“Unfair!” they cried. “You were born a man!” Actually, I was born a baby, just like you. I’ve never seen a woman give birth to a fully grown man.
Such comments are unsurprising. But they come at a time when transphobia seems to have surged in the United States — including in our government. So it’s worth setting some things straight.
There are rules and regulations that I must meet to compete in women’s events, such as demonstrating that my endogenous, or naturally produced, testosterone is below a certain level. Mine is so low it’s undetectable.
Many of my detractors argue that I must have had higher testosterone in my body for years and that it must affect my performance. But science doesn’t support that idea. The research we have so far, a 2017 study commissioned by track and field’s world governing body, shows no relationship between endogenous testosterone and performance in men. And though this research purports to show that there is a relationship between endogenous testosterone and performance in women, that relationship is small and unpredictable, as I have detailed elsewhere.
When people think of higher testosterone being an advantage, they’re thinking of exogenous testosterone — as in, testosterone added to the body via pills, cream or injection. Such practices — better known as “doping” — are banned.
When we add more testosterone than a body is used to via doping, performance does go up. When you reduce the amount below what a body is used to (either through surgery, medication or illness), performance goes down.
However, there’s no strong evidence so far to suggest that someone with naturally higher testosterone is any faster, stronger or bigger than someone with naturally lower testosterone. In fact, there are elite male track and field athletes with endogenous testosterone within or below the average female range.
This is important, as international sport organizations, including the International Olympic Committee’s Olympic Charter, recognize participation in sport as a fundamental human right. Trans people have been allowed to compete in the Olympics since 2003, though a transgender person hasn’t yet won a medal. Only a couple of us have won any world championships, ever. The fear that trans women will “take over” sport is an irrational fear of trans people — the very definition of transphobia.
My victory comes at a time when the Trump administration is going out of its way to make life for trans people as hard as possible. As revealed by a memo that leaked this week, the administration is attempting to undo Obama-era policies designed to protect transgender people from discrimination by defining us out of existence. Per the leaked memo: “Sex means a person’s status as male or female based on immutable biological traits identifiable by or before birth.”
I’m a Canadian citizen and a permanent resident of the United States. My Canadian birth certificate says “F” on it. My green card has an “F” on it. My South Carolina driver’s license: “F.” But my original birth certificate says “M.” Is it open season now to discriminate against me, Mr. President?
I would like to remind the administration that there is more than a decade of federal case law in the United States supporting trans identities and rights. Federal district and appeals courts have repeatedly found that transgender and gender non-conforming people are protected against discrimination on the basis of “sex” under Title IX of the Civil Rights Act. That is, “sex” also contains protections for gender identity and expression.
The memo wrongly claims that such a position is inconsistent with science. This is a common refrain from people who oppose trans rights and who deny transgender identities as legitimate. Trans people, and those who support us, are denying reality, people say.
The opposite is true. In fact, the American Psychological Association, the professional organization for research and therapy psychologists in the United States, has supported trans people’s identities and rights and has issued a statement opposing the Trump administration’s leaked memo.
The scientists who know best disagree with those who think trans people are supposedly delusional. We exist. We are real. And we have a right to be fully participating members of society just as everyone else. And that includes sport.
The memo’s authors believe that Obama-era protections against discrimination based on gender identity or expression , in the words of the New York Times, “wrongfully extend[ed] civil rights protections to people who should not have them.”
Let that one sink in: We can be evicted for being trans. We can be fired for being trans. We can be denied health care for being trans. Do you think that’s fair? Do you think that’s what America is about?
I don’t know what to say to you if you disagree with basic tenets of human decency. We will not be erased.