First Openly Trans MMA fighter.
March 20, 2013 3:14 PM   Subscribe

37-year-old Transgender MMA fighter Fallon Fox recently came out as transgender during an interview with Sports Illustrated. She also doesn't believe she and other transgender MMA fighters should have to disclose their medical history to would-be opponents. Fox, 2-0 in MMA, was born a man but underwent gender reassignment surgery and began supplemental hormonal therapy in 2006.

In the linked interview, she states that transsexual fighters who have been on hormone-replacement therapy and testosterone suppression haven't been found to have any physiological advantages over other women.

On the other hand, some female MMA fighters have already publicly stated they would refuse to fight Fox, citing safety concerns.

Also linked in the main body of the article are links to opinions from medical doctor and MMA columnist Johnny Benjamin and MMA fighter Rosie Sexton.
posted by Broseph (152 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
 
I'm a huge fan of more diversity in MMA, and I love how deep the women's side is getting, but I have to think that there are big physiological differences in things like bone density and upper-body strength that cannot be reversed through hormonal treatments. It doesn't sound like a fair matchup to me.

That said, I'm not completely against the idea of mixed gender match-ups, including transgender. But something has be done to counteract the advantages/disadvantages of biology. Different weight class limits, maybe?
posted by bashos_frog at 3:20 PM on March 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Ehh, it's not like there aren't any inherent, genetically determined differences between cis women MMA fighters anyway.
posted by MartinWisse at 3:26 PM on March 20, 2013 [8 favorites]


Joe Rogan's been banging on a lot about this lately. Testosterone is obviously a huge issue, but does suppressing it remove the athletic advantages of masculinity? Men typically have larger hands than women, for example, and that's a pretty big deal in MMA. Certainly I suspect that it's unlikely any FtM transmen would be able to compete in men's MMA, but I'm speculating from a position of ignorance.
posted by nicolas léonard sadi carnot at 3:27 PM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Accidents of birth give some athletes advantages over others. Fox's bone structure might give her something of an advantage, but the atypical skeletons of Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt give them advantages as well.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 3:32 PM on March 20, 2013 [8 favorites]


In general, men have bigger hands than women, but I assume there are cisgender female MMA fighters who have bigger hands than their (cisgender) opponents, yeah? And some cis male fighters are going to be smaller/slower/etc. than their opponents. I think it might be problematic if every trans female fighter is three feet taller than her cis opponents, or something, but otherwise maybe not so much.

But what I know about MMA could fit into a short youtube video, which is the only place I've ever watched bits of bouts, so...also speculating!
posted by rtha at 3:32 PM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


she states that transsexual fighters who have been on hormone-replacement therapy and testosterone suppression haven't been found to have any physiological advantages over other women.

This is really the important part right here.

(Assuming it's true.)
posted by Jairus at 3:36 PM on March 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


Accidents of birth give some athletes advantages over others.

Yes, which is why combat sports already segregates the competitors by gender and by weight class. You have to correct for some advantages in order to have a competitive sport. It would be murderous to put a flyweight in the cage with heavyweight champ Cain Velasquez. I do not know if a transgendered woman has that serious of an advantage over a cis woman. It's worth asking the question, as the doctor linked to in the FPP does. If the answer is no, then she should be allowed to fight.
posted by Bookhouse at 3:41 PM on March 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


I think the problem is that to scientifically reach a conclusion as to whether transwomen have physiological advantages over ciswomen in MMA, we need a much bigger sample set than just Fallon Fox. Until then, we're sort of stuck with prejudices and speculation, unfortunately.
posted by nicolas léonard sadi carnot at 3:44 PM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


MMA is a worthy pursuit, but it does seem a shame that Fallon Fox is robbing the scientific and medical communities of her expertise.
posted by Optamystic at 4:00 PM on March 20, 2013


I think the important way to look at this is 1.) She should be permitted to compete, and then 2.) it's up to the governing body of MMA to determine who to make that as fair as possible.
posted by Navelgazer at 4:17 PM on March 20, 2013


And the Faux News take.
posted by Samizdata at 4:25 PM on March 20, 2013


Figuring out how to approach trans* athletes is nothing new. You can read more about recommendations in this report which the NCAA relied upon in drawing up its official policy.

It's worth pointing out that a trans* woman taking testosterone blockers is going to have a very low testosterone level, generally much lower than what is typical for a cis woman, with the predictable effects on muscle mass.

Personally, I have to salute those who are willing to endure the extreme scrutiny aimed at trans* women athletes. I can't imagine enduring it myself.
posted by DrMew at 4:26 PM on March 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


She's going to have a few advantages over the other fighters. Especially in reach.

Or maybe we just have sexless fighting and you just have weight classes.
posted by Ironmouth at 4:30 PM on March 20, 2013


Which men will invariably dominate. I mean that's a solution but it isn't very inclusive.
posted by Mitheral at 4:34 PM on March 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think this is a legitimate question to ask, but essentially it troubles the question of gender-segregated competition rather than that of Fox's (or trans athletes' in general) location within that dichotomy. Aren't we sufficiently technologically advanced, and big-time sports leagues rich enough, that we could have do, like, a "high bone-density league" and a "low bone-density league"? Is the correlation between athletic physicality and sex assigned at birth really so strong that this would literally just result in an "all the women athletes minus Fallon Fox" league and an "all the men athletes plus Fallon Fox" league? I have no idea, but it would kind of surprise me if so.

It might be politically unrealistic to abandon gender/sex as a league shibboleth; however, while I'm sure there are cultural arguments for all-women's leagues that would look similar to arguments for women's colleges, black fraternities, etc., if the claim here is just social, there's no excuse for excluding Fox.
posted by threeants at 4:35 PM on March 20, 2013


The NCAA, the Olympics, and numerous other professional sporting organizations have already handled this topic. Any advantages a trans woman athlete has fall in the range of advantages cis women can also have.

IOC take.
Decent Sports Illustrated article.
Extensive NCAA guide (PDF).
Another report from five years ago.
posted by Corinth at 4:49 PM on March 20, 2013 [10 favorites]


Is the correlation between athletic physicality and sex assigned at birth really so strong

I went to look at olympic weightlifting records to draw comparisons but bizarrely the weight classes don't match up.

Men's weight classes:
56, 62, 69, 77, 85, 94, 105, +105 kg.

Women's weight classes:
48, 53, 58, 63, 69, 75, +75 kg.

Where did these numbers come from, a random number generator?

Anyhow, it turns out that a 138lb female Olympian can snatch up to ~250 lbs while a 136 lb male Olympian can snatch up to ~330 lbs. Something correlated with sex makes a huge difference.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 4:56 PM on March 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'd definitely watch Ronda Rousey vs say, Urijah Faber with interest, and don't at all think Urijah'd be a lock to win it.
posted by nicolas léonard sadi carnot at 5:02 PM on March 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


I think aside from physical danger, the second most major concern with this is at some time in the future women's MMA being dominated by a bunch of MtF trans fighters. Maybe that wouldn't happen, it's impossible to know, but I think that's a concern. Really high level trans athletes, especially from Olympic-type sports as opposed to WNBA and other mainstream sports, will be looking for places to compete. MMA has been a second life for many former Olympic competitors, especially from judo and wrestling. Previously, after your Olympic days were over, there wasn't much else to do for a wrestler or judoka. Now MMA is a potentially lucrative new to go for these type of folks, and on a very short list of options for pursuing a sustainable athletic career. SO, for very high level trans athletes with a certain range of skills MMA is going to be important enough to them financially to want to have and to exploit every possible advantage, just like all professional athletes do. And if MMA turns out to work really nicely for MtF trans fighters, athletes well head there for the money (or fame) and then we risk a women's MMA domimated by women running on male chassis.

That is A fear, that is not necessarily MY fear. But if not in the women's league, then where? The men's league seems out of the question. This is a very difficult issue.

And you really have to read the last link, to Rosie Sexton's piece. She explains in great detail the different specific concerns and talks about the distinct lack of real information available.

(Edited for missing information)
posted by TheRedArmy at 5:10 PM on March 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


I think aside from physical danger, the second most major concern with this is at some time in the future women's MMA being dominated by a bunch of MtF trans fighters.

Why do you assume trans female fighters would dominate? There's lots of information been linked in the thread already that suggests this is very unlikely to be the case...
posted by Dysk at 5:16 PM on March 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


The thing about this issue - as others have stated - is that there is very little actual scientific research into this topic. Opinion, sure, including expert opinion from doctors, scientists, etc. - but even that opinion is somewhat divided.

And for anyone who hasn't read Sexton's post on the issue(linked in my OP), I would urge you to do so. It raises some excellent questions, particularly in regard to things like the difference in development of fast-twitch muscle fibre in men vs women, larger heart and lungs, differences in bone structure (not purely related to size - the male pelvic/hip structure, for advantage, gives them a biomechanical advantage), etc.

Whether these things, in and of themselves, represent an overwhelming advantage is a whole other question, of course. But I think the debate is still very much alive. I don't take it as an article of faith that because the IOC have ruled on the matter, it's done.
posted by Broseph at 5:17 PM on March 20, 2013


The NCAA, the Olympics, and numerous other professional sporting organizations have already handled this topic. Any advantages a trans woman athlete has fall in the range of advantages cis women can also have.

From the Rosie Sexton piece:

I agree that equality of participation is a nice ideal, and it’s a reasonable argument if we’re talking about sports like tennis or kayaking. But in a sport where one participant is trying to do physical damage to another, the burden of proof should be reversed. We need good scientific evidence to support the assertion that Fox has no advantage as a result of having been born male. Lack of evidence of an advantage isn’t sufficient – especially when so little evidence exists.
posted by TheRedArmy at 5:17 PM on March 20, 2013 [6 favorites]


[Fox] also said she thinks any woman who refuses to fight her is either scared or a "hate-filled" person.

I'm annoyed just generally when the word "hate" is used as a bullying tactic, but in this context, Fox is actually using it to bully other people into fights. Literal fights. And fights where—it is at the least understandable why other people would believe—Fox may have a physical advantage over opponents.

That's not cool. I see nothing in Miesha Tate's comments that indicates she is hateful, and I'm tired of seeing people accused of being bigots as a bullying tactic. "I won't fight you because you were born male and I was born female" is complex and difficult, and understandable irrespective of whether it's scientifically correct. "If I don't get my way, I'll tell ESPN that you're hateful" is just flat-out shameful behavior.
posted by cribcage at 5:27 PM on March 20, 2013 [13 favorites]


Ehh, it's not like there aren't any inherent, genetically determined differences between cis women MMA fighters anyway.

I think that's a cop-out, though. You could use it to justify eliminating women's sports completely and requiring women to compete with men for college athletic teams. Because there are already inherent, genetically determined differences between cis men so what's the big deal?

The fundamental question is whether being born male gives you a physical advantage even if you transition later, and if it does they are justified in prohibiting Fox from participating in their matches.

This sort of thing comes up occasionally on Metafilter and there always do seem to be some people arguing against any restrictions on who can participate in women's leagues. My strong suspicion is that these are mostly people who don't actually care about sports at all.
posted by Justinian at 5:33 PM on March 20, 2013 [8 favorites]


Something correlated with sex makes a huge difference.

It is incredibly frustrating to me to see people who make it quite plain that they have no idea what happens to trans bodies on HRT happily offer up uninformed opinions or proclamations like this. If justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow had done any kind of reading before commenting, they would know that trans women have the same muscle capacity as cis women, because muscle growth and fat distribution are controlled by hormones.

I think aside from physical danger, the second most major concern with this is at some time in the future women's MMA being dominated by a bunch of MtF trans fighters. Maybe that wouldn't happen, it's impossible to know, but I think that's a concern.

This is some serious concern trolling and it's really hard not to explode when I'm faced with this over and over. Yeah, and if we allow trans people in the correct bathrooms, we'll see a ton of male perverts abusing the system. "Maybe that wouldn't happen, it's impossible to know, but I think that's a concern." Well-trodden ground. Some imagined nonsense scenario that might potentially negatively affect cis people is routinely used as an excuse to continue oppression of trans people in the present.

And no, the "burden of proof" should not be "reversed," because nothing will satisfy these people. Any advantage that Fox displays could be displayed by any number of cis athletes, and she'll still be held back and forced to atone for being trans. Unless you're willing to set up checkpoints to police cis women's height, or shoulder width, or hand size, or reflexes (to satisfy prurient interests, here is a photo album of Fox and one of her previous opponents - she's on the left), you're being intellectually dishonest in a way that actively hurts and entire group of people.
posted by Corinth at 5:43 PM on March 20, 2013 [20 favorites]


I think aside from physical danger, the second most major concern with this is at some time in the future women's MMA being dominated by a bunch of MtF trans fighters.

This feels like a pitch for the Sheila Jeffreys/Albert Pyun movie project the world has been waiting for.
posted by running order squabble fest at 5:44 PM on March 20, 2013



The question of her possible athletic advantages aside for a moment...

She tells Zeigler she underwent gender reassignment surgery (along with the supplemental hormonal therapy) six years ago, several years after her father -- who was convinced she was a confused gay man -- put her in conversion therapy where, she notes, she was treated by a reparative therapist who tried to convince her that she was, in fact, gay so that he could turn her into a heterosexual man.


Did anyone else stop right there just to unpack the levels of mindfuckery in that one sentence?



Her father put her in conversion therapy to convince her she was a gay man so he could convert her back into a straight man. Even after sorting that out it still kind of blows my mind.
posted by louche mustachio at 5:48 PM on March 20, 2013 [11 favorites]


cribcage, at least some of the people who will refuse to fight Fox will actually hate trans people - anyone who thinks like or subscribes to (MMA fighter) Joe Rogan's unenlightened views, for example. It's a privilege to be able to be ignorant of how trans bodies work and to be able to make decisions based on that ignorance, and I think it's exceedingly unfair to bristle when trans people aren't nice enough or aren't inclined to just sit there and take the abuse heaped on them without considering their perspective. Which is, in this case, that other female fighters can simply elect not to fight her based on their gut feeling or "common sense," despite the fact that they're wrong. They're wrong, and there's nothing Fox can do about it, and that sucks.
posted by Corinth at 5:59 PM on March 20, 2013 [9 favorites]


I guess if you're trans, you're just not allowed to ever be an athlete of any kind either?

Gah.
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:08 PM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Am I just ignorant of legitimate physiological concerns or isn't the real answer that people should be grouped by weight instead of gender anyway? Are there convincing reasons why a 145 lb. woman should not be allowed to fight a 145 lb. man?
posted by DirtyOldTown at 6:17 PM on March 20, 2013


Are there convincing reasons why a 145 lb. woman should not be allowed to fight a 145 lb. man?

Yes, testosterone-based systems are able to carry significantly more muscle per weight than estrogen-based systems. (I mean, she should be allowed to if she wants to, but there are real differences in strength between a man and woman with similar weights and exercise routines.)
posted by Corinth at 6:19 PM on March 20, 2013


Is that a fixed ratio that can be corrected for?
posted by DirtyOldTown at 6:22 PM on March 20, 2013


ugh.

Is "inclusive pontification" possible?
posted by roboton666 at 6:24 PM on March 20, 2013


Am I just ignorant of legitimate physiological concerns or isn't the real answer that people should be grouped by weight instead of gender anyway? Are there convincing reasons why a 145 lb. woman should not be allowed to fight a 145 lb. man?

Yes, a 145lb man of equal skill and ability to a 145lb woman would dominate her in almost all athletic competition. He would be stronger, faster, and have more endurance out to ultramarathon distances. That's why we have sex segregated athletics.
posted by Justinian at 6:28 PM on March 20, 2013


Mod note: folks, maybe leave the other threads out of this, please?
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 6:29 PM on March 20, 2013


Are there convincing reasons why a 145 lb. woman should not be allowed to fight a 145 lb. man?

Other than the aforementioned fact of the differences in muscle and bone mass, how about the fact that many people would find it distasteful to see a man punching a woman? These sports need to make money.
posted by Edgewise at 6:30 PM on March 20, 2013


This is some serious concern trolling and it's really hard not to explode when I'm faced with this over and over. Yeah, and if we allow trans people in the correct bathrooms, we'll see a ton of male perverts abusing the system. "Maybe that wouldn't happen, it's impossible to know, but I think that's a concern." Well-trodden ground. Some imagined nonsense scenario that might potentially negatively affect cis people is routinely used as an excuse to continue oppression of trans people in the present.

I don't know what you're talking about, how do trans people using the restroom have anything to do with trans people competing in a top-tier full contact fight sport? Have you watched a mixed martial arts fight before? Pro MMA fighters' weight classes are only about 10-20 pounds apart, only 10 at the lighter end of the scale. In boxing the classes are even smaller. This is because even a slight physical advantage in a dangerous full contact fightsport can elevate risk of injury for a smaller opponent. These weight classes are mandated and they exist largely for safety reasons.

And many fighters try to game the weight classes, dehydrating themselves to make weight and then fighting 10 or 20 pounds over the limit in the fight. These fighters aren't just pissing in the wind, at the highest level of competition very small advantages often mean victory, be they a couple pounds or a few inches in height or reach.

The point is that yes, in nearly all situations of COURSE people of whatever gender or orientation or life situation should be treated equally. But a dangerous, full contact fightsport is one very specific situation where we should at least look into it because there is a chance people could get hurt. And it's not for you or I to say how big that chance is, I think it's fair to say NO one knows the answer to this particular dilemma because it hasn't come up in human history until now.

And man maybe I should have put it at the beginning of my earlier post and not the middle, but what I talked about in regards to concerns about MtF trans athletes dominating the women's division in some point in the distant future was not MY concern personally that I wanted to warn you all about, was completely hypothetical, and was more an estimate of what the fight community (fighters, trainers, sportswriters, etc.) will be concerning ITSELF with, thankyouverymuch.
posted by TheRedArmy at 6:30 PM on March 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


It seems to me a major obstacle is that differences in individual physiology's response to the transition regimen and different people's decisions about how to transition and at what pace and to what point will make it difficult to make any kind of fair and clear rule that will work across the board, which is what's expected in these sports when it comes to qualification/disqualification. You can only compete if you're transitioning thisway and have reached this point? And then it turns out that doing ABC for n months doesn't get everyone to the same place anyway.
posted by snuffleupagus at 6:37 PM on March 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Is there a better way to match people up using muscle mass, weight and whatever else is used to measure a person's strength and capabilities?

Why does your sex organ, lack of it, or passable gender expression make a difference?
posted by roboton666 at 6:40 PM on March 20, 2013


TheRedArmy, there isn't a significant difference in the end result (which is to increase the burden on trans people) whether you say it's a personal concern or you say, "well, I'm not worried about this, but some people might be."

All of MMA, as far as I can tell, is about "slight physical advantages." Singling out a trans person's slight physical advantages while letting cis people's stand is kind of stupid. You make it sound like gaming the scales is a big problem for fighter safety, yet here you are in this thread wringing your hands about trans women.
posted by Corinth at 6:41 PM on March 20, 2013 [9 favorites]


Is there a better way to match people up using muscle mass, weight and whatever else is used to measure a person's strength and capabilities?

Not that anyone has ever been able to come up with as far as I can tell. Feel free to propose one, though.
posted by Justinian at 6:41 PM on March 20, 2013


I see... About the physiological differences, I mean.

I still think that inter-gender sporting competitions will have to arrive sooner or later, even if the criteria for match ups ends up considerably more complicated than weight.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 6:42 PM on March 20, 2013


The form it is likely to arrive in is the same form we have in most professional sports: a women's category and an "open" category in which either men or women can compete.
posted by Justinian at 6:44 PM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Justinian: I am totally clueless about such matters, which is why I asked.
posted by roboton666 at 6:44 PM on March 20, 2013


>Is there a better way to match people up using muscle mass, weight and
>whatever else is used to measure a person's strength and capabilities?

Not that anyone has ever been able to come up with as far as I can tell. Feel free to propose one, though
.

I think that's what roboton was proposing, but without reference to what's hiding between your legs. Meaning that if some awesome person currently equipped with ladyparts happened to test in Mike Tyson's weight and muscle mass range.....then Mike Tyson would be in danger of getting his ass kicked by a vagina owner.

But I'm guessing someone smarter will tell me why we can't really measure those things objectively with enough confidence, or that those kinds of measures don't tell us what we need to know (perhaps muscle mass isn't really telling us what we think it is about strength?)

'Cause otherwise the point seems sensible enough.
posted by snuffleupagus at 6:48 PM on March 20, 2013


Ah. It's just that we seem to have the same exact conversation every time. Well not us us, just the threads in general.
posted by Justinian at 6:49 PM on March 20, 2013


I've been watching men's boxing since I was a kid, and I've seen so many men fight several classes above their weight, it just seems like direct physiological comparisons don't always tell the entire story.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 6:49 PM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


snuffleupagus: we already have mixed professional sports in most major sports. Maybe not boxing, but football, baseball, basketball, hockey, and so on.
posted by Justinian at 6:51 PM on March 20, 2013


At the professional level? In the US? I haven't noticed the mixed NBA, NFL or NHL games.

But, hell, I'm all for it if it is happening. I know plenty of women who could run me ragged at any of those sports.

Also -- we should perhaps avoid doing the thing where a thread about trans rights becomes a thread about gender equality as a prerequisite, as the trans person in the article is trying to compete within the gender-segregated system post transition.
posted by snuffleupagus at 6:54 PM on March 20, 2013


snuffleupagus: we already have mixed professional sports in most major sports. Maybe not boxing, but football, baseball, basketball, hockey, and so on.

I'm not sure where you're going with this, but it's kind of ridiculous to suggest that a woman would be allowed to play major league baseball or affiliated minor league baseball. There have been women who have played professional baseball, but only in independent minor leagues. I seriously doubt ability was what kept them out of mainstream professional baseball, either.

On the other hand, as I've said in about sixteen threads recently, women do play in reasonably high level cricket with men (at a level at least equivalent to affiliated minor league baseball).
posted by hoyland at 6:55 PM on March 20, 2013


I was not very artfully saying I think you're drastically underestimating the level of sexism in baseball.
posted by hoyland at 6:57 PM on March 20, 2013


But, hell, I'm all for it if it is happening. I know plenty of women who could run me ragged at any of those sports.

Pretty much any woman could run me ragged at any sport.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 6:58 PM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


hoyland: you're wrong. It is ability which has kept women out of mainstream professional baseball.
posted by Justinian at 6:59 PM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


A question: given the problems of Performance Enhancing Drugs, and that testosterone is generally banned, could a trans athlete gain advantage by a short-term stoppage of the replacement hormones?
posted by dragonsi55 at 6:59 PM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


At the professional level? In the US? I haven't noticed the mixed NBA, NFL or NHL games.

Sure you have. The NY Giants? The Detroit Red Wings? Open to women. They just can't make the team.
posted by Justinian at 7:00 PM on March 20, 2013


Don't you think that's just a tad disingenuous?
posted by snuffleupagus at 7:02 PM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


How could we have noticed mixed NBA, NFL, and NHL games if a woman has never made the team?
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 7:04 PM on March 20, 2013


Don't you think that's just a tad disingenuous?

Not at all! It's the very point in question!

How could we have noticed mixed NBA, NFL, and NHL games if a woman has never made the team?

Sigh. Somebody is not following the thread and maybe its me.

Anyway, I should point out that in 1952 MLB banned women from signing contracts. I actually don't know if that was officially repealed. But I can guarantee you if there was a woman who could be, say, a professional pitcher she would be on the mound at Yankee Stadium in no time flat.
posted by Justinian at 7:06 PM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


But like I said, maybe it's me who is having trouble following the thread, so I'm out.
posted by Justinian at 7:07 PM on March 20, 2013


The form it is likely to arrive in is the same form we have in most professional sports: a women's category and an "open" category in which either men or women can compete.

And that's kind of the thing. Sports have an "open" category which, in practice, is male-dominated, because sports are a thing at which men are simply better. They also have a category exclusively for ciswomen, because if they didn't, ciswomen would be entirely unrepresented in that sport. I doubt you'd see any sort of pushback if Fox wanted to compete in the mens' category, because she'd just lose. It's entering an area of competition restricted exclusively to ciswomen, with legitimate reasons that restriction, that raises the problem of fair competition.
posted by kafziel at 7:09 PM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


I was curious so I googled. There is currently no rule banning women from MLB and in 1993 a woman was drafted by the White Sox but didn't make the cut. She was also the daughter of the GM... weird.
posted by Justinian at 7:10 PM on March 20, 2013


hoyland: you're wrong. It is ability which has kept women out of mainstream professional baseball.

I'll agree that it's ability that have kept the women who've played professional baseball out of the major leagues. However, as not distinguished as Ila Borders's three year Northern League career was, had she been a bloke, she probably would have been signed by a major league team and spent those three years kicking around A or AA instead.
posted by hoyland at 7:11 PM on March 20, 2013


It really is ability that has kept women out of affiliated minor league baseball. The most famous female pro ballplayer, Ila Borders, for instance, was a fastball pitcher who topped out in the low 80s. A man with the same repertoire wouldn't have gotten a shot, either. The problem, to these eyes, anyway, is that the largest, strongest female baseball players tend to have playing styles based on being the biggest and strongest--Borders as a power pitcher, for example. When they play against men, their style of play is no longer suited to make the most of their size. I had a good friend who was a power hitting first baseman... but that didn't translate when her opponents were 30-40% larger than she was.

The interesting thing in terms of gender equality is that, even accounting for differences in size and strength, an exception is bound to come up sooner or later. That is, at some point, a female player will come up who is both stronger and faster than her peers, but has a style of play adapted for being small compared to men. Maybe it will be a woman who excels as a slap hitting middle infielder.

Maybe it will be a knuckleball pitcher like Chelsea Baker.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:17 PM on March 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


I was curious so I googled. There is currently no rule banning women from MLB and in 1993 a woman was drafted by the White Sox but didn't make the cut. She was also the daughter of the GM... weird.

Are you seriously advancing the position that it's not sexism that's keeping women out of baseball? Because, sorry, that's the stupidest thing I've heard today.

Have a random anecdote. I was an umpire as a kid. There was a girl who was an umpire. One year, she got games by picking up the games that the hadn't scheduled anyone for. The next year? She was on the schedule from the beginning. For the dates she had listed as not being able to work. It's entirely possible that was incompetence. I grew up playing baseball in a league that allowed girls. Did they tell you that? No. Was it advertised as 'youth baseball'? No, it was 'boys' baseball'. They allowed girls only in the sense that if a parent signed their daughter up, she wouldn't be kicked out (presumably because there was legal precedent from when Little League was sued). This isn't an outlier. When you see the Little League World Series on TV and there are girls playing, those are girls who've overcome a lot of institutional sexism. They're quite likely the only girls in their league. And, oh yeah, are on the all-star team.
posted by hoyland at 7:20 PM on March 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Cultural sexism undoubtedly limits the appeal of baseball to many women and probably limits their opportunities to develop as players and seriously pursue the sport. So in that sense, yes, sexism keeps women out of baseball.

That said, there are no cases I have ever heard of in which a female player with the requisite physical tools and skills was kept out of the sport simply because of her gender.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:24 PM on March 20, 2013


Have a random anecdote. I was an umpire as a kid. There was a girl who was an umpire. One year, she got games by picking up the games that the hadn't scheduled anyone for. The next year? She was on the schedule from the beginning. For the dates she had listed as not being able to work. It's entirely possible that was incompetence. I grew up playing baseball in a league that allowed girls. Did they tell you that? No. Was it advertised as 'youth baseball'? No, it was 'boys' baseball'. They allowed girls only in the sense that if a parent signed their daughter up, she wouldn't be kicked out (presumably because there was legal precedent from when Little League was sued). This isn't an outlier. When you see the Little League World Series on TV and there are girls playing, those are girls who've overcome a lot of institutional sexism. They're quite likely the only girls in their league. And, oh yeah, are on the all-star team.

Clearly, this single anecdote about pre-pubescent little league games is the same as hard data about sexually mature adults competing at the absolute top of the field.
posted by kafziel at 7:37 PM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Cultural sexism undoubtedly limits the appeal of baseball to many women and probably limits their opportunities to develop as players and seriously pursue the sport. So in that sense, yes, sexism keeps women out of baseball.

That said, there are no cases I have ever heard of in which a female player with the requisite physical tools and skills was kept out of the sport simply because of her gender.


Yeah, the point is your first sentence. Female players with the 'requisite physical tools and skills' are likely playing some totally different sport.
posted by hoyland at 7:38 PM on March 20, 2013


Clearly, this single anecdote about pre-pubescent little league games is the same as hard data about sexually mature adults competing at the absolute top of the field.

See the point in my previous comment.
posted by hoyland at 7:39 PM on March 20, 2013


Female players with the 'requisite physical tools and skills' are likely playing some totally different sport.

I entirely agree. And that has to change, obviously. But in addition to the broader question of whether women discriminated against in the culture of baseball (which is obviously true) there was also a more narrow debate on the page about whether rules or custom specifically block female players from competing in the affiliated minor leagues. They do not.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:46 PM on March 20, 2013


Look, this is totally far afield (but hey, at least no one has said trans women aren't women, so we're doing well), so I'm writing this comment and leaving. Why am I so convinced girls are pushed out of baseball? Guess when Little League Softball was created. The very year they were forced by the courts to allow girls to play Little League. There's no reason for the creation of Little League Softball unless the idea is to keep try to girls out of baseball by diverting them to softball. Baseball changes at a glacial pace, designated hitter excepted. So, no, unless a ridiculously phenomenal female baseball player comes along, I'm not expecting women in baseball any time soon. A woman will get cut before a man of similar skill and it'll be a hell of a long time before that will change. Sure, MLB can allow women on paper. They don't need to ban them. They just need to make sure they get stuck in A ball just long enough to quit.
posted by hoyland at 7:48 PM on March 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


If you're not familiar with Chelsea Baker, the teen girl knuckleballer I mentioned above, look her up on YouTube. Clips of her profile on ESPN are fairly easy to find. At this point, my gut feeling is that Baker, or someone much like her, is the best hope for a woman breaking into the majors at some point. She's currently slated to go to Japan, to play in a professional women's league. She just has to turn 16 first...
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:49 PM on March 20, 2013


At this point, my gut feeling is that Baker, or someone much like her, is the best hope for a woman breaking into the majors at some point.

There's another female knuckleballer kicking around, too, Eri Yoshida, though she may be out of baseball now. (She was playing in a league that collapsed. So it goes. She might be back in Japan and Wiki doesn't know.) I think the issue is that being a knuckleballer is a really hard thing to make a career out of (though perhaps only because there are very few people who can through a knuckleball really well), even if it insulates you from being generally smaller than men.
posted by hoyland at 7:55 PM on March 20, 2013


Maybe it will be a knuckleball pitcher like Chelsea Baker.

I actually know very little about baseball rules beyond the basics. Do pinch runners have to bat? Because I'd think female track and field olympians might be able to make a go of that.

Wikipedia turned up Herb Washington.
posted by snuffleupagus at 7:56 PM on March 20, 2013


Sure, MLB can allow women on paper. They don't need to ban them. They just need to make sure they get stuck in A ball just long enough to quit.

They would totally get away with that... as long as the first woman in affiliated baseball wouldn't get any news coverage and as long as there weren't tens of thousands of devoted stats nerds perusing prospect numbers.

(Hint: neither of those conditions is remotely true.)
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:57 PM on March 20, 2013


Do pinch runners have to bat? Because I'd think female track and field olympians might be able to make a go of that.

Short answer, yes. There's generally not enough room on the roster to carry someone solely as a pinch runner (despite people in my Dynasty Baseball league drafting crappy fast outfielders to be pinch runners).

They would totally get away with that... as long as the first woman in affiliated baseball wouldn't get any news coverage and as long as there weren't tens of thousands of devoted stats nerds perusing prospect numbers.

I'm assuming she's not the best player on the team.
posted by hoyland at 7:59 PM on March 20, 2013


Do pinch runners have to bat? Because I'd think female track and field olympians might be able to make a go of that.

How so? Male track and field olympians are faster.
posted by Justinian at 8:00 PM on March 20, 2013


Do pinch runners have to bat?

No. However, with only 25 spots on an active MLB roster, and with 12-13 of those going to pitchers, and eight to starting position players, historically, very few teams have been willing to use a spot on a player whose only use is as a pinch runner.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:00 PM on March 20, 2013


To finish the thought... as long as she's not obviously destined for the majors, it's pretty easy for getting passed over in small ways to look like coincidence, but those small things add up.
posted by hoyland at 8:01 PM on March 20, 2013


Ha, DirtyOldTown we've given opposite answers to 'Do pinch runners have to bat?' because we've read the question two different ways.
posted by hoyland at 8:02 PM on March 20, 2013


Here's what's going to happen:

Someone without prejudice is going to take up the challenge to fight her. She may win, or lose - doesn't matter. But, it'll happen again, and after a while, no one's going to remember what the big deal was.

What competitor doesn't want a challenge? Who gets into MMA and won't fight, citing it's too dangerous, and is being honest? It's already a dangerous sport. Take up chess if it's too dangerous.
posted by alex_skazat at 8:04 PM on March 20, 2013


How so? Male track and field olympians are faster.

They're probably both faster than many major league hitters at base running. And if you (generic 'you') want to be all cynical about it, marketing might cut the other way.
posted by snuffleupagus at 8:05 PM on March 20, 2013


If transgendered mma fighting is something to seriously consider, I say let them start a league of their own, where being transgendered is a pre-requisite.

That's a pretty retrograde sentiment dude.

Let the m-to-f transgenders fight each other, or, if we really want to get to the bottom of this, let an f-to-m fighter take on an m-to-f...that might be an interesting fight...

You could probably set something like this up. Cristiane Santos, while not trans, is/has been famously full of testosterone and anabolic steroids: she has extraordinary power for a woman. I think she and Fallon are both in the 145lb weight class, too.

What competitor doesn't want a challenge? Who gets into MMA and won't fight, citing it's too dangerous, and is being honest? It's already a dangerous sport. Take up chess if it's too dangerous.

A professional MMA fighter only has so many fights in them. Nobody wants to risk their career on an unequal fight. Jose Aldo is an amazing fighter, probably better "pound for pound" than say, Cain Velasquez, but Cain would destroy him, and probably significantly shorten his career. He'd be a fool to take a fight like that.
posted by nicolas léonard sadi carnot at 8:07 PM on March 20, 2013


I think once a female player made it to the minors, a fair part of the sexism against her would be mitigated by public pressure to see a female player succeed. That said, a female player would still have to go up against baseball's inherent prejudices against non-traditional players.

As an example, let's suppose that Ila Borders had successfully transitioned from being an 82 mph right-handed power pitcher against women to being a crafty, junkballing 82 mph right-handed pitcher against men. Let's say she did very well at it, even. That's an oddball skill set to the point where even men who succeed pitching like that have trouble being taken seriously.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:09 PM on March 20, 2013


Take up chess if it's too dangerous.

You don't need to choose between MMA and chess. CHESS BOXING is a thing.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 8:13 PM on March 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


Isn't the point of sports (outside of entertainment and making money) to tell which of two competitors (individuals or teams) have the most "advantage"?

Because I feel like if one is arguing that Fox should not be able to compete due to some kind of potential advantage one is ultimately saying that she should not be able to compete because we potentially KNOW that she has an advantage that would allow her to win.

Whereas when one watches an MMA match between two cis women or two cis men one doesn't know which competitor is better or which has a greater advantage until the end of the fight?

I suppose what I'm saying is that once we start talking about how we can even the playing field in so many ways I start to wonder what sports are all about. Gender, muscle levels, etc. Why not limit the amount of hours one can train for a competition? I am being a bit hyperbolic there but I guess what I'm asking is:

A. are sports about humans attempting to overcome a number of unknown and unknowable variable between them and victory through dedication and determination with the distinc possibility of failure? Or

B. are sports about not knowing the ending of a narrative, who is going to win?

I understand that is a false dichotomy but my point is that if we want any kind of balance between A and B then I think we have to understand that fairness in sports is an arbitrary designation.

So, with that in mind I think one can recognize that, yes, Ms. Fox may have some inherent advantage but also find no problem with her competing as she has previous to her coming out.
posted by sendai sleep master at 8:46 PM on March 20, 2013


That's an oddball skill set to the point where even men who succeed pitching like that have trouble being taken seriously.

Holy shit, I knew that guy growing up. It's probably telling that I had no idea he was playing professional baseball. (Though not that telling. It would be weird news to filter through to me from my mother.)

But, back on topic (or back on our tangent), this is why I'm skeptical of the idea that a woman would make it as a knuckleballer. I mean, they're rare enough that Wikipedia has a list. It's shorter than the list of left-handed third basemen, for whatever that's worth.
posted by hoyland at 8:50 PM on March 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


So I know that not all trans threads are about all trans-related things but I'm time-locked from an FPP, am really excited, and want to share that the (Canadian) House of Commons just approved a bill that includes gender identity & gender expression in the existing human rights code and hate crimes law! Including 16 or 17 Conservatives!

....I am a little weirded out that I am happy with Flaherty and Baird's actions.
For reference, next it has to go to the Senate and get rubber-stamped.

posted by Lemurrhea at 9:10 PM on March 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


Hello, I'm here to unofficially represent the NHL.

Women are welcome to play with us.
posted by ShutterBun at 10:54 PM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's shorter than the list of left-handed third basemen, for whatever that's worth.

How about left-handed catchers?
posted by ShutterBun at 10:58 PM on March 20, 2013


the second most major concern with this is at some time in the future women's MMA being dominated by a bunch of MtF trans fighters.

That's only a problem if a) you still think trans women are not really women and b) there's a huge glut of trans women wanting to get into MMA in the first place or c) you're thinking that there would be a legion of blokes not being able to make it in the male competition would be willing to transition just to have a shot at the women titles.

Which, erm, well...
posted by MartinWisse at 1:57 AM on March 21, 2013


True, it would be hard to imagine a "glut" of FTM people bursting onto the MMA scene, but let's face it, such a thing is not without precedence. (The Press sisters, Caster Semenya, others )

Not sure I've seen it mentioned yet in this thread, but the case of Renee Richards, a MTF tennis player who successfully sued for the right to play as a woman might bear further reflection here.
posted by ShutterBun at 2:28 AM on March 21, 2013


(Caster Semenya is intersex, presents as a woman so is certainly not FTM, and hardly represents a glut on her own. Her mention is so far removed from relevant.)
posted by Dysk at 3:27 AM on March 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


Antonio Silva has acromegalia. He fights men his own weight.

He has extra growth hormone, and huge hands and feet.

No one made a fuss about how dangerous it could be for his opponents.
posted by Doroteo Arango II at 4:05 AM on March 21, 2013 [7 favorites]


Isn't the point of sports (outside of entertainment and making money) to tell which of two competitors (individuals or teams) have the most "advantage"?

Not advantage, but skill. That's why there are weight classes, salary caps, roster caps and intricate rules about stock car design. Sport is about starting on a level playing field with lots of restrictions, and then finding out who has more skill.

The argument here is that a fighter who started out life as a man has an advantage beyond the normal variations of the people in the class that she is fighting in. Rather than being a rare and exceptionally large female, with the metabolic and physical baggage that being a physical outlier carries, she is simply an above average male.

I see both sides of the argument and I feel bad for her catch-22. Sometimes life isn't fair. If she had transitioned as a youth and built her skills and strength while living as a female with the testosterone blockers and all that, I would completely agree that she belongs in the womens' circuit. But as far as I can tell, she didn't transition until she was in her 30s. It would be the equivalent of someone being on steroids for 10 years, and then stopping and saying "oh, I'm just a normal person, check my numbers, I'm not on 'roids." That she didn't have the choice in the matter is unfortunate, but doesn't mitigate the effects.
posted by gjc at 6:19 AM on March 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


Not sure I've seen it mentioned yet in this thread, but the case of Renee Richards, a MTF tennis player who successfully sued for the right to play as a woman might bear further reflection here.

What are we supposed to reflect on? The fact the world hasn't ended in the intervening 30 odd years? A number of sport governing bodies have rules on the participation of trans athletes, some of which someone linked to earlier. Some of these policies are less than great, some are probably as good an approximation to fairness as we're likely to get anytime soon. The conversation isn't 'Oh no there are no rules!' It is (or ought to be anyway) 'How do we make these rules reasonable?'
posted by hoyland at 7:38 AM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


I campaigned for the first elected transgendered superior court judge in the US. I'm very strongly for total equality for all identities.

But in this case, with a sport that's segregated by sex due to clear biological differences and advantages that men have in strength and the ability to build and maintain muscle mass, I have to draw a line.

Not only did Fox have the full benefit of male hormones and muscle growth until the age of 31 when she started hormone therapy, we don't even know if her hormone therapy included suppression of the hormones that give men an advantage in sports. It is entirely possible to take only estrogen supplements and not anti-androgens, should one so wish.

Further, Fox has thus far only fought women with losing records.

Sorry, this just doesn't make sense. In an ideal world where sex change procedures could transform a person completely, down to the chromosomes, I would fully support anyone's right to be fully allowed to participate in athletic competition as the sex they transition to. But we aren't there yet. Biology is what it is, for now.

All of this, however, serves to illustrate something else that's more important: we're talking about the only reasonable exception that exists today to transgender equality. I can't think of any other exception that makes any sense at all. That's more important than this one exception.
posted by MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch at 7:54 AM on March 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


Further, Fox has thus far only fought women with losing records.

I think you totally undermined your position. She obviously has an unfair advantage when competing against women and so... only fights people with losing records? Instead of charging to the top of the sport by beating the best people?

we don't even know if her hormone therapy included suppression of the hormones that give men an advantage in sports.

If you'd read the article, you could draw a conclusion. She's pretty close to giving you an explicit answer. However, Fox is right, it sure as hell isn't our business. At best, it's the business of whoever oversees MMA, which I believe are the same state agencies that oversee boxing.

Having campaigned for a trans person doesn't make you a good ally. Or an ally at all. It just makes you not a raging bigot.
posted by hoyland at 8:57 AM on March 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


Actually, MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch, you either didn't read the article or the post or missed out on some basic biology lessons. Fox is likely not producing any more testosterone than the average non trans woman.

We also know that trans women lose muscle mass from hormone therapy. They won't lose height, obviously, but as far as I know, there's no reason to believe trans women are at a significant advantage over cis women in any sport that doesn't massively prioritise height. (So, yes, maybe volleyball.)
posted by hoyland at 9:11 AM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


We are seeing a lot of these "First XXXXXX comes out as trans" posts, and I look forward to each new one.
posted by Theta States at 11:12 AM on March 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


The argument here is that a fighter who started out life as a man has an advantage beyond the normal variations of the people in the class that she is fighting in. Rather than being a rare and exceptionally large female, with the metabolic and physical baggage that being a physical outlier carries, she is simply an above average male.

Functionally, she is a "rare and exceptionally large" female (just for the sake of argument, I mean - she actually isn't exceptionally large), and there are rarer and exceptionally larger cis women who are allowed to compete and even celebrated.

I campaigned for the first elected transgendered superior court judge in the US. I'm very strongly for total equality for all identities.

But in this case, with a sport that's segregated by sex due to clear biological differences and advantages that men have in strength and the ability to build and maintain muscle mass, I have to draw a line.


Is there any incidence of "I'm for equality, but ..." that isn't a stupid attempt to claim cover for saying something dumb? Trans women on HRT have no more ability to build and maintain muscle mass than cis women, because this biological function is controlled by hormones.

we don't even know if her hormone therapy included suppression of the hormones that give men an advantage in sports. It is entirely possible to take only estrogen supplements and not anti-androgens, should one so wish.

We do know. Trans women have no significant level of testosterone (and since Fox is post-op her body isn't capable of producing more T than a cis woman's), and as far as I'm aware it is routine to test fighters for testosterone because it can be used as a steroid. Not only is estrogen-only HRT no longer standard treatment, but estrogen-only HRT still suppresses T production. Anti-androgens are a safer and more efficient way to do it, but it's kind of offensive to be more suspicious of trans people doping than cis people just because they're trans. This is not a reason to bar them from competition.

Sorry, this just doesn't make sense. In an ideal world where sex change procedures could transform a person completely, down to the chromosomes, I would fully support anyone's right to be fully allowed to participate in athletic competition as the sex they transition to. But we aren't there yet. Biology is what it is, for now.

Do chromosomes play some role in post-maturation physical ability that I'm unaware of? Do we test everyone to make sure they're not some kind of intersex, to make sure that they "fairly" came by their bodies? And again, the familiar construction of I would totally be okay with it if trans people jumped through this particular hoop (that I just made up and doesn't make any sense), but we're just not there yet - sorry trans people! I'm totally on your side, though! Old hat.

All of this, however, serves to illustrate something else that's more important: we're talking about the only reasonable exception that exists today to transgender equality. I can't think of any other exception that makes any sense at all. That's more important than this one exception.

Why don't you let trans people decide what forms of discrimination are important, instead of insisting that it's totally okay in whatever instance you feel like? It's obvious that you (and many others) aren't familiar with how trans bodies work on HRT, yet you're totally okay making claims from this position of ignorance. At least move on to some crap we can't defend (because nobody wants to put any money into research that benefits trans people) and talk about, like, faster CNS response or the abstract "ability to take a hit" or something. But muscle mass? Chromosomes? Come on.
posted by Corinth at 11:45 AM on March 21, 2013 [14 favorites]


As this thread demonstrates, participation in sports is one of the rare areas of trans issues where people in positions of power are doing better than the general public. Needing to "draw a line" or feeling like it "needs more investigation", when the relevant regulatory bodies of many sports have had policies for the inclusion of trans people for decades now that are backed by an actual understanding of what it means for a trans person to take hormones, and ultimately reasonably fair.

In the world of public opinion however, every time the issue comes up it's a new and shocking development that will destroy sport as we know it.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 1:06 PM on March 21, 2013 [3 favorites]




Well here is a Board certified endocrinologist opinion, she, while not weighing in on whether Fallon Fox should be licensed, or offering up any personal thoughts on the subject, says that yes a fighter with this background would have an advantage.....
posted by Lesium at 3:42 PM on March 21, 2013


That series of articles by Steph Daniels is interesting. Thanks for posting them. They include some conflicting opinions and that's probably the takeaway for me personally, along with the explicit asides that "there is not enough scientific information out there to say."

This part also caught my attention:
One of the things that's very interesting, is everyone says, 'Well there's been a few studies that say after two years this, that and the other...' That's not true. There's no studies for this. I've done the literature search. Then they come back with, 'The IOC knows.' The IOC knows what? The IOC caved to political and social pressure. The IOC didn't say, 'Because of firm scientific and medical evidence, that if you've had this SRS and you've taken hormones for two years, that's the magic number that all this is going to become safe.' That's not true at all.

There is no firm scientific basis to support that conclusion. They made an arbitrary determination in the face of social pressure. OK, I understand that, too. Who wanted to fight the fight? The IOC didn't want to, so they said. 'If you get the surgery and take the hormones for two years, that's good enough for us.' That doesn't mean it was made on a sound medical basis, because the sound medical basis doesn't exist. Those studies have not been done.
posted by cribcage at 3:50 PM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


I guess I should have written "a fighter with this background would most likely have an advantage" but for me the key point seems to be a fighter with this background (who started taking hormones at ~30) in particular would most likely have an unfair advantage, a fighter who starting taking hormones much earlier would most likely not. I really think it should be decided on a case-by-case basis, unfair as that may be to Fox.
posted by Lesium at 3:58 PM on March 21, 2013


Here is a key quote from homunculus link:
Typically, you're looking at about 15 years after androgen suppression and sexual reassignment surgery to really start to see significant changes in bone density. It's been too early for her to see much of a decrease in bone mass or to make her equal to that of a female. She started off with a much higher bone density than other women her same age, and therefore will maintain a lot of that for a while. Additionally, because she is taking estrogen, that will actually help to maintain that bone mass. Women also have lighter, child bearing hips because of the difference in hormones during the body's developmental years. Her skeleton and body mass and shape developed a long time ago. Those changes cannot be undone. They are permanent.
I realize this is a difficult situation. If the officiating body maintains the position that she can fight, that's probably defensible. But I don't think the opposite position is indefensible either and if they ultimately come down on that side I'd probably not second guess them.
posted by Justinian at 4:50 PM on March 21, 2013


Sorry, this just doesn't make sense. In an ideal world where sex change procedures could transform a person completely, down to the chromosomes, I would fully support anyone's right to be fully allowed to participate in athletic competition as the sex they transition to. But we aren't there yet. Biology is what it is, for now.

This comes awfully close to saying that trans women aren't real women.
posted by Dysk at 5:04 PM on March 21, 2013


Also, wouldn't higher bone density be sort of a disadvantage in a sport with tight weight categories? More bone mass, less muscle mass for any given total mass...
posted by Dysk at 5:06 PM on March 21, 2013


Bone density is a measure of mineral matter per square cm not mass per volume.
posted by Justinian at 5:10 PM on March 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


This comes awfully close to saying that trans women aren't real women.

They are "real women" for all legal, moral and social purposes, but there are inescapable biological differences between genetic female and genetic male. That's no reason to discriminate against trans people or to treat them any differently on a day to day basis. But it is a reason to consider the manner in which trans people are classified in professional sports.

This is the difference between gender and chromosomes. Gender is a social construct, and by that measure, she is a woman like any other. But she had testosterone-producing gonads for 30+ years, and that is going to make a difference in how her body performs in athletic combat.

As for solving the problem, perhaps there is some way to correct for the male and female differences in classing the opponents. There must be some kind of BMI-like (or BCCS-like?) chart that can be created whereby things like height, weight, density, muscle mass, + some other criteria can be input and a parity score can be derived. Regardless of sex or gender, if you and an opponent score within X points of each other, you are more or less equally matched and can compete. Let amateur MMA fighters volunteer to test and refine the algorithm by fighting in matches and being honest about how well matched they feel like the opponents were. We'd know that it's more or less correct if fighters in the same classes are winning and losing in statistically predictable rates.
posted by gjc at 5:35 PM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


This comes awfully close to saying that trans women aren't real women.

Gender is not biological. Sex is.

If a person does not have two X chromosomes, their sex is not female. Hormone therapy can help manifest secondary sex characteristics. Surgery can change genitalia, remove gonads, but not add gonads. We simply do not have the technology to change sex yet, not fully. I believe we should strive to achieve that technology. I also believe that we should accept that we have not yet achieved it, and that as such, certain things about our sex cannot yet be changed.

Your gender is whatever you identify it as. A man can become a woman without surgery or hormone therapy, as far as gender is concerned. But not as far as sex is concerned.

The complication is in where the social construct of gender and the physical construct of sex intersect. That's why transpeople get so much grief about which bathroom they use: conservative society doesn't understand that it's choice to segregate bathrooms is about gender, not sex.

But sorry, someone who went through puberty as a man, who was an athletic man until age 31, there are physiological advantages that amass there that are about that person's sex, and which remain, inalterable with today's technology, even after hormones and surgery.
posted by MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch at 5:52 PM on March 21, 2013


(looks like somebody's on exactly the same page as me, again. This has been happening a lot)
posted by MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch at 5:54 PM on March 21, 2013


Oh, yay, the chromosome argument. About 1 in 20,000 (non-trans) men are XX, not XY. Something like 85% of such men do not have ambiguous genitalia. Here's an article reporting a man who is apparently totally unremarkable physically, except he's infertile, has two X chromosomes and apparently no evidence of any of the chromosomal/genetic material thought to result in a person being typically male. (Most SRY-negative XX men have ambiguous genitalia, apparently, and most XX men don't experience a typical puberty.) There are, of course, XY people who are phenotypically female, I just didn't pull the references. So as much as you like your neat little chromosomal boxes and want to use that as an excuse to treat trans people differently, nature begs to differ.
posted by hoyland at 8:28 PM on March 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


But sorry, someone who went through puberty as a man, who was an athletic man until age 31, there are physiological advantages that amass there that are about that person's sex, and which remain, inalterable with today's technology, even after hormones and surgery.

What are these advantages precisely? I'll concede to you that a woman who has experienced male puberty will be, on average, taller than a woman who hasn't, but have you got anything else?
posted by hoyland at 8:29 PM on March 21, 2013


Check the link I quoted. Bone density will be higher. Hip shape and mass (and skeletal shape in general) will be different. Muscle mass is starting from a higher baseline and this is likely to be higher than a cis-woman of the same age. I don't know whether the differences in hip and skeletal shape are an advantage or not (they may not be) but bone density and muscle mass definitely would be.
posted by Justinian at 9:24 PM on March 21, 2013


I had to revert some changes on Fallon Fox's wikipedia page after someone changed all the pronouns. Absolutely infuriating. :(
posted by yeoz at 3:58 AM on March 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


The complication is in where the social construct of gender and the physical construct of sex intersect. That's why transpeople get so much grief about which bathroom they use: conservative society doesn't understand that it's choice to segregate bathrooms is about gender, not sex.

Seems pretty arbitrary to me to have decided that 'men' and 'women' refers to gender when used with regard to bathrooms, and sex when used with regard to sport.

The clear distinction of the two concepts is problematic, frankly, as is the definition in biological terms of either.
posted by Dysk at 6:08 AM on March 22, 2013


Check the link I quoted. Bone density will be higher. Hip shape and mass (and skeletal shape in general) will be different. Muscle mass is starting from a higher baseline and this is likely to be higher than a cis-woman of the same age. I don't know whether the differences in hip and skeletal shape are an advantage or not (they may not be) but bone density and muscle mass definitely would be.

The link you quoted doesn't speak to muscle mass, which you're wrong about, by the way. And why would bone density be an advantage precisely? Yes, I imagine it would be handy from the not getting injured perspective. Of course, female athletes have greater bone density than women as a whole. No one's advancing the position that women who have experienced male puberty are physiologically identical to women who haven't. I mean, that would be stupid. Your voice changes.

Here's a quick summary. I know you'll want to point to the bit where it says the 'do transitioned athletes have an advantage over non-transitioned athletes?' question is unanswered. Read the next sentence. There are too few trans athletes to study this question rigorously. Ask any number of questions about trans people in general and the answer is 'We don't know. No one's done a study.' There are fewer trans athletes than trans people in general, obviously, making such a study harder to do and less useful. So we have to make our best guess, which turns out to be concluding that athletes who have transitioned aren't at a substantial advantage. No they're not representative of the cis population of their gender, but then neither are cis athletes. Even the IOC, who think your genitals are the determiner of your athletic ability and regularly inspected women's genitals up until 1996, thinks trans people don't have an advantage over cis people. The disagreement on this issue isn't participation. It is about how long you have to wait after beginning medical transition to compete in your gender.

One might want to reflect on why one is arguing trans women should not be allowed to compete in women's sport when it is the accepted position of the IOC and NCAA that the should be allowed to do so.
posted by hoyland at 6:16 AM on March 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


The link you quoted doesn't speak to muscle mass

I take this back. I did a very poor job of skimming.
posted by hoyland at 6:19 AM on March 22, 2013


Yes, the issue with muscle mass as the link specifies is that Fox didn't start hormone therapy until so late in life after a male musculature had already fully developed and been present for decades.
posted by Justinian at 9:58 AM on March 22, 2013


With regards to the IOC/NCAA/etc. simply caving to pressure from some hulking trans lobby, I find that patently absurd. That sentiment is premised on a few things:

1) The IOC/NCAA/etc. don't care about the safety of their athletes or their fair competition.
2) The IOC/NCAA/etc. choose to misinterpret or disregard what evidence does exist on this topic to decide in favor of trans people.
3) The IOC/NCAA/etc. are willing to go out on a limb for trans people arbitrarily when almost nobody else in the world does, because reasons.
4) The IOC/NCAA/etc. are incompetent and don't know what they're doing.

Those all seem like pretty big leaps to make for the implication crabcage was pushing. I'm not trying to create a narrative that those organizations have more information than anyone else does, but painting them as PC-gone-wild progressives is ludicrous.

Justinian: I realize this is a difficult situation. If the officiating body maintains the position that she can fight, that's probably defensible. But I don't think the opposite position is indefensible either and if they ultimately come down on that side I'd probably not second guess them.

This is kind of the problem trans people face across the board: acceptance? Probably defensible. Discrimination? Probably wouldn't second guess. We do need to be second guessing pretty much every instance of discrimination, because it's almost always based on ignorance or bigotry or both, as you can see from people chiming in across the internet (including here) with completely uninformed and incorrect statements. Is it possible that there is a legitimate reason to prevent her from competing? It's possible. Are people who know absolutely nothing about trans bodies qualified to weigh in with "it's like a man punching a woman, obviously not cool?" No.

I think that there are two paths for useful conversation:

A) Are the advantages that trans athletes posess, if they posess advantages, unfair advantages? What constitutes unfair? If a trans woman is measured to have strength/bone density/"imprinting" (which sounds like bullshit, honestly) available within the wildly diverse range of cis women's own bodies, is her advantage unfair because she came by it through a male puberty while a cis woman's is fair because she came by it through a female puberty? If black people are overrepresented in basketball, and that's okay, why is trans people being overrepresented in a sport (even assuming that would happen, which seems unlikely) not okay? Is it enough not okay to prevent them from playing at all? Trans people were born into their bodies the same as anyone else, and their bodies are advantaged in some ways and disadvantaged in others, the same as anyone else's. Does a body's inherent transness render it unsuitable for competition, tainting any and all of its capabilities simply for existing and challenging a cisnormative society?

B) Why should the acceptable limits of segregated sports categories be defined by cis bodies at all, assuming that trans bodies are following accepted treatment protocols? If one trans woman (there is just as much diversity in trans bodies as in cis bodies, and not all trans people will be outside the norms no matter how you choose to draw them) did punch harder than any other woman, why is that something to be chopped off by arbitrary cisnormative policing? Why not redefine the fringe border of "how hard women can punch" to include this woman's punch and celebrate her?

Shit's just frustrating, is all.
posted by Corinth at 3:10 PM on March 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


I assume "crabcage" was a typo, and you're referring to me. But I'll clarify, since you appear to have misunderstood, that I didn't "push" any implication. I quoted a passage from an article that had been posted by somebody else. Literally the only comment I made about it was, "This part also caught my attention."
posted by cribcage at 3:28 PM on March 22, 2013


cribcage, sorry. My apologies. You felt the sentiment was worth posting here, and I don't think it's worth posting anywhere. I addressed you as its presenter to this context.
posted by Corinth at 3:32 PM on March 22, 2013


This is kind of the problem trans people face across the board: acceptance? Probably defensible. Discrimination? Probably wouldn't second guess. We do need to be second guessing pretty much every instance of discrimination ... Are the advantages that trans athletes posess, if they posess advantages, unfair advantages?

Which is exactly the process we went through in this thread, so I think it's a little disingenuous to imply that anyone here is being thoughtlessly discriminatory, including me. If someone who transitions in their early 30s has an unfair advantage over a cis-woman, it is not a horrible miscarriage of justice for an athletic organization to address. Whether such an advantage exists must be established, yes, but you're glossed over the entire conversation as though nobody thought of that point yet.
posted by Justinian at 4:03 PM on March 22, 2013


Which is exactly the process we went through in this thread, so I think it's a little disingenuous to imply that anyone here is being thoughtlessly discriminatory, including me. If someone who transitions in their early 30s has an unfair advantage over a cis-woman, it is not a horrible miscarriage of justice for an athletic organization to address. Whether such an advantage exists must be established, yes, but you're glossed over the entire conversation as though nobody thought of that point yet.

The process we've gone though in this thread is mostly uninformed people offering their uninformed take and then bickering about advantages (however valid) Fallon Fox may or may not have. There's a dash of other things, including parallels of arguments used to oppress trans people in many other aspects of their lives.

Earlier, you said:

The fundamental question is whether being born male gives you a physical advantage even if you transition later, and if it does they are justified in prohibiting Fox from participating in their matches.

This sort of thing comes up occasionally on Metafilter and there always do seem to be some people arguing against any restrictions on who can participate in women's leagues. My strong suspicion is that these are mostly people who don't actually care about sports at all.


And I think that sums up the discussion that has preceded thus far, aside from the weird attack at the bottom. The clunky question you asked throws a positive every time, because a trans woman is probably going to be a little taller than she would have been if she were born cis (but really, who knows). I would sincerely hope that we can all agree that height (especially in the speculative sense), for example, isn't an unfair advantage, although hell if I can tell at this point. What advantages are fair, and what advantages are unfair, and why? Further, I want to advance the conversation by asking, "even if she has an advantage over certain other cis women, so what? So do other cis women. And if other cis women don't, and Fallon Fox happens to be the best female MMA fighter ever to have lived, also so what?"

By the way, I care about sports and trans people's participation in them. I am a trans woman, and I came out to my softball coach last night. I'm not going into it any more than that, but yeah. Actual people you're talking to have skin in this game (although even if they didn't it would be nice to see a lot more empathy). For what it's worth, I have significantly less strength and endurance than I did when I was running on testosterone, whether anyone believes me or not.
posted by Corinth at 6:21 PM on March 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


You're free to call opinions based on the statements found in articles by endocrinologists uninformed but, to me, that's the opposite of uninformed. It's informed!
posted by Justinian at 8:31 PM on March 22, 2013


And you're seemingly free to ignore the endos and doctors who say the opposite of the endos and doctors you're championing. Forgive me for trying to pull us out of the he said she said muck into something useful.
posted by Corinth at 8:56 PM on March 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


To my reading Justinian hasn't been "championing" anyone, just as I wasn't "pushing" anything earlier. Forgive my saying so, but you've mentioned this subject is frustrating to you...and it shows. I'm tremendously sympathetic, but not confident that it permits conversation to be as useful as one might like.
posted by cribcage at 9:06 PM on March 22, 2013


Thing is, all that those (contested) expert opinions offer is that Fallon Fox my have/has some advantages over most cis women. That doesn't mean they're unfair. That doesn't mean they fall outside the natural variance of cis women necessarily, even. Why is a trans person's height or 'tendency to build muscle mass' automatically deemed unfair by the very nature of its existence, when cis people have such advantages/disadvantages relative to each other, and relative to trans people?
posted by Dysk at 12:41 PM on March 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Let's say we had a contest where we each rolled two six sided dice. Whoever rolls highest wins. But I get to add 1 to my total while you don't. It's very likely that the total I roll (including the bonus 1) will be within the normal variation of rolling two six sided dice, but no one would argue that I didn't have an unfair advantage.
posted by Justinian at 7:16 PM on March 24, 2013


Are trans people the only group with a +1 to their rolls that renders their advantages (if any) unfair? Why?
posted by Corinth at 8:34 PM on March 24, 2013


Are trans people the only group with a +1 to their rolls that renders their advantages (if any) unfair? Why?

Because that advantage is derived from their physical sex and the process of maturing as that physical sex, and the category of competition is specifically - and with good reason - limited by physical sex.
posted by kafziel at 8:53 PM on March 24, 2013


So other advantages that might be more significant (I think there's at least one MMA fighter with acromegaly, and there have been at least two NBA players who are 7'7" [2.31m]) are fair because they belong to cis people, but trans people posses some magical quality that renders their bodies innately unfair, even when those bodies are within cis boundaries? I understand where you're coming from, I just don't think it's tenable or particularly defensible as an across the board position that anyone could or should be satisfied with.
posted by Corinth at 10:05 PM on March 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Because that advantage is derived from their physical sex and the process of maturing as that physical sex

....but is it? Why are trans people's advantages considered derived from their sex, whereas cis people's aren't? Why is a trans woman's six foot height just because she's trans, whereas a cis woman's seven foot height just mundane tallness?
posted by Dysk at 1:08 AM on March 25, 2013


as an across the board position that anyone could or should be satisfied with.

I don't think there is any position here with which everyone could or should be satisfied.
posted by Justinian at 12:07 PM on March 25, 2013


Dysk, it could be because some people are trying to find a solution that logically leads to the preservation of separate male and female divisions, because dissolving gendered athletics appears to them to probably be enormously detrimental to the cause of women's participation in athletics, and asserting that differences due to gender at birth should be ignored seems to imply that women shouldn't have their own division separate from men.

I suspect that Ronda Rousey or Cris Cyborg might well be able to compete against their male wieght-category counterparts, that's definitely not true of the majority of women fighters. By and large women athletes in MMA, weightlifting, judo, boxing and so on would generally find themselves without competitive outlets (particularly elite competitive outlets) if male and female divisions became one unisex division. Maybe I'm wrong, and these gendered differences in athletic ability will melt away after fifty years of equal participation in sport. But I am dubious that such would be the case, and the consequences would be widespread and negative.

I'll add this: the excellent Doctor AnnMaria de Mars, statistician PhD and first American world judo champion of any sex or gender, has this to say:
Here is what I was able to discover in searching the scientific literature:
  1. No evidence of any transgender athlete competing in the Olympics.
  2. No data on transgender athletes competing in any combat sports other than the one person who has been recently featured in the news.
  3. One literature review from the British Journal of Sports Medicine stating that the issue should be considered on a sport to sport basis.
What I did NOT find was the supposed vast body of literature "proving" that male to female transgender athletes are identical to athletes who were born female.
Note that the good doctor, being the current women's champ's mother, is decidedly not an unbiased source.

I'm undecided on this issue. I understand Fox's position--she wants a division to fight in. I understand Miesha's position--she doesn't want to fight someone she considers as having an unfair advantage. I understand the philosophical position that says "she's a woman". I understand the philosophical position that says "she had thirty years of building muscle and bone density with a man's hormones, which is akin to long-term cheating via steroid use". I don't understand the position of Joe Rogan, whose comments have been abhorrent. Nor do I sympathize with those who classify all opposition to Fox's competing against women as transphobia.
posted by daveliepmann at 3:11 PM on March 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


I think daveliepmann's comment is an excellent summation and is about where I've landed.
posted by Justinian at 3:32 PM on March 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't understand what trans people competing in gender-appropriate leagues has to do with dissolving gendered athletics.
posted by Corinth at 3:56 PM on March 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Many but not all of the reasons given for having Fallon compete in the women's division are logically identical to dissolving gendered athletics.
posted by daveliepmann at 4:02 PM on March 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


You said that in your earlier post, but I don't see the connection (aside from the discussion literally about dissolving gendered athletics upthread). Extending the privilege of competition to binary-identified trans people undergoing accepted medical treatments doesn't seem at all related to throwing all men and women into the same pool and watching to see who sinks or swims, or at least no related more than saying we have to keep LGBT people from marrying to prevent the slide into people marrying dogs or cars.
posted by Corinth at 4:10 PM on March 25, 2013


You and Dysk seemed to be taking the position that since there exist women who are six foot, then the height of six foot MtF transgender athletes does not count as gendered. But this can be extended indefinitely. There are many outliers on the bell curve of whatever relevant dimension you'd like to measure (strength, power, bone density, height, reach, hand size, muscular endurance, knockout resistance...). However, saying that those outliers exist indicates that these attributes are not gendered (which you and Dysk seemed to be saying) clearly doesn't match observed reality. Further, if these attributes are not gendered, then the need for gendered athletics seems to disappear. It seems to me that many physical attributes are gendered, and that they lend advantage.

It seems reasonable, to me, to ask where the line is drawn between the men's and women's divisions. In the past, the response I've heard is simply choice by the trans* or intersex athlete. (If it matters, that was relating to the recent case of intersex athletes in the Olympics, and it was Amanda Marcotte's response.) I think it's reasonable, for instance, to ask what allows both Fallon (MtF, with hormones) and her friend (FtM, no hormones) to compete as women. Is it really just the athlete's choice? Is there a minimum two years of HRT? Or one, or three? Or should it be until the athlete's levels of strength are "within acceptable ranges" for women? All of those seem to be bad options, either because they give the athlete too much opportunity for advantage ("I live as a woman therefore I compete as a woman, despite not having taken hormone therapy", as is literally the case (in the opposite direction) with Fallon's friend) or because they invade on the athlete's autonomy and hormonally police gender norms.

Now, all that is a little philosophical. The reality is that we're not going to develop an overarching philosophy of things; we're just going to figure out when to allow athletes to compete as women. (Resistance to competing as men is more often pure sexist exclusivity, since the competition--I hope we agree--is either equal or tougher in men's divisions, so claiming unfair advantage is moot.) I frequently lean towards letting Fallon Fox compete as a woman, because the advantages don't seem enormous. Yet I also think she's stronger and tougher than if she'd been born XX, because living with a hypertrophic hormone profile for thirty years has consequences even if those hormones are no longer produced. But if transgender athletes become even a significant minority of those competing as women in kickboxing, MMA, boxing, judo, and jiu-jitsu, I suspect a very real and problematic drop in women's competitive participation in those sports. Thus I think it's reasonable to ask what standard we're going to use for allowing MtF women to compete in women's divisions. If it's literally athlete's choice, then what's to stop a MtF who hasn't taken hormones? What's to stop a non-trans man from trolling the event and insisting he lives as a woman? He'd be a jerk, but what's stopping him? He's stopped easily by saying "we think you're lying", but historically, hasn't that been a method of excluding intersex people?

I get that this is a charged issue. I get that it's not even an "issue"; that the people for whom this is lived experience have had to defend themselves against violence and microaggressions nearly every day. I get that arguing about where someone competes immediately turns into questions about who they *are* and whether we accept their identity. I'm trying to be sensitive to that while still raising these practical and philosophical points. Without pre-empting future apology, I apologize if I fail in that regard.
posted by daveliepmann at 5:00 PM on March 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


The reality is that we're not going to develop an overarching philosophy of things; we're just going to figure out when to allow athletes to compete as women.

I agree with you almost completely (again), daveliepmann, but to me establishing a consistent set of rules for when to allow athletes to compete as women almost requires adherence to some overarching philosophy. Without it you're stuck deciding every instance on an ad-hoc case by case basis and that seems a recipe for disaster for the same reason we don't decide cases in the judicial system on an ad-hoc basis but rather with reference to an overarching philosophy and set of rules.

The consequences aren't as severe as in a criminal case, obviously, so an ad-hoc system is kind of working up to this point but it isn't clear to me that will remain true in the future.
posted by Justinian at 5:09 PM on March 25, 2013


Also, jesus tap-dancing christ what an asshole Fox News' Steven Crowder is.
posted by daveliepmann at 5:16 PM on March 25, 2013


daveliepmann, cis men being assholes is no more a reason to prevent trans women from competing in sports than it is to prevent them from using bathrooms, and, generally, several of your scenarios are already controlled for by organizations testing their athletes for steroids including testosterone. If any cis man is enough of an asshole to take estrogen HRT for a year or two just to attempt to troll women's leagues (or use women's restrooms), I wish him the best of luck. He will quickly find himself in unbearable territory with absolutely no payoff.

You and Dysk seemed to be taking the position that since there exist women who are six foot, then the height of six foot MtF transgender athletes does not count as gendered. But this can be extended indefinitely.

This is precisely the point I'm trying to make. I understand how you're trying to turn it against me, but I don't think it functions as well as a limiting factor as it does an unlimiting one.

Yet I also think she's stronger and tougher than if she'd been born XX

And we're both stronger and tougher than if we'd been born into lives where we struggled to eat five hundred calories a day, and cis women all over the place are stronger and tougher than cis women all over other places for various uncontrollable factors. I don't buy that biological quirks are either fair or unfair by virtue of their cisness or transness.

But if transgender athletes become even a significant minority of those competing as women in kickboxing, MMA, boxing, judo, and jiu-jitsu, I suspect a very real and problematic drop in women's competitive participation in those sports.

That hasn't happened yet, it almost certainly won't happen under any circumstances ever, and the spectre of it happening shouldn't be an excuse for present discrimination. Also, you presumably meant a drop in "cis women's" participation, and call it problematic without stating why it would be. Minorities are overrepresented in activities they excel at (for myriad reasons) in any number of other arenas. If the backlash against trans women being overrepresented is greater and more hostile than backlash against other groups, it would be worth it to examine why that is.

You seem to be ignoring the fact that most trans women participating in this thread (and whom I've talked to about this issue) are generally satisfied by the guidelines set by organizations like the NCAA - a year or two of hormones, but no onerous, expensive, dangerous, painful, sometimes-unwanted surgery requirement. This seems to be working well. We aren't in any danger of cis men or testosterone-based trans women running amok in our women's athletics.
posted by Corinth at 6:06 PM on March 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


I just read the NCAA document and was coming here to say that the one-year-of-hormones policy seems solid. I prefer it greatly to the "athlete's bald preference" that I thought was being proffered as policy. I might think a 2-year policy is more reasonable for non-collegiate athletics.

I don't think we're going to reach communication regarding gendered attributes. Suffice it to say that I don't consider these "biological quirks" to be cis or trans, but rather as lying somewhere on the male/female spectrum. I think this difference of opinion is why I thought you were offering a more extreme solution than the NCAA's.
posted by daveliepmann at 6:20 PM on March 25, 2013


Dysk, it could be because some people are trying to find a solution that logically leads to the preservation of separate male and female divisions, because dissolving gendered athletics appears to them to probably be enormously detrimental to the cause of women's participation in athletics, and asserting that differences due to gender at birth should be ignored seems to imply that women shouldn't have their own division separate from men.

...why does asserting that differences that are in no way provably due to 'gender at birth' should not be grounds for exclusion from gendered competition imply that women shouldn't have their own division?

You may see the height thing (for example) as male/female rather than trans/cis - but in the context of women's athletics, this is effectively the same thing. Again, why is a trans woman's six foot height a problem (because it's "male" or whatever) when a cis woman's six foot six is unproblematically fair (because it's "female")?

You and Dysk seemed to be taking the position that since there exist women who are six foot, then the height of six foot MtF transgender athletes does not count as gendered. But this can be extended indefinitely. There are many outliers on the bell curve of whatever relevant dimension you'd like to measure (strength, power, bone density, height, reach, hand size, muscular endurance, knockout resistance...). However, saying that those outliers exist indicates that these attributes are not gendered (which you and Dysk seemed to be saying) clearly doesn't match observed reality.

Really? From the 'observed reality' I'm taking in, women (cis or trans) come in all sorts of shapes, sizes, colours, strengths, etc. and the variance for trans women doesn't seem to have higher outer bounds than for cis women. Again, why is the complete outlier seven foot cis woman more of a problem than the complete outlier seven foot trans woman? Why is it unfair to compete against one, but not the other? Why is one woman's seven foot female, and another woman's seven foot male?

I just read the NCAA document and was coming here to say that the one-year-of-hormones policy seems solid. I prefer it greatly to the "athlete's bald preference" that I thought was being proffered as policy. I might think a 2-year policy is more reasonable for non-collegiate athletics.

Where has anyone offered 'athlete's bald preference' as a policy suggestion?
posted by Dysk at 1:48 AM on March 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


why is a trans woman's six foot height a problem (because it's "male" or whatever) when a cis woman's six foot six is unproblematically fair (because it's "female")?

Why is a man's six foot height a problem when a woman's six foot six is fair? Why not let a man compete in the women's division? Dysk, why do we have women's athletics at all? This is what I mean when I said that asserting that differences that are influenced by birth-gender do not matter imply that women shouldn't have their own division. Without additional qualifiers, it's an identical logical progression.

I understand now that you are distinguishing "do not matter" from "should not be grounds for exclusion from women's competition", and that you're asserting that a year or two of hormone therapy sufficiently blunts any hormonal advantage that people born male had. I apologize for not comprehending your position more clearly.

My answer to "why have women's athletics at all" has been that we have a division for able-bodied chromosomally-advantaged people (men's), for able-bodied chromosomally-disadvantaged people (women's), for people differently-abled mentally (the special olympics), and for people differently-abled physically (the paralympics). I haven't put much thought into it but that's the schema I think things were built on. That doesn't mean that it's right, it doesn't mean that's what we should use. It doesn't handle intersex people or transgender people well. But I'm having a hard time explicitly describing the new schema and I'm asking for help. The closest I've come is that we want to have an "open" division, a "slightly disadvantaged due to current hormonal profile" division, and the same two divisions for the differently-abled.
posted by daveliepmann at 7:22 AM on March 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't think it's fair to claim that we have chromosomally segregated sports leagues in the absence of the mass karyotype testing of athletes. Chromosomes are pretty much never the standard we use to determine whether someone is a man or woman, no matter how much people like to go on about them or harass trans people because of them. I know what you mean, I just see no reason to propagate that stuff.
posted by Corinth at 10:10 AM on March 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


I see what you mean, but then we're stuck with hormonal profiling, which is intrusive and problematic for intersex folks and maybe some trans folks too. (Or we just let people tell us which division they want, which after Dysk's last comments it seems we agree is problematic, or at least not being proferred as a solution.) And what do we do with genderqueer folk, who don't identify as any gender? It seems like we're moving towards a hormone profile cutoff, but does that mean a man who lost his testicles in an accident shouldn't compete with the men? These people exist. Once it's based on hormones instead of the male-female dichotomy, should women who identify as women but take steroids be allowed to compete in the men's division? Could the already-cheating-with-steroids Cris Cyborg take (male) HRT while still identifying as a woman, the same way male UFC fighters are taking TRT basically just because they want to keep competing into their 40s?

What do we call these divisions? "Men's" and "women's" might be inaccurate and insulting in cases where an intersex person who identifies as female is forced by her hormonal profile to compete in the "men's" division. The same problem arises for genderqueer people whose hormonal profile doesn't match the division they identify with. So we could stop calling it "men's" and "women's". But what to call it instead? The only hint of a framework to replace it (that I am familiar with) is from Ultimate, wherein there are "open" divisions that in practice are 99.9% men. What would be an inclusive, non-technical term for the "non-open" division, meant for those with a less advantageous current hormonal profile?
posted by daveliepmann at 10:48 AM on March 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Dysk, why do we have women's athletics at all?

To allow women to compete, crudely speaking. It's not called cis-women's athletics, is it? It's not called XX athletics either, or female-birth-sex athletics, or whatever else you're positing. It's women's athletics.
posted by Dysk at 4:35 PM on March 26, 2013


As ever, trans people shouldn't have to be the ones to iron out literally every possible contingency of their enfranchisement, nor should they have to wait for such an occurrence to be extended rights and privileges. The current system sucks and has horrible inconsistencies, so I'm not incredibly troubled if a better, more inclusive system still isn't ideal and still has inconsistencies. I'm sensitive to the all-or-nothing argument that sometimes prevents the T from being dropped from LGBT causes, believe me, but I don't personally feel, from my somewhat privileged position as a binary-identified trans person relative to bigender/agender/genderqueer people, that this is precisely the same. You can try to raise that objection if you want (I don't think you would, given your thrusts thus far) but I'll tell you right now that I don't know how to handle it other than to propose that as hormonal systems are by far the most significant predictor of athletic ability, and all bodies need either T or E for longterm health, they make a decent binning algorithm.

(Also it is my understanding that men who have lost their testicles in accidents generally receive testosterone HRT, so chalk this up as another one of your examples that solves itself. Too, it's completely unfair to ask trans people to answer for competitors who, as you put it, are already cheating. And again, hormone therapy requirements sort out many of your edge cases - presumably, an intersex woman initially based on testosterone would be on the same HRT regimen as a trans woman.)
posted by Corinth at 11:28 PM on March 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


Dysk, that's not what I'm asking, sorry for the ambiguity. What I'm asking is why should we have women compete separately from men? As I said, your argument is an identical logical progression to eliminating gendered divisions. Why have some people compete in one division and others compete in a second?

Corinth, I'm not trying to withhold rights and privileges. The hormonal system solution seems to be the most-correct one to my eye as well. I'm just trying to point out that other groups are offended and disenfranchised by the solution we're using, and that conceiving of the divisions with a hormonal profile paradigm raises some perhaps unintended edge cases.

I'm not asking questions about this to be a bigot, I'm trying to probe the idea just like all ideas should be viewed critically. I think that answering these questions robustly would help those of us interested in broad inclusion successfully proselytize to people who oppose trans or intersex involvement in sports wholesale.
posted by daveliepmann at 6:45 AM on April 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


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