess it's that "you have to be twice as good to be thought half as valuable" tactic in a new setting.
posted by GenjiandProust at 2:38 AM on December 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


Scientists draw the line as follows - (for animals) male = produces small, motile gametes, female - produces large, non-mobile gametes. And that's it.

Well that means there are a lot of "scientifically" intersex infertile beings out there, which we'd all along thought of as male or female!

It's a poor understanding of the complexities of biology that leads to simplistic divisions like that, and they never stand up to scrutiny.
posted by Dysk at 3:11 AM on December 29, 2013 [6 favorites]


Why does Starcraft even have segregated men's and women's competition in the first place? Or am I missing something?

Basically because there isn't a single female player besides Scarlett who can compete at a top level, for whatever reason. There are female pros like maddelisk, but I can't think of any other than Scarlett who have ever advanced past the second round of a premiere tournament.

I think the starcraft community's relationship with Scarlett is complicated. The are generally fiercely protective of her in comment threads and forums, consistently refer to her as 'her' in threads and especially during play by play in broadcast tournaments. If you were someone who followed only the scene on reddit casually and watching the tournament broadcasts and didn't read chat, you'd never know she was anything but a natural-born female/woman.

I don't even think that people are complaining about Scarlett entering female tournaments because she is man, more that she is so much better than any other female player that they might as well just hand her the trophy before it starts. They complain the same way about Korean pros entering foreign tournaments.

That said, there is definitely a sizable contingent of homophobes and transphobes who are vocal and hate her, which you can find if you dig into buried reddit comments or read chat in twitch channels. But considering that the audience of starcraft is primarily boys in their teens and early twenties, her reception has been remarkably mature, better than most other female pro players where the perception is largely that they were signed to pro-teams just because they were female, not because of skill.

Scarlett is basically the best player in the Americas by a long way, and possibly the best non-Korean player in the world-- certainly in the top three. If you want to root for a 'foreigner' to win in WCS, she is basically your best option, so I think a lot of starcraft fans have been forced to confront their own biases and see her as a human being and player before they see her as an 'other'

If she were not consistently producing results, or if there was literally any other North American player who could win at that level, I doubt that her reception would have been nearly as good, though.
posted by empath at 3:18 AM on December 29, 2013 [5 favorites]


This is a crowd in New York cheering Scarlett after she wrecked one of the top Korean pros in a nail-biting series.

I don't think they think of her as anything but an esports hero in moments like that.
posted by empath at 3:27 AM on December 29, 2013 [4 favorites]


I can't overstate the positive impact Scarlett has had on me.

Just now, I've written several sentences and erased them all because they sounded like hyperbole.

Seeing someone like myself cheered, celebrated, beloved... That's a completely new thing for me. I didn't realize how starved I was for it. I still watch that Bomber clip a few times a week, because ... well, I've spent a lifetime internalizing how unspeakably cruely trans women have been regarded. Watching that clip 100 times won't even start to undo that, or balance it, but when the world makes me cry, and wish I didn't exist, seeing that clip gives me hope that someday we might be seen merely for the humans we are.
posted by probu at 6:33 AM on December 29, 2013 [12 favorites]


In MMA it's juju about mythical bone density or "twich muscle fiber." In Starcraft it's about "reflexes" or "being raised on videogames like only men can be raised on videogames."

I've brought this up before, but this kind of thing always reminds me of the way people talk about basketball players. In the early 20th C, when Jewish players dominated the game, it was all about how "basketball suited the 'wiley and cunning nature of the Jew.'" Now that Blsck players have replaced Jewish players in the sport, the rhetoric remains, but success in the game mysteriously no longer relies on "cunning" but an "abundance of slow-twitch muscle fibers" or something. Funny that the players can't just be good....
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:42 AM on December 29, 2013 [10 favorites]


agreed GenjiandProust. you also see it in how different players within a sport are complemented - the natural athlete vs smart/hard workers issue.
posted by nadawi at 7:18 AM on December 29, 2013 [3 favorites]


...or bad, for that matter.

The big idea I believe matters here is that a trans woman is literally fighting to be recognized as equal to her class. She is up there not to be good, or bad, but to fight, to be allowed to try to win, just like any other woman.

We can scarcely hand her that dignity without first examining her hip size under a hypercritical microscope.
posted by Annika Cicada at 7:26 AM on December 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


Some sports adjust based on size, some don't. Fighting has weight classes - track, basketball and football [amongst many] do not. Dimorphism has nothing to do with politics. It exists whether we like it or not.

True. Weightlifting has weight classes too. And men and women of the same weight lift very different amounts of weight.
posted by MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch at 8:17 AM on December 29, 2013


Well that means there are a lot of "scientifically" intersex infertile beings out there, which we'd all along thought of as male or female!

Yeah, that is exactly what it means. Depending, of course, on your definition of intersex and infertile.

It's a poor understanding of the complexities of biology that leads to simplistic divisions like that, and they never stand up to scrutiny.

Are you saying that actual biologists have a poor understanding of the complexities of biology? Because the definition of male and female is the one used in the field of biology. I think they know that it can be complex in some cases, but since intersex conditions only affect 1 or 2 % of humans it's a pretty good definition.

And nothing stands up to that type of scrutiny. Biologists can't give a clear definition of "alive" or "species". Outside of science, things like "art", "science fiction", "erotica", "obscene" "sport", "vegetables", "continents", "the sun" all get complex when you look at the details and/or edge cases.
posted by nooneyouknow at 8:37 AM on December 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


The big idea I believe matters here is that a trans woman is literally fighting to be recognized as equal to her class. She is up there not to be good, or bad, but to fight, to be allowed to try to win, just like any other woman.

Right, but doesn't the last part of your quote ("just like any other woman") entirely gloss over what the actual issue is here? Ie what is her "class" for the purposes of professional sports? Not whether she ought to be accorded the dignity that every human deserves regardless of sex/gender/choices thereto etc (she does), nor whether her decision to transition and live as a woman ought to be respected (it certainly should).

The issue is surely whether or not for the very narrow purpose of professional physical competition in female tournaments there is something that confers an unfair advantage between a cis-woman and a trans-woman.

Whether it does or not is beyond my knowledge and people upthread have certainly commented on this, but in the world of professional athletics it seems like a fair question to ask and to investigate. I tremendously respect the decisions of people to transition and can't begin to imagine how hard it must be, and fully believe people ought to be accorded the right to identify and live however they wish. I do think though that competitive professional athletics is a weird edge case that can throw up difficult questions.
posted by modernnomad at 8:59 AM on December 29, 2013


Are you saying that actual biologists have a poor understanding of the complexities of biology? Because the definition of male and female is the one used in the field of biology. I think they know that it can be complex in some cases, but since intersex conditions only affect 1 or 2 % of humans it's a pretty good definition.

Our very human need to categorize things, plus a whole lot of cultural baggage, certainly complicates our understanding of how to define sex, especially when it comes to people. We want to act like there's this one, static definition of biological sex (as applied to people), but I don't know that we've ever been able to not conflate "sex" and "gender." We get into these kinds of discussions because some people (who never seem to be biologists), insist that genes or genitalia can be the only markers of a person's sex and/or gender.

I agree that the definition you cited is very useful in some contexts, like when you're trying to figure out the breeding population of an endangered species or building a collection of external field identification markers for animals so that you don't have to dissect them or even have them in hand when you're doing field studies. It's much less useful if you're going to use it as a basis for making some sort of policy that affects people in the actual lived world, where what is "male" and what is "female" is heavily informed and constrained by social, cultural, historical, and religious customs.
posted by rtha at 9:10 AM on December 29, 2013 [8 favorites]


Different doctors have very different perspectives on whether or not there is a biological strength advantage post transition, and how long that advantage lasts after transition.

See this article, in which we get a lengthy explanation from a doctor who has many reservations about the situation, and we also get concise confirmation that Joe Rogan is a transphobic asshole.
posted by MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch at 9:12 AM on December 29, 2013


The issue is surely whether or not for the very narrow purpose of professional physical competition in female tournaments there is something that confers an unfair advantage between a cis-woman and a trans-woman.

I'll own up to not having been on Mefi much the last few days and not having read this entire thread before writing this comment. On the one hand, this is a fair distillation of "the issue", but on the other hand, that people act like it's a 'new' problem that must be contemplated anew every time a trans athlete sticks their head above the parapet is just transphobia. Protocols already exist for the participation of people who have medically transitioned in sports. And, yes, there is room to discuss whether, say, the IOC rules are any good. (Spoiler: applying logic to the situation leads you to conclude they're way too conservative in about 10 seconds.) Or whether the NCAA has done a good job with their effort. (I don't know of any serious arguments that they're too permissive. Certainly some will argue that they're too conservative, but they've at least separated your genitals from your athletic performance.) And so on. But it's not as if Fallon Fox is the first trans person to participate in sport at a high level and it's the acting as if she is that is the problem.
posted by hoyland at 9:12 AM on December 29, 2013 [5 favorites]


This is a crowd in New York cheering Scarlett yt after she wrecked one of the top Korean pros in a nail-biting series.

I've played Starcraft and I was still kinda lost. What made the Terran guy's stuff explode? Banelings, I assume from the title of the video, but how were they hidden so he didn't see them? I didn't think banelings could burrow? But maybe I'm misremembering. A top player certainly wouldn't just charge a mass of terrans into a baneling ambush so they must have been hidden?
posted by Justinian at 9:34 AM on December 29, 2013


I admit to only having read about a third of this thread. But the topic of trans athletes is very dear to my heart because my six-year-old son has recently begun taking gymnastics, and it turns out that he is very talented at it and devoted to it. He is currently in the gym's pre-team program, which puts him and other promising boys in the gym three hours a week, working intensively toward the skills he needs to begin competition.

USA Gymnastics, the organization that oversees competition at all levels, has no policy on trans athletes at this level, and we have not disclosed to his gym yet. However, we are working with Helen Carroll, who runs the sports program at the National Center for Lesbian Rights, to encourage USA Gymnastics to develop a policy. Helen helped the NCAA develop their current policy on trans athletes which is a very good one--it sets a reasonable timeline for the use of hormones and no longer requires surgery. She was also involved in US Soccer Federation developing an open policy for pre-pubescent trans athletes, which I'll just include here becuase I can't find it on-line real quick:

Policy 601-5 – Registration of Amateur Players

* * * Section 6. Inclusion Policy

To clarify the Bylaws, membership of the Federation is open to all soccer organizations and all soccer players, coaches, trainers, managers, administrators and officials without discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression or national origin.

For the purposes of registration on gender-based amateur teams, a player may register with the gender team with which the player identifies, and confirmation sufficient for guaranteeing access shall be satisfied by documentation or evidence that shows the stated gender is sincerely held, and part of a person's core identity. Documentation satisfying the herein stated standard includes, but is not limited to, government-issued documentation or documentation prepared by a health care provider, counselor, or other qualified professional not related to the player.

This policy shall not apply to the Federation's National Teams programs, but application of this or a similar policy shall be re-evaluated at such time as FIFA addresses the issue.

This policy shall not apply to Professional Leagues.

* * *

My understanding is that USA Gymnastics is actively interested in developing a policy and open to guidance, but I don't expect to hear from Helen again until after the new year.

I wanted to chime in because the begining of this thread was stacked with so many opinions about the advantages trans athletes might have, and I wanted to point out that these questions are being dealt with by sports organizations, teams, and individuals, who are thoughtfully considering the issues. I am heartened that an organization like USA Gymnastics developed an interest in developing a policy prior to an individual athlete asking them to.

I have much more to say on the subject but am supposed to be leaving in four minutes to see a movie with the family.
posted by not that girl at 9:41 AM on December 29, 2013 [14 favorites]


Justinian:

After burrow is researched, all non flying Zerg units can burrow.

What happened is that Scarlett had a bunch of mutalisks which were destroying bomber's base, so he decided to send all his units to initiate a base-trade situation where he could kill Scarlett's base before she killed his. They were roughly even in army size at the time, but Scarlett managed to chase down all of bomber's orbital commands with her mutalisks which meant that he could no longer scan for burrowed units -- you can hear day9 talking about there being no more scans at one point. Which basically meant that if Scarlett could bury banelings in the right spot and draw the marines in, she'd win, which she did. She is scary smart at thinking strategically in fast changing situations. She actually researched burrow really late that game when she didn't have many resources yet, so that was a huge gamble that paid off.
posted by empath at 9:43 AM on December 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'll own up to not having been on Mefi much the last few days and not having read this entire thread before writing this comment. On the one hand, this is a fair distillation of "the issue", but on the other hand, that people act like it's a 'new' problem that must be contemplated anew every time a trans athlete sticks their head above the parapet is just transphobia.

I think that is is a tad uncharitable. The only reason this athlete is a subject of an FPP and has an article in a major publication is because she is trans. So telling people that if they raise or discuss the intersection between athletics and trans issues in response to that article then that is tantamount to transphobia is silly.
posted by modernnomad at 10:07 AM on December 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


Somewhat related, I suggest the film Beautiful Boxer, based on the true life story of Parinya Charoenphol, a transgender Muay Thai fighter who became a boxer mainly to earn money for sexual reassignment surgery. I've read conflicting reasons for her retirement from boxing--some say that, post-surgery, the hormones she was taking made her softer and easier to defeat. According to this Guardian piece, she quit professional boxing simply because women are not allowed in Muay Thai. Regardless, a remarkable person. An extremely talented fighter, a fascinating person--definitely worth learning about. As for Fallon Fox: mad respect for her both as a fighter and as a transperson. It takes quite a lot of bravery to step into the ring, and ton of it to be who you are in the face of so much public scrutiny and knuckle-dragging derision.
posted by apis mellifera at 10:25 AM on December 29, 2013


So telling people that if they raise or discuss the intersection between athletics and trans issues in response to that article then that is tantamount to transphobia is silly.

Note that that's not what I said. I said the hand-wringing every. single. damn. time. is transphobia. As I suggested, rules regarding the participation of trans athletes in sports absolutely can be discussed without the hand-wringing--see not that girl's comment above, for example. However, these threads almost invariably proceed utterly predictably, and they don't involve such a discussion and this one is no exception.
posted by hoyland at 10:40 AM on December 29, 2013 [10 favorites]


The only reason this athlete is a subject of an FPP and has an article in a major publication is because she is trans.
I think it's easy to come to this conclusion from an outside perspective (and I'm not criticizing anyone who has), but it's probably more accurate that the reason Fox gets discussed is because of transphobia. It wouldn't really be an issue if the average response to knowing her history was, "Oh; well, that's cool, I guess," but many people, even here, respond with some form of transphobia, ranging from the overtly hateful to more subtle protestations and nitpicking about sex differences in physiology (many of which are overlapping spectrums, so these arguments can also often get to check a "Classic Flavor Sexism" box as they are typically just sciencey looking reiterations of gender stereotypes) and what sex and gender "really are" from people demonstrably ignorant of the entire subject, which all I think boil down to in large part a discomfort with trans bodies, full stop.
posted by byanyothername at 11:37 AM on December 29, 2013 [18 favorites]


Are you saying that actual biologists have a poor understanding of the complexities of biology? Because the definition of male and female is the one used in the field of biology. I think they know that it can be complex in some cases, but since intersex conditions only affect 1 or 2 % of humans it's a pretty good definition.

One of the best critiques of DOMA I ever read was by a biologist who pointed out that Congress had not bothered to define "Man" or "Woman" and how any easy criteria fails between .5 and 2% of the population. Now, that might not seem like much, but 2% of the US population is something like 6 million people who are utterly abandoned by that law, which is... well, pretty irresponsible lawmaking. Obviously, the number of athletes affected will be much, much smaller, but, if your end goal is not universal fairness but "well, 1-2% is no big deal," where do you stop?
posted by GenjiandProust at 12:27 PM on December 29, 2013 [9 favorites]


3 nines is a good place to aim, but even that's considered a crap SLA. 4-5 nines is a more respectable target.
posted by Annika Cicada at 12:46 PM on December 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


Fallon Fox: The Toughest Woman in Sports

This headline seems unfair to Ashlee Evans-Smith.

It's clear to me there are significant, sensible reasons for having separate men's and women's sporting events. But it also seems to me that there are sometimes gender divisions for reasons that aren't significant or sensible. I very much enjoyed watching curling, a sport I was unfamiliar with and still don't know that much about, at the last Winter Olympics. But unless there is something I am missing, I don't know why you would need separate men 's and women's competition.

There may not be many sports like that, but I would love it if sports that could have mixed-gender competition at the elite level would pursue them.
posted by layceepee at 12:47 PM on December 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


I believe equestrian events are the only Olympic-level ones not segregated by gender. Shooting and archery are also segregated (shooting used to be combined, but then was segregated). I don't understand why; ditto for curling.
posted by rtha at 1:27 PM on December 29, 2013


(shooting used to be combined, but then was segregated)

When it became apparent a woman would win sooner or later!

(And they left skeet combined until a woman won it, then banned her from defending her title because the event was only open to men the next time around.)
posted by hoyland at 1:48 PM on December 29, 2013 [8 favorites]


Back from the movie (The Hobbit, terrible, just terrible) and am moved by reading more of the thread to comment that the first thing some friends brought up when my son was invited into the competitive gymnastics track was their idea that he'd have advantages in strength and flexibility over cisgendered boys during the elementary school years. I've been interested to learn since then that there aren't significant strength differences between boys and girls at this age, but people assumed girls had an advantage, that he would also have this advantage, and that this might somehow be unfair to other kids. It's so strange, this instant focus on perceived advantages a trans athlete might have, even when we're talking about 6-year-olds.

And even if there is an advantage, why not lump "being trans" in with the other in-born advantages an athlete has, like strength, perseverance, resilience (my kid takes an amount of feedback during a lesson that would have reduced me to tears as even a much older child), and so on.
posted by not that girl at 4:16 PM on December 29, 2013 [10 favorites]


Now, that might not seem like much, but 2% of the US population is something like 6 million people who are utterly abandoned by that law, which is... well, pretty irresponsible lawmaking. Obviously, the number of athletes affected will be much, much smaller, but, if your end goal is not universal fairness but "well, 1-2% is no big deal," where do you stop?

To me it's a good definition, because it covers the vast majority of cases. However, if I was a lawyer or in politics, I would probably need something much specific or vague depending on what kind of law I was working on.

But, I don't think universal fairness is possible. In general, every rule screws over somebody e.g. I'm sure there are twelve-year-olds that have the intellectual capacity and decision making ability necessary to vote in elections and drive a car, but, you know, I totally support banning twelve-year-olds as a class from doing both of them.

However, I'm not saying I know where to draw the line or that the biological definition of sex is where it should be drawn, when it comes to transgender athletes. I have no fucking idea. You asked about science so I threw it out there.
posted by nooneyouknow at 5:41 PM on December 29, 2013


not that girl: "It's so strange, this instant focus on perceived advantages a trans athlete might have, even when we're talking about 6-year-olds. "

It's such a clear extension of the way people hyper-focus on putting us "back" into our assigned gender that I doubt there's any way to convince me it isn't blatant transphobia dressed up with nicer words for people who don't like to think of themselves as bigots.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 8:16 PM on December 29, 2013 [9 favorites]


we also get concise confirmation that Joe Rogan is a transphobic asshole

Well, you might like to know that you've made many of the same arguments. Granted he's no paragon of progressive gender theory, but he's really no transphobe either. This caricature seems like a convenient deflection when your defending a gray area which you both occupy.
posted by troll at 10:42 PM on December 29, 2013


The Joe Rogan quote in that article--and I'm sorry to reproduce it here in full-- is:
She wants to be able to fight women in MMA. I say no fucking way. I say if you had a dick at one point in time, you also have all the bone structure that comes with having a dick. You have bigger hands, you have bigger shoulder joints. You’re a fucking man. That’s a man, OK? You can’t have… that’s… I don’t care if you don’t have a dick any more.
...he's a transphobe, or perhaps more specifically a transmisogynist; I don't care how many times he's hugged Buck Angel.

there is also a lot to say about Buck Angel and his attitude towards trans women, but not here and not now
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 11:11 PM on December 29, 2013 [7 favorites]


Joe Rogan is a goddamned fucking nightmare in all things.
posted by The Whelk at 11:47 PM on December 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


Well, you might like to know that you've made many of the same arguments.

Bull. He's being wantonly belligerent and nasty. And astoundingly simplistic. And he's declaring a transwoman to be a man, which is something I never did and never would do.

That you would lump us together basically re-inforces everything I've said about the narcissism of small differences.
posted by MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch at 11:50 PM on December 29, 2013


quote in that article

Is completely indefensible and unequivocally ignorant, but not representative. His views and use of terms have improved upon exposure to better ways of thinking. I know that's an ugly snapshot but it's a liiiiitle two dimensional considering the nascent aspect and the omission of several hours of nuanced conversation that put him in a much better light. But fitting all of that into a concise point-scoring article would defeat its purpose I suppose...

Bull.

The "physical truths" argument is essentially the same one he currently espouses. I guess you don't have to like it.
posted by troll at 12:57 AM on December 30, 2013


Knowing of Joe Rogan only from this FPP and not particularly wishing to go googling for transphobia in my current state of mind, I'll take your word for it that he's improved his attitude. Do you have a link to him retracting his comments? I'll make sure to keep it around if this comes up again.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 1:17 AM on December 30, 2013


The "physical truths" argument is essentially the same one he currently espouses. I guess you don't have to like it.

It isn't. He's talking about different things. But as I said, with the narcissism of small differences, you get to lump me in with him, and feel like you're justified. Why not go all the way and compare me to Fred Phelps?
posted by MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch at 2:30 AM on December 30, 2013


But, I don't think universal fairness is possible. In general, every rule screws over somebody e.g. I'm sure there are twelve-year-olds that have the intellectual capacity and decision making ability necessary to vote in elections and drive a car, but, you know, I totally support banning twelve-year-olds as a class from doing both of them.

Your example misses the point almost entirely. If the rule is "You have to have passed your 18th birthday to vote," the law is not being unfairly applied when you refuse to let a 12yo cast a vote. In this case, we have a situation where 1-2% of the population cannot say exactly when their 18th birthday is, especially since there are several metrics for deciding birthdays (which conveniently coincide for a lot of people), and the system responds by not letting them ever vote.

Part of the problem is that we get told, continuously and from an early age, that gender (and its related concepts) is binary, simple, and obvious. It's increasingly obvious that it is none of those things, but our social and legal structures have not caught up.
posted by GenjiandProust at 2:45 AM on December 30, 2013 [7 favorites]


Do you have a link to him retracting his comments?

He hasn't done so, at least in a way that would have generated something linkable, similar to the March controversy. Apologies were forthcoming as the shift occurred but nothing definitive. I'll do my best to quote-mine something contrary to the above, but it may take some time locate and transcribe. The guy has said a lot of cringe-worthy stuff, and I'm not saying he's all the way there. Just that he falls somewhere well short of "transphobic asshole" in the gradient, and all things considered, is probably a force for good (a case I won't make here).

It isn't. He's talking about different things.

March 2013 isn't currently. That was 300 podcast-hours ago.
posted by troll at 2:48 AM on December 30, 2013


I listened to the whole 8-minute Rogan rant on Fallon Fox a couple days ago (because I hate myself) and he seems to be pretty convinced that not only should Fox not be fighting for all the shitty transphobic reasons but the fact that she she won her first three fights by "brutal knockout" is somehow proof that she shouldn't be fighting women.

Fast forward to today while I'm watching the weekend's UFC broadcast I missed and Rogan (a UFC commentator) seems to be pretty excited to watch the Ronda Rousey/Miesha Tate rematch, Rousey being a fighter who was 7-0 professionally if I remember right and in the previous match pretty mercilessly broke Tate's arm. It just seems that he loves watching women like Tate and Rousey fight because they're incredibly tough and brutal fighters but Fox fighting to the best of her abilities is somehow bad.

From what I've read in the linked articles and comments here from people who know more about fighting than me she's not a contender at the highest levels, mostly because she started fighting so relatively late in life, but I'm completely in awe of her for going out there and putting up with the all-encompassing shittiness that seems to come from being "different" in the fighting community.
posted by edeezy at 4:16 AM on December 30, 2013 [4 favorites]


Wait wait. Just so I'm clear, we are now talking about how joe rogan is not a transphobe because there's a picture on the internet where he's got his arm around a trans man adult actor? Thus reinforcing the idea that the only acceptable role for trans people are to be sex workers? We're actually doing this, as opposed to having a discussion about how a post-operative, almost 8 years on HRT trans woman is breaking the mold by being be an MMA fighter?

The last time a thread took a left turn on metafilter this hard I learned people stand up to wipe their bottoms, this left turn is not like that one.
posted by Annika Cicada at 4:18 AM on December 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


Annika Cicada: "people stand up to wipe their bottoms,"

Lies.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 4:38 AM on December 30, 2013


[Folks, as restless_nomad pointed out metadiscussion belongs in MetaTalk. Our policy on this hasn't changed in the past twelve hours.]
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 4:39 AM on December 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Understood, I'll stop going meta in thread.
posted by Annika Cicada at 4:47 AM on December 30, 2013


Here's the Joe Rogan Podcast that was previously mentioned.

Fast forward to 1:33:00 to see his take on all of this, and his exchange with Buck Angel about it.

As far as the biological gender differences go, and as far as the fact that Fallon fought two fights without disclosing that she was trans, he's made many points that are not in any way countered by anything said above.

Some of his points are countered, but we're looking at dozens of dimorphic traits, and most of his points about them are completely valid.

At the same time he repeatedly says this is not a cut and dry issue.

I think he's being totally fair. He uses a lot of insensitive terminology (not aggressively nasty terminology), but he's right.

And Angel and Rogan actually do get fairly nuanced in this clip. They spend over 20 minutes on the topic. And Angel is clearly somewhat successful at teaching Rogan a thing or two.
posted by MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch at 10:24 AM on December 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch: "Some of his points are countered, but we're looking at dozens of dimorphic traits, and most of his points about them are completely valid."

There is absolutely no way I'm listening to that--it would be supremely bad for my emotional health, I'm certain--but I am 1000% sure that he's wrong about practically everything.

People make assumptions about trans women's bodies that simply aren't true, especially after a significant (>1 year) period of HRT and even more so after any kind of bottom surgery.

For serious. I have talked to a lot of trans women about this subject, and included in that number are several people with relevant qualifications. We are the experts on our own bodies and practically no-one else is.

(Seriously, if you've ever tried to access competent non-trans-related medical care as a trans woman you'll find the idea that even cis "experts" have any clue what they're talking about bitterly hilarious.)
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 11:08 AM on December 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


There is absolutely no way I'm listening to that...but I am 1000% sure that he's wrong about practically everything.

Basically, I rest my case.
posted by MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch at 11:34 AM on December 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


AoK, last weekend I spent all Sunday taking a friend to doctors. She had passed out and awoke with a pain in her lower abdomen. I took her to an urgent care clinic, where one doctor told her she potentially had a very serious problem that she needed to get checked out at a hospital ER. At the ER, a different doctor disagreed with the first diagnosis but wasn't able to supply his own. Once he learned she was trans and had had reassignment surgery this year, I saw all concern fade out of his face and all "not my problem" flow into it. He told her to go see her usual doctor, because "he's going to be more familiar with that." I can't know what he was thinking, but it felt to me like he considered himself off the hook at that point, and that we should feel stupid for even hoping he'd want to help - like, she's trans, so obviously all of her health problems are going to be trans health problems. I wasn't sure what we were even supposed to do at that point, because our usual doctor doesn't have any special understanding of trans patients, he's just one of the few people in the area willing to write us HRT prescriptions.

She is feeling fine now - the pain went away after a couple of days. But it's fucking scary to think about ER doctors not seeing beyond transness. What if she really had needed emergency surgery like the urgent care doctor put forward as a possibility?
posted by Corinth at 11:40 AM on December 30, 2013 [7 favorites]


That was kind of off-topic, I'm sorry. You don't need to listen to the podcast (I have). You've read it all before. It's the usual.

It would be great if this "narcissism of small differences" (narcissism?) concept, that has thus far been used for stupid crap, could instead be applied to trans people! Most differences we have, if they even exist, are small! Why can't you people shut up about our small differences, jeez!
posted by Corinth at 11:48 AM on December 30, 2013 [4 favorites]


MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch: "Basically, I rest my case."

I don't see your point.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 11:56 AM on December 30, 2013


Corinth: "I can't know what he was thinking, but it felt to me like he considered himself off the hook at that point, and that we should feel stupid for even hoping he'd want to help - like, she's trans, so obviously all of her health problems are going to be trans health problems."

Haha oh my yes. That is the story of my medical encounters, right there. It's been an uphill struggle just to get a presciption for a thyroid condition because no-one will touch me with a barge pole: they don't consider themselves to know enough about trans women to go on the record as recommending one treatment regime or another.

And it occurs to me that this kind of thing is kind of at the root of the disagreement we tend to have in trans threads? Like, the trans women come in as educators: we know the ins and outs of being trans, and we're here to tell it like it is. There's not really any evidence a cis person can really present me with to change my mind on something because, like, I'm 34, been transitioned for 14 years, I've seen it all before. And I know I'm right because I've discussed all this kind of stuff with a lot of other trans women over the years. We're experts on ourselves.

So I'm not here to have a discussion about whether x or y about being a trans woman may or may not give someone an advantage in sports? Because I already know the answer and I'm going to present it. And people can listen or they can not.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 12:02 PM on December 30, 2013 [7 favorites]


Basically, I rest my case.

I don't understand why you think that someone you yourself called a transphobic asshole should be someone that AoK (or Corinth, or, I dunno, even me) will find out New! Startling! Information! from. If you *really* think that Rogan is saying something that AoK (for example) can't possibly have heard, considered, or even actually know a whole lot more about than Rogan - then I don't even know what to say.
posted by rtha at 12:31 PM on December 30, 2013 [7 favorites]


Like, the trans women come in as educators

I'm going to be honest with you that the way you've chosen to engage with people you mean to educate has been unbecoming of an "educator". How would you respond to a professor who said "you might want to dial it back a bit and listen to [me] telling you what's what"?
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 1:21 PM on December 30, 2013


Okay, now remember that someone had just called me and every other trans woman reading this thread a biological male and read your comment again.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 1:30 PM on December 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


And got a load of favourites for saying just that, I should add!

Professors are respected.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 1:32 PM on December 30, 2013


I mean, we're not talking a nice fun academic disagreement? We're talking people literally and baldly telling us we're wrong about our lives. Over and over again.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 1:41 PM on December 30, 2013 [8 favorites]


I had more than one professor in college - and a couple of teachers in high school, for that matter - tell us to shut it when we were spouting ignorant nonsense about something we didn't know much or anything about. Being an "educator" in any capacity, formal or not, does not require one to use kid gloves in the face of repeated, insistent bullshit or half-assed speculation. Sometimes, educators are gonna be kind of sharp, kind of mean, kind of impatient, or kind of [some other thing that is not cotton wool]. Acting like anyone doing education about a topic have patience surpassed only by saints ignores reality and puts one on the position of maybe not learning things because the educator hasn't met some unmeetable ideal.

I am increasingly convinced that if MLK released Letter from a Birmingham Jail today and it were made into an fpp there'd be a bunch of people lined up to say how he was too mean and wasn't doing The Correct Things to reach or keep his allies. Makes me tired.
posted by rtha at 1:44 PM on December 30, 2013 [8 favorites]


Fallon Fox is an amazing woman doing her thing, I wish her well in her endeavors and even though I think MMA is about the dumbest thing on earth, I still respect her for trying.

I mean, I can't even muster up the gumption to tell my boss what's going on with me. Good on her. I hope she whoops ass in the cage without mercy, a symbol for the rest of us trapped in our own miserable fucking cage, straining for the strength to find a way out.
posted by Annika Cicada at 2:40 PM on December 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Your example misses the point almost entirely. If the rule is "You have to have passed your 18th birthday to vote," the law is not being unfairly applied when you refuse to let a 12yo cast a vote. In this case, we have a situation where 1-2% of the population cannot say exactly when their 18th birthday is, especially since there are several metrics for deciding birthdays (which conveniently coincide for a lot of people), and the system responds by not letting them ever vote.

I addressed that in my first paragraph."However, if I was a lawyer or in politics, I would probably need something much specific or vague depending on what kind of law I was working on." If I was actually making law or policy about transgender athletes than the definition of male and female used by biologists probably wouldn't work, but it might as a starting point. But whatever definition was decided on, someone would be left out in the cold. You aren't going to come up with a definition that covers 100% of the cases.
posted by nooneyouknow at 3:44 PM on December 30, 2013


I have learned exactly one thing from this thread: there exists a man called Joe Rogan, he is an MMA commentator, and he is a transphobic arsehole who apparently doesn't even know the difference between a trans woman and a man with a penectomy, yet considers himself qualified to speak on the issue of trans inclusion in sport.

So basically, I've learned that there is a garden-variety transphobe called Joe Rogan. That's it. Lots of opportunity for informed discussion, a basis for meaningful learning, but that's all it came it. Joe Rogan.
posted by Dysk at 4:25 PM on December 30, 2013 [4 favorites]


I am increasingly convinced that if MLK released Letter from a Birmingham Jail today and it were made into an fpp there'd be a bunch of people lined up to say how he was too mean and wasn't doing The Correct Things to reach or keep his allies. Makes me tired.

People said those things then, too. Armchair critiques from often uninformed and uninvolved people are not a new phenomenon.
posted by Dip Flash at 4:26 PM on December 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


[Few comments removed - we're really at the "MeTa or move on" point folks.]
posted by jessamyn at 5:46 PM on December 30, 2013


At the ER, a different doctor disagreed with the first diagnosis but wasn't able to supply his own. Once he learned she was trans and had had reassignment surgery this year, I saw all concern fade out of his face and all "not my problem" flow into it. He told her to go see her usual doctor, because "he's going to be more familiar with that." I can't know what he was thinking, but it felt to me like he considered himself off the hook at that point, and that we should feel stupid for even hoping he'd want to help - like, she's trans, so obviously all of her health problems are going to be trans health problems.
This has generally been my personal experience with doctors in the US; this attitude of, "Well, haha, I wouldn't know anything about that, so...um...go ahead and pay $100 for the privilege of my insulting you and refusing to treat your...what was it, 'respiratory' 'infection?' and see yourself out now." It's one of the bigger reasons why I've just essentially given up on getting healthcare except in emergencies. On a broader note, your healthcare system's pretty borked when healthcare workers don't have access to healthcare.
Basically, I rest my case.
One thing to understand is that a lot of us have basically PTSD level stuff with regards to transphobia from Actual Traumatic Experiences, and exposing ourselves to willfully transphobic stuff is...not actually a good thing, mental health wise. It's something we're inevitably going to encounter at some point in the week, anyway, so it doesn't matter if we click a particular link or not.
I'm going to be honest with you that the way you've chosen to engage with people you mean to educate has been unbecoming of an "educator".
Another thing to understand is that many of us do not want to be "educators" and may struggle with the role for various reasons (see above), but it's a role basically all trans women have to perform because transphobia and ignorance are so common as to be the expected norm even from progressive people. I, personally, would be thrilled if I didn't feel compelled to speak up in trans topics at all, but there are inevitably points I need to make or clarify or oppose or whatever.
posted by byanyothername at 7:33 PM on December 30, 2013 [10 favorites]


byanyothername: "One thing to understand is that a lot of us have basically PTSD level stuff with regards to transphobia from Actual Traumatic Experiences, and exposing ourselves to willfully transphobic stuff is...not actually a good thing, mental health wise."

This is a really important thing to remember, cis people, about your interactions with trans people on trans topics on this site: we are carefully stepping around our triggers to have these conversations, and in doing so we are encountering a lot of stuff--"really" male, "you must have another reason to transition," "you won't engage with this transphobic rant? well I rest my case."--that we have heard time and time again from abusers and people with power over us who we desperately need to placate.

I am not saying that you are an abuser for using these words or participating in these threads! But be aware that you are not speaking neutrally when this stuff comes up.

These threads are not automatically a nice place for us just because no-one is throwing the T-slur around or is actually allcaps yelling at someone and calling them names.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 1:46 AM on December 31, 2013 [7 favorites]


The transmisogyny here is just rank. It's not as though Fox has some sort of deviation-from-normal-athletic-variation thing going on. Really, she doesn't.

Look, I'm a cis woman. I'm big and I'm solid and given my ease of muscle-building and the way I build muscle (and my body hair distribution), there's a very good chance I have at least double the testosterone production Fox has. I've been on sports teams where the smallest member was half my weight and nobody, but nobody, said I had an unfair advantage. If anything, I was considered not to have an advantage before they'd seen me play.

How is this relevant?

Because I absolutely did have an unfair physical advantage. I was the living embodiment of unfair advantage. In individual competition I put a hell of a lot of distance between me and anybody trying to catch up to me. They were mostly small and slender and the assumption that the size of me was fat and not muscle and bone came back to bite them, hard.

Nobody said "go compete against the boys even though you're not a boy". Nobody said "you don't deserve your wins because of your body structure". Nobody said "wow, this is totally exploiting those poor girls who might be in danger from this big strong girl!" Nobody said "your strength and size disqualifies you from being a girl after all!" And nobody, but nobody, questioned whether I had the right to be there and competing against other girls. Oh, they questioned how strong I actually was as a matter of curiosity -- but they didn't question that I could compete against women. Ever.

Because they accepted that I was one. Really. Even though I could easily lift my smallest team member, even though I was bigger than my team, even though I trained like whoa to be able to do what I did with my natural genetic advantages, they accepted that I was a girl.

I didn't always win, even! Sometimes there were girls who'd been training for way longer than I had and were way more efficient with their strength, and they beat me easily. Training matters a hell of a lot more than you think. I had an edge against the usual people who trained to beat the usual people with the usual strength, but when it came to people who trained to beat elites I lost badly. Still a girl! Still no question of matching my size and strength advantages against boys! None whatsoever!

Fallon Fox is a woman who competes with other women and that is just fine. That would be fine even if she had a slight advantage in strength, size, and reach, and there is close to zero evidence that she does, only speculation that somehow hormones don't actually work like hormones work and, you know, do the stuff people take hormones to do when we're talking about a trans person. Come on.
posted by E. Whitehall at 5:25 AM on December 31, 2013 [25 favorites]


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