Wait till one breaks a record ...
March 4, 2004 3:25 AM   Subscribe

Here's a can of worms: transsexuals who engage in pro sports
posted by magullo (20 comments total)
Well - As long as they are genetically identifiable as Homo Sapiens, I'd say it's fair game for them to compete with others of their species. I don't give a damn about their sexual orientation or sexual anatomical makeup. That's their business. But I'm sure as hell not the voice of John Q. Sixpack. But more to the point :

For those concerned she has a physical advantage over the other women in the field -- which includes Karrie Webb, Laura Davies and Rachel Teske -- Bagger says they are misinformed.

"People aren't aware of what's involved with transsexualism," said Bagger, who is 5-foot-10 and 150 pounds. "People aren't aware that there are certain physiological changes you go through with hormone replacement therapy. We lose an amount of muscle mass and overall strength as a result.

"After surgery, those effects are permanent and irreversible."

I think the real can of worms has yet to be opened - sports competitors who have been genetically tailored by their parents (through hired rogue geneticists, that is), in secretly, for extreme traits which confer advantage in a particular sport. I don't think we are there yet.

[ This theme was broached most explicitly (and luridly) by "Felix Mendelsohn Jr." (a pseudonym of FC Kneller) in the 1969 science fiction book "Superbaby" - which is described in a single pithy sentence in the Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute's "Search for Tomorrow: Science Fiction Literature and Today’s Student"
(by Anthony F. Franco) : "Alan Corwallis, a laboratory baby, is born 2009. He is perfect physically, but he has no conscience." Hmmm, a genetically engineered baby who has no conscience! - like a robot, I guess. Never mind that all babies arguably lack conscience (to an extent, anyway) - if this sounds a bit ridiculous, or tendentious, it is. The book is out of print, perhaps justly. ]
posted by troutfishing at 4:00 AM on March 4, 2004

I don't give a damn about their ... sexual anatomical makeup.

But sporting authorities sure do. I am pretty uneducated in the field, but her claims that her body has changed are not that convincing by themselves.
posted by magullo at 4:23 AM on March 4, 2004

Geez, and here I thought that, at least in terms of sports, this was all sorted out in 1976.
posted by anastasiav at 6:10 AM on March 4, 2004

This situation has already played out further in the world of Downhill Mountain Biking, where Michelle Dumaresq has already won a Canadian National Title. Opinions have been divided, to say the least. My take on this is that it's up to female athletes to decide whether this is acceptable or not. Amongst my female mountain biking friends (some of whom know Michelle) I have come across some people who are supportive, some who have a lot of questions, but no-one yet who is strongly anti - but if you search the NSMB Forums you will find some - especially in the professional world.
posted by pascal at 7:38 AM on March 4, 2004

Great (true) movie about this: "Sa Tree Leks" - The Iron Ladies - about a Thai transexual volleyball team and the repercussions when they kept winning in Thailand.
posted by Pericles at 9:08 AM on March 4, 2004

Call me clueless about golf, but it's that a sport that's more about skill than raw strength? That is, why should it matter what gender someone is, or was born as for that matter? There's some competitive events where I can't believe that gender matters one whit : auto racing, archery, skateboard and bike stunts all come to mind.
posted by Stoatfarm at 9:36 AM on March 4, 2004

I happened to be up and listening to the morning idiots on a local sports radio station referring to her as him and getting a big laugh out of it.

Anyone who undergoes a sex change isn't doing it for kicks, they are doing it for real reasons and deriding them is, effectively, racism.

Besides, she shot a 12 over so I think Annika and Se Ri Pak are safe. For now.
posted by fenriq at 9:40 AM on March 4, 2004

Whoa, wait, deriding transexuals, mean though it may be, is not in any way racism.
posted by xmutex at 9:51 AM on March 4, 2004

I don't know what to think about this.

As we learn more about the fluidity of gender (not to mention the advances in bioengineering troutfishing mentioned), questions like this are going to become ever more murky.

Ultimately, I get the feeling that the "women's tours" are going to be folded into a unisex tour for most events, and any remaining women-only (or really, ________-only) sports are simply going to be diminished in stature and importance.

I give the LPGA another 15 years of existence, tops. Just as a f'rinstance.
posted by chicobangs at 9:57 AM on March 4, 2004

Good for them!
posted by Quartermass at 10:07 AM on March 4, 2004

chico, that's pretty much totally wrong, imho.

what about the senior tour? what about the junior tour? do they have separate tours in golf for youngsters and oldsters for a reason, or just because? if you think about it for a while, you will figure it out on your own.

but if you want me to tell you, here goes: the bodies of young people and old people and not-old adults, and women and men, are all different - that is to say, the median performance of the best competitors in each of these groups is vastly different. is there fluidity amongst the individuals of each group? to a greater or lesser degree, yes... but nevertheless, having women compete against women makes excellent sense, because the greatest women golfers in the world shouldn't be penalized for being born women. people want to see it, which generates money for the events and paychecks for women who wouldn't be able to compete as well in a unisex sports world.

a world of 999 male athletes for every woman on t.v. and in tournaments such as the olympics would be a pretty sexist one, wouldn't it be? but it's not going to happen anytime soon - women athletes are attractive to male viewers and appealing/inspiring to female viewers, and thus women's sports will continue to flourish as sexist constraints in the sports industry and media continue to relax.
posted by mitchel at 10:38 AM on March 4, 2004

Actually, mitchel, you kind of made my point.

There are 999 male athletes for every woman on sports TV, true. (Well, I'd guess it's about 800/200, though I see your point.) But people like Mianne Bagger and the Thai Transsexual Kickboxing Team aren't going away. And as the line between being male and being female blurs, and as people bioengineer themselves in better ways, the qualitative distinction between what we now know as a "women's tour" and a "men's tour" is going to only shrink.

I'm not saying for one minute that women aren't going to be allowed to play. Quite the opposite. The field will only get more level. The mindset powering major sports is merely going to be more all-inclusive instead of gender-segregationist. It's happening already (see Ms. Wie, Ms. Sorenstam & Ms. Whaley, to name three).

And junior and senior tours (not to mention women's or college tours, or even events like the Gay Games) exist for two reasons and two reasons only; (1) to provide athletes who may be on the upward or downward slopes of their careers with either training in tournament pressures or a last few paychecks before retirement, and (2) because viewers often enjoy watching people they know or can better relate to in their sports, instead of the superhumans that shoot 62 every week and sell aftershave or whatever on Sportscenter.

Which is the very definition of a niche market.

So maybe the LPGA will be able to make a go of it, but it's going to become little more than a secondary tour to the larger come-one-come-all PGA tour.
posted by chicobangs at 11:24 AM on March 4, 2004

I'd say can of worms is an understatement. A few women decide to marry each other and the right start screaming to amend the constitution. These people will melt down after cloned, transgendered mutants start asking for marriage.

Bush could have swept this under the rug by pushing it back to the states. But he chose to make it a national debate during an election year. Get ready for a meltdown.
posted by y6y6y6 at 11:42 AM on March 4, 2004

I find this extremely unfair. This person has male biology which is indisputably different than female biology. Differences in both physical and mental development occur before birth, in ways that a quote/unquote "sex change" don't change. This goes beyond over-simplified ideas like "differences within a gender are greater than between them", the differences form a constellation of physical factors that gives almost every male, if not in every sense, at least a battery of physical advantages over virtually every female {for instance its something like 2% of women who can hang with the average male soldier.}

There's some competitive events where I can't believe that gender matters one whit

Your theory about sports that men and women should be equal at is also wrong. Differences in golfing ability between women and men is not only a product of physical differences {though that too} but also mental ones. Primarily the ability to mentally plot and rotate 3-D forms {see sci am article above for more info}.

I have nothing in principle against men and women playing on the same sporting field {shit, let the female who can get into the NBA or NFL by merit in, I say}, but right now they are separate not out of some cruel imposition from the patriarchy, but because women want to participate in reasonable un-deck-stacked competitive environments.

Transsexuals are not physically women, they are metaphysically women, but they have objectively male biology. Tampering with that biology with estrogen injections and plasticine vaginas may help shrink the gap but it is scientifically inaccurate to claim that it has been fully or even mostly bridged. The women can decide for themselves if they think this is fair {their game, their rules}, but it seems to me that this contradicts the purpose of having female sports at all, and is roughly as fair as me shaving my pubes and competing in a little league game. Being "a kid at heart" is not the same as being a kid {for instance look at Michael Jackson}.
posted by dgaicun at 11:47 AM on March 4, 2004

I don't know where this will lead -- the boundary between the PGA and LPGA seems awfully thin -- but I'm glad these women have the opportunity to compete.
posted by subgenius at 12:08 PM on March 4, 2004

But we're not talking about your average woman compared to your average man. It's who gets to join the elite of a given group that's on the table here.

Now, the women's tour can define who gets to play however they want, and I understand the concept of having to be "born a woman." They know their market, they have people thinking about this stuff all day long, yay for them, they'll work it out.

But what about the case of Michelle Wie, who was born female and has never to my knowledge been any other gender, "hanging" with grown men at the age of 14?

Of course, that's due to both superior training and a bit of genetic luck. But isn't that what anyone's going to need to play top-level golf (or any other sport), be they male, female, neuter, TS, TV, or whatever?

I'm aware the women's PGA tour is a different animal than the "other" PGA tour. I just don't know if the definition of Woman itself is the same as it was even ten years ago, and when it comes to activities like golf, the deck is less stacked against women than it's been, maybe, ever.
posted by chicobangs at 12:21 PM on March 4, 2004

Hmmm I would think the proof is to be found in the statistical outcome. If transsexual women start dominating their individual events, then that would be a good indication that, no they should not be on the same playing field. And I would think the time to disband the LPGA is when women are winning 50 percent of the tournament money in the PGA.

Maybe it is time for some new sports. How about breast feeding at 10 paces?
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 12:55 PM on March 4, 2004

So, if a man changes his sex to a woman and marries a woman who changes her sex to a man, is that legal in Texas? Likewise, if a man changes his sex to a woman and marries a woman who was born a woman, is that same-sex marriage?
posted by Slagman at 6:40 PM on March 4, 2004

dgaicun: Differences in golfing ability between women and men is not only a product of physical differences {though that too} but also mental ones. Primarily the ability to mentally plot and rotate 3-D forms

Setting aside the ideas presented by the (few) scientists who have studied transsexuals that the initial brain development differs vastly from the norm for their genetic sex (largely because there have only been a couple of studies; you have to wait for people to die and then cut their heads open), I would like to make the following observation:

When I was at university, aged 20, I did several of those tests students do for post-grad psychology students when they need £4 to buy the next couple of alcopops. In the (extensive and hour-long) spatial ability test I scored extremely highly, to the point that my rather excitable post-grad lady proclaimed me a "spatial genius".

I took the test again just before I left university, at 22, having been on female HRT for a year or so; I scored dismally. In the intervening time my spatial ability -- to mentally plot and rotate 3-D forms -- had fallen into the toilet.

Regardless of pre-natal differences in brain structure, when you go on HRT, stuff changes. A lot.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 12:00 AM on March 5, 2004

I think male->female transsexuals shouldn't be allowed to play as females, unless they have a medical reason to say they're "really" female (chromosomes, or other hermaphrodite elements). It's not like they separate men and women in sports due to genitals (which would only be relevent in, say, jockeying ;) ). A female willing to play as male, however, isactually willingly compromising themselves, and the few that do become accomplished in sports I salute. Perhaps there are mental differences with HRT and for those born with a "female brain," but the physical ones more than likely exceed them greatly.
posted by abcde at 4:36 PM on March 8, 2004

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