Why attack arguments like “higher testosterone levels” and “greater bone density” are simply wrong
I had the immense honor of being invited to participate in the Nike LGBT Sports Summit earlier this June. Seeing how this conference has grown from about thirty people last year to over one hundred people this year gave me a feeling that you only get after winning a race-I thought “Wow, we are doing it, we are actually changing the institution of athletics across the country.”
This feeling was quickly knocked out of me after I had heard Fallon Fox’s moving speech which kicked off the conference on Friday morning. She reminded us that although the sports world has become safe for many lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) athletes, the trans community has been left behind.
I know all too well that sickening feeling of isolation and alienation, and how that pain can be unbearable to the point that makes people want to leave the sport they love. The fact that I am reaping the benefits today of dedicated LGBT individuals over the years, I felt that it is my duty to continue that advocacy for every L-G-B-and especially T.
After researching more about Fallon Fox’s career I had no idea how rough she had it; I had no idea how cruel and unapologetic her competitors, fans and sportscasters could be. Whether they are smearing her character by claiming that she “is a man beating up other females” or saying that she only won “because she has an unfair advantage” it is largely negative attention on a talented female fighter because of her identity.
I decided to take action and do more research on these myths that fueled these horrible comments and to prove why Fallon, or any other transsexual woman, should be allowed to compete as a female.
Myth #1 – Male to female transsexual athletes have more muscle because men’s bodies produce more testosterone than women’s.
Fact: Actually it’s not the body that produces hormones; specific glands in the body produce testosterone which is then spread throughout the body. There are only three glands that produce testosterone: the testes, ovaries, and the adrenal glands which sit right above the kidney. Since transsexual women have under gone the medical change they no longer have testosterone production from the testes, additionally they do not have testosterone from the ovaries. Transsexual women have only one source of testosterone which comes from the adrenal glands, whereas cisgender females (females whose self-perception of their gender is the same as their assigned sex) have testosterone production from the ovaries and adrenal glands. In fact studies consistently show that cisgender females have higher testosterone levels than transsexual females.
What does this mean? After transgender individuals have undergone the medically accepted two years of hormonal replacement therapy it takes to change sexes, it is HARDER for transsexual women to attain and maintain the same muscle mass as their cisgender counterparts.
Myth #2 – She has a man’s body, her bone structure and bone density gives her an unfair advantage.
What does this mean? – Everybody has different bone densities and structures and there is simply too much variation to exclude someone solely on the bases of that measurement. Not only is there an extreme amount of variation that overlaps between sexes, but bone density and bone structure is irrelevant to determining athletic performance. In my experience as a Division I rower for one of the best collegiate programs in the country, we had nutritionists talk to us about iron intake and proper eating habits plus we consistently had body composition testing to measure our body fat and muscle to a tenth of a percent in each segment of our bodies. But never in my four years have I heard one word about bone density or bone structure-because it has a negligible affect on athletic performance. The same argument of bone density was used to keep African-American and Caucasians segregated in athletic competition fifty years ago.
I have heard the argument that bone density makes a difference because MMA is a combat sport and having a higher bone density means there is more force behind a punch giving female transsexuals an “unfair advantage”. And to that argument I would look at the NFL; NFL draft picks are analyzed on every thing that pertains to football: weight, speed, character, game IQ, but not once is a player’s bone density or structure mentioned. If something like bone density or structure had a calculable impact on an athlete’s performance then surely NFL coaches would measure that given the significant variation that exists between individuals and the millions dollars that hang in the balance.
The Bottom Line: