Not In My Name: Trans Athlete Bans

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Hannah has been pondering this article all summer, trying to find the words to express how she feels about the emerging bans on trans women’s participation in women’s cycling –…

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Hannah Dobson

Managing Editor

I came to Singletrack having decided there must be more to life than meetings. I like all bikes, but especially unusual ones. More than bikes, I like what bikes do. I think that they link people and places; that cycling creates a connection between us and our environment; bikes create communities; deliver freedom; bring joy; and improve fitness. They're environmentally friendly and create friendly environments. I try to write about all these things in the hope that others might discover the joy of bikes too.

More posts from Hannah

Viewing 40 posts - 1 through 40 (of 455 total)
  • Not In My Name: Trans Athlete Bans
  • BruceWee
    Full Member

    I’m not getting into this debate again (or any other debate on here, for that matter) but I just want to say thanks for posting this and I’ll be a subscriber as long as STW is willing to take an unpopular stand for no other reason than it’s the right thing to do.

    [Mod] WARNING: there will be some strong opinions and we would ask users to be respectful with their posts. Thank you.

    theotherjonv
    Full Member

    +1 brucewee

    nickc
    Full Member

    Yep, well said. It’s a good article, and likewise I don’t think a 3-4 comments section will add anything to it. Thanks for expressing your thoughts so eloquently @STWHannah.

     

    spawnofyorkshire
    Full Member

    Thank you @stwhannah

    vinnyeh
    Full Member

    Thanks for taking the time to think, and write so well, about this.

    I don’t agree with your conclusion on the topic of inclusion, but I understand your points and agree with a lot of them.

    mtbfix
    Full Member

    Well said, @stwhannah.

    wheelsonfire1
    Full Member

    Another, thoughtful, interesting article.
    I have problems with competitive sport, the win at all costs mentality that pervades amateur and, particularly, professional sport. Rules are contrived to the benefit of the big business and the money to fund all sports is increasingly coming from dubious sources – chemical/oil gambling companies, and countries with appalling human rights records. Until these problems are solved then there is little chance of stopping the tide of regression in what should be an open field of comradely physical and mental endeavour and enjoyment.

    kimbers
    Full Member

    Really great to read a properly considered opinion, rather than kneejerk responses

    dave_h
    Free Member

    I can’t read it as I’m no longer a paid up member

    My mental health couldn’t face another round of the comments section

    So presumably posted as an opportunity to drum up new membership then?

    Speeder
    Full Member

    It’s an veru inclusive and interesting article but would you think differently if you were actually competing?

    fossy
    Full Member

    Lots of very valid points, but not so sure what to think if I was an Elite female and a transgender, ex Elite Male, suddenly started to compete and take my ‘winnings’/lively hood.

    I can see all the points made and they are very valid though.

    PrinceJohn
    Full Member

    It’s something that needs considered discussion best kept away from the internet.

    We do live in a patriarchal society. Physical advantages gained by a male > female trans athlete over cis gender woman during puberty are numerous & cannot be reversed just by keeping testosterone within a arbitrary limit. Alongside that you have the differences in how boys & girls are raised within societal norms.

    All of those will give M>F athletes advantages.

    I don’t know what the solution is, & I think we’re someway away from it at the moment.

    chevychase
    Full Member

    A lot of my friends at Uni back in the early 90’s were archaeologists.   One of the first books they were given (along with stuff like the rather very good Prehistory Of Sex) was a text which stated the importance of separating biological sex and gender as different concepts.

    Biological sex is real.  We use the words man and woman (and intersex, which clinically affects maybe half of one percent of the population) to describe what we mean.  It’s genetically determined.

    Gender is real.  Unfortunately, we still use man and woman, male and female to describe what we mean.

    Biological sex confers different physical advantages (to both males and females).   Gender does not.

    Trans women are women – AND they’re men.

    Personally – I’m perfectly happy for anyone to self-identify – and to change how they identify on a daily basis if that’s what they want.   I think we should accomodate this when it comes to official documentation even (if you want “penguin” on your passport then that’s fine as far as I’m concerned – you bought and paid for your own passport after all).

    For me, there’s only one line we have to draw as a society – mandating how trans people should be refered to.  People must be free to hate people – and express that hate.  Even if they’re breaking Rule 1.  We shouldn’t be criminalising thought – even thought we hate and disagree with.

    But when we come to sport?  For me, it’s up to the sporting bodies to make that determination.   Personally (not to be accused of a cop-out):  I think the sex of the participant – not their gender – is the most important determiner.   And if we are going to divide sports up by sex – which is what we do currently – mixing in gender is the wrong thing to do.

    There are no solutions where everybody is going to be happy.  And the vast majority of transgender people would be very happy if we accomodated them in the 99% of the areas of their lives that we can easily accomodate them.  And the niche edge-arguments around transgender participation in professional sports and/or prisons and refuges should not be used to deny transgender people the accomodations we can make.

    But professional sport?   If it’s mixed sex (like e-gaming), no problem.  But if it’s sex-segregated then, for me, I’d simply say “sorry”.   But again, it’s not up to me – so the professional bodies are the best placed to be arbiters of this.

    Amateur sports?  Whole different kettle of fish.  Fair game for anyone.  It’s the people playing who should be arbiters of what – and who – they want to play games with.   You’d hope people would be as welcoming as possible.  I really can’t see many MTBers saying they don’t want someone along for a ride because they’re transgender.   I can see people saying you’re not welcome because we don’t like you – but that applies to everyone – all sexes, genders, colours and creeds.  And what can be more equal than that? 🙂

    cookeaa
    Full Member

    Lots of very valid points, but not so sure what to think if I was an Elite female and a transgender, ex Elite Male, suddenly started to compete and take my ‘winnings’/lively hood.

    It’s an veru inclusive and interesting article but would you think differently if you were actually competing?

    There’s always a “what about” isn’t there?

    I think these posts sort of miss the point, people don’t transition just to win womens bicycle races.

    I’ve always thought of bicycley type people and competition as being an inclusive sort of thing, but the recent rulings and people’s mixed attitudes still surprise me a bit…

    I kind of feel like if you genuinely support a Trans Woman’s right to live as a Woman, that has to extend to all aspects of their life, that means being allowed to participate in women’s sport, otherwise all of these caveats, tests and rules undermine the basic idea that society respects that person’s rights and you never really meant it.

    Anyway, another brave article to put out there on a topic that inevitably triggers some “spirited discussion”, Well done Hannah.

    daveylad
    Free Member

    Great news and finally common sense prevails that the vast majority will be in full agreement with.

    Sandwich
    Full Member

    My attitude is ‘we’ve fought hard for this and now we have the power to help others have it too’.

    This, very much this.

    chevychase
    Full Member

    I’ve always thought of bicycley type people and competition as being an inclusive sort of thing, but the recent rulings and people’s mixed attitudes still surprise me a bit…

    Try looking at it through a lens where you separate genetic sex and gender as two different things @cookeaa

    You can change your gender and transition to live – and look – like a woman or man.   But you cannot change your genetics and the advantages or disadvantages that they gave you.

    Misunderstanding of that is where the problem lies.  It’s hardly surprising, when you think about it through that lens, that the controversy is invariably about genetically male humans’s desire to compete in genetically female pro-sports isn’t it?

    Flip it, and transgender women who become men?  They don’t get a look in – because they can’t compete.  And they know that before they transition (but still transition).

    So, this whole argument is about the tiny percentage of the genetically male sex that want to live as women (fine) but also want to compete in pro sports against the genetically female sex.

    There’s no way to make that fair.  But at the same time, it’s no excuse not to accomodate trans people in all other walks of life.

    tpbiker
    Free Member

    Whilst it doesn’t affect me either way, I’m happy to let the relevant sporting bodies determine the rules. Hopefully however the conclusion they reach is fair, and based on a bit of scientific research rather than a knee jerk reaction, or whichever group shouts the loudest

    andybrad
    Full Member

    An interesting article and i agree with many of the points you have made.

    Now im not a woman, i dont compete in women’s sports so really my view doesn’t carry any weight (Maybe if there was a fat middle aged bald category it would). However i do feel that, as you point out, certain groups have (and probably will continue to be) repressed in many forms over the years, nothing is totally equal. Professional sport is all about the results and you say that in the past people have been encouraged (or forced) to do everything they can to win. Even if it is detrimental to their health. I see the removal of trans women from “women’s” sports as protecting women’s sports to enable them to be more encouraging, open and inclusive to women who may have previously been discouraged, undermined or otherwise. I do see the irony that this then represses trans women and your right that this isn’t right but based on the statement that people have been encouraged to do everything they can to win it does make some sense. I would expect that there will eventually be a mixed category? Or maybe as you say based on another metric but as we stand at the moment I think that the protection of women’s sports is vital and right imo.

    However as I say my opinion doesn’t matter but I would very much like to know how professional women in sport feel about this.

    On a less professional note I do think that its good to have “womens spaces” in biking to encourage, mentor and ensure people have a safe space to try new things, kind of like the women’s only forum on here. You have to have some definition / segregation for it to work.

    Good and difficult subject to cover. Its sad to hear that you’ve had such a hard time over the years as well. That’s really surprising and upsetting.

    kimbers
    Full Member

    So, this whole argument is about the tiny percentage of the genetically male sex that want to live as women (fine) but also want to compete in pro sports against the genetically female sex.

    There’s no way to make that fair.

    The problem with that is that genetics already plays a big part in athletic performance, especially things like cardiac capacity, theres no way to make any sports fair if you take that line

    thisisnotaspoon
    Free Member

    I kind of feel like if you genuinely support a Trans Woman’s right to live as a Woman, that has to extend to all aspects of their life, that means being allowed to participate in women’s sport, otherwise all of these caveats, tests and rules undermine the basic idea that society respects that person’s rights and you never really meant it.

    Ok, but put it in a different context, should wheelchair marathon times count for the overall records? Is it abelist to that Daniel Romanchuck’s 1h20 record doesn’t count Vs Kiochoge’s 1h59?

    ampthill
    Full Member

    I’m grateful to have had the chance to read the article. I I agree after with much of it. I’ll add another point. Sport is a genetic lottery. If you want to be pro basketball tall genes are where it’s at.

    However unless I’m missing something I’m not sure what the conclusion is. I understand the rejection of the UCI ruling. But for me allowing trans athletes needs clarifying. Does that mean any one who self identifies as female can enter enter events as female? Or does it mean that after say suppressing their testosterone for a year prior those who sex was male can enter events as female?

    To be clear I’m but favouring one conclusion over another. But i would like to know what Hannah’s conclusion is.

    Drac
    Full Member

    A brilliant article, covers a lot of my thoughts but so much better put than I can. As someone with 2 daughters one of which is quite a handy cricketer, I’m very active for equals rights. To be fair I’ve always have been, I grew up in the 70s and 80s seen how horrible it could be then for anyone who wasn’t white or perfect fitting within society. Was I totally innocent of comments? No. Much to my shame I hid behind almost cowardly like not challenging the behaviour.

    Neither of my daughters have an issue with homosexuality, race, transgender or any differences from the ‘norm’. My eldest happily challenges people from a younger age, in part it’s my upbringing but also how different society is. Although sadly we’ve a very long way to go.

    Excluding the very few who are trans that could reach professional sports level or high end amateur is ridiculous. I’m not convinced that all of them will have an advantage over females/males.

    imnotverygood
    Full Member

    Such categories would often do as much to create the mythical ‘level playing field’ as a male/female divide. Indeed, abandoning the male/female divide might well do much to stop ‘women’s sports’ being the second tier event it’s all too often relegated to being.

    Sorry to be dense, but are you suggesting the solution to the trans issue is to abandon female categories in sport?

    cookeaa
    Full Member

    Try looking at it through a lens where you separate genetic sex and gender as two different things @cookeaa

    You can change your gender and transition to live – and look – like a woman or man. But you cannot change your genetics and the advantages or disadvantages that they gave you.

    You are dr Robert Winston and I claim my £5.
    Thanks I think we’ve all had the obtusely scientific perspective on Gender and Sex explained to us ad nauseam by now, it’s not that I’m hard of thinking thanks. I just don’t think sporting “fairness”, professional or amateur, trumps people’s right to be treated with respect and being excluded from participation in a sport for not neatly conforming to a binary labelling system feels like constructive exclusion. I see no substantial difference between excluding Trans Women and excluding Black Women, I’m sure that’s a huge over-simplification but I’m sure there’s a few people out there that would cite Genetics in their justifications for doing just that.

    As Hannah points out in the Article we divide many sports along Sex lines in the name of fairness, but why not wealth eh? Surely those Born with a financial leg up have a huge artificial advantage being able to access better equipment and resources from and earlier age? How about those who can afford to train at altitude or splash out on the right Supplements? where do we rally draw the lines on “Fairness in sport”?

    Honestly I think ‘Fairness’ in most sports is largely a Myth, I’d rather society simply abolished professional sport instead of keep look for ways to exclude outlier groups.

    Ok, but put it in a different context, should wheelchair marathon times count for the overall records? Is it abelist to that Daniel Romanchuck’s 1h20 record doesn’t count Vs Kiochoge’s 1h59?

    Can’t both achievements simply be recognised? (like they already are)
    Anyway apparently it’s Genetics that matters, so ask the Scientists.

    MoreCashThanDash
    Full Member

    A really well presented and thoughtful piece. I have a cycling friend who is a trans woman, and another who was beaten in an elite women’s race by a trans woman, so hear both sides of the debate.

    Others may disagree, but I think the inclusion argument trumps the notional “fair” argument. It’s the more important principle.

    johnhe
    Full Member

    My opinion is that we can make subjects very complicated, or very simple. Very few subjects are genuinely simple of course. But fundamental issues/drawbacks/challenges are often quite simple in their basic form.

    i genuinely hate the thought that I would be discriminating against anyone. Especially anyone who has gone though a truly torrid time with discrimination and self discovery, doubt and agonising about their gender.

    However, to reduce things to their simplest, I just can’t agree that anyone born as a male should be permitted to complete against someone born as a female in a strength based sport. That is simply unfair. I see people’s point that genetics have an influence in basketball or swimming etc. But imo that’s a different issue and a different thing altogether. And comparing the two is disingenuous imo. I completely accept that this is only my own opinion. But I dislike being preached at by anyone on any topic. And I would greatly dislike it if I felt there was an approved STW stance on this specific topic. I totally uphold every STW staff member and internet-member’s right to their own opinion. But I disagree very strongly on this point. And I believe a lot of very reasonable, non-discriminatory, well-informed, caring people also feel like I do. So I strongly object to an ‘official STW stance’ on this topic.

    im coming to think that we need trans sports events. I don’t see any other way around it.

    sebcranked
    Full Member

    Hannah, you’ve pretty much mirrored my thoughts on this but, because you’re a cis woman, I think it’s particularly important and significant that you’ve stuck your head over the digital parapet to express them in this way. I salute you.

    The level of what passes for “debate” around the specific issue of trans athletes competing alongside cis athletes (or not, as the case may be) is, as is the case for the wider “trans debate”, pitifully poor.

    Cranked lost subscribers simply for publishing a feature a couple of years back which gave a voice to two trans women who compete at a high level. It was still the right decision to publish. I wrote a brief editorial decrying British Cycling’s new discriminatory, almost certainly unlawful and definitely not science-backed rules in our last issue, and lost a couple more subscribers. Sorry not sorry.

    Sport starts from the principle of inclusivity, or it is worthless. The cod “science” about “biological reality” that echoes around social media and even mainstream media outlets is incomplete at best and simplistic claptrap at worst. Ironically (or perhaps not), the UCI and BC bans on trans women competing at a high level will simply help to ensure that our knowledge of trans athletes, and how ther performance may or may not differ from their cis counterparts, will remain partial and incomplete. But no matter: the transgenders MUST BE BANNED because a. it’s common sense, apparently (it really isn’t, and unless you’re an endocrinologist specialising in researching this area I’m certainly not getting into a discussion about it with you) and b. JUST IN CASE they take over the world.

    Transgender women have been eligible to compete in the Olympics for, roughly, 20 years. Tens of thousands of athletes have qualified for the Games in that time. And do you know how many were trans women? Two. Neither of them threatened the medals table (not that that should matter).

    I’m grumpy about this subject because it’s part of the creeping intolerance that’s being used as a wedge issue to distract us all from a burning / flooding world and rampant and increasing inequality. As Hannah points out, trans women are not the problem. Not in sport, and not in any context.

    Seb / Cranked magazine

    tpbiker
    Free Member

    ,I just don’t think sporting “fairness” professional or amateur, trumps people’s right to be treated with respect and being excluded from participation in a sport for not neatly conforming to a binary labelling system feels like constructive exclusion

    Trans people aren’t being excluded from sport though are they? Technically they aren’t even being excluded from competitive sport.

    If we want inclusion for all, and the results are of secondary concern, then surely the answer is just have one open category? Would you back that proposal?

    sebcranked
    Full Member

    And one more thought: although there are some supportive comments in the replies, others with (for example) tortuous attempts to justify discriminatory bans on the grounds of “common sense” (I’m paraphrasing) whilst insisting that the author is in no way someone who discriminates are all present and correct, and simply reinforce the point I made about the level of debate being so low.

    imnotverygood
    Full Member

    participation in a sport for not neatly conforming to a binary labelling system feels like constructive exclusion

    But having a female category is binary labelling..by its very definition.

    johncoventry
    Full Member

    I too was going to suggest one open category.

    alpin
    Free Member

    Surely the voices that matter in this discussion ate those of the athletes that trans people will be competing against.

    My GF is way further to the left of me and I’m a raging lefty (I’m not) and she says she wouldn’t want to compete against trans athletes in her chosen sport (handball….. I know, it’s a bit weird, but she is German so you have to take that into account).

    Referring to yourself in the third person is odd, imo.

    alpin
    Free Member

    But having a female category is binary labelling..by its very definition.

    As is “male”…. How about a free-for-all category?

    chrismac
    Full Member

    As Hannah points out in the Article we divide many sports along Sex lines in the name of fairness, but why not wealth eh?

    we did divide sport on one metric of wealth. It was called the Olympic Games. Back in the 60s, 70s and 80s you had to be an amateur athlete to participate. As time passed this became harder and harder to police to the point it became so farcical the requirement was dropped and they became the fully professional games they are today. Dividing sport by sex is scientifically easy based on long established science so is a fair way to divide people into groups where there are proven advantages and disadvantages associated with each grouping.

    TheDTs
    Free Member

    Types response to @sebcranked and deletes.
    Pointless.

    the-muffin-man
    Full Member

    Perhaps we should have one all inclusive open forum too. Rather than segregated forum where a section of society is shut out based on their gender identity.

    How can you write about inclusivity in society with on one hand then exlude on the other hand?

    Or can we pick and choose who’s in and out to suit the narrative?

    Dickyboy
    Full Member

    and simply reinforce the point I made about the level of debate being so low.

    I think the level of debate is quite good, just because you don’t agree with some posters it doesn’t mean the debate level is poor.

    nickc
    Full Member

    Cranked lost subscribers simply for publishing a feature a couple of years back which gave a voice to two trans women

    Bloody hell. I don’t know what to say about that.

    sebcranked
    Full Member

    I think the level of debate is quite good, just because you don’t agree with some posters it doesn’t mean the debate level is poor.

    It’s not about not agreeing or not, it’s very specifically about the level of debate. I’ve been reading about this subject (academic journals included) for the past two years. I don’t get any sense that anyone else in this thread has anything to offer other than an opinion based on the kind of “science” that a certain TV doctor espouses. That’s fine, because everyone’s entitled to their opinion and so on, but it’s not even close to a good debate.

     

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