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INCLUSION OF TRANSGENDER ATHLETES IN CATEGORY OF WOMENS SPORT’S: A BALANCING ACT?

Blog By: Natasha Rama Rocha, BBA LLB, KSLU, ISBR law college, Bengaluru.


“One must not only have competitiveness but, the ability regardless of the circumstance you face to never quit”. – Abby Wambach.

The inclusion of transgender athletes to participate in women’s sports is both complex and very controversial. Some may believe it to be important so as to promote fairness and allow everyone to compete, while on the other hand it concerns about maintaining an equal playing field for competition. Let’s explore on both the perspectives of this issue.


Introduction

We live in a world where gender equality prevails, that implies all categories of women, men, boys, girls, other classes and races to participate equally, have equal value and enjoy equal access to resources, freedom and opportunities to exercise control. In recent times, there has been pressing concerns with respect to the inclusion of transgender athletes in the category of women’s sports, this itself leaves a question whether sports are played on skills or independent self being? This blog will delve into the prevailing international issue to the problem that has left many doubtful.


Background

“Sex” is a biological difference and often includes chromosomes XX and XY, for females it is XX and for male the chromosome is XY, whereas “Gender” refers to the characteristics of women, men, boy or girl that is socially constructed, at the time of birth the new born is unaware of his/her gender, its taught to them by the parents, society and by other sociocultural practices. On the other hand, “Transgender” is a general term that describes people whose general identity or internal sense of being a male, female or other does not match the sex they were assigned at the time of birth.

Historically sports have been seen as a male domain, nevertheless when innovation came into action, women category was also introduced. Today this has again led to confusion whether include transgender athletes into women’s category or not. The transgenders have two category, transmen who was assigned as female biologically at birth and now lives as a male and transwomen who was assigned as male biologically at birth and now lives as a female. The first person to compete in an elite women's sport while not being a biological woman was Stanislawa Walasiewicz, better known by her professional title Stella Walsh, according to the chronology of transgender athletes in women's sports. Walsh participated in the 1932 Olympic games in Los Angeles and won gold in the 100-meter event. She also established a world record in the 100-yard dash in 1930.One of the earliest high-profile transgender athletes was “Renee Richards” who was a tennis player in men’s circuit after while Richards underwent gender reassignment therapy in 1974 and started playing in women’s tournaments.

It must be noted that transgender athletes have expressed disapproval from the World Athletics new regulation, which came into effect on 31st March 2023, this pointedly bars transgendered women who have undergone male puberty from competing in the Women’s World Ranking Events. The Women’s Sports Foundation without being affect by this continues to support the rights of all athletes to participate in a fair, equitable and respectful athletic competition, including the transgender athletes. The new Bidens administration also weakens the title 9 of their law by allowing all males who are identified as women to participate in women’s sports category. The inclusion of transgenders into women’s category is only to include the transwomen category into the women’s category rather than the transmen.


Inclusion Into Women’s Category

The inclusion of transgender in women’s category does not revolve around all the transgender, rather as mentions the two categories of transgenders the inclusion should be of the transwomen in the women’s category. Where there are many reasons to not include the transwomen athletes into the women’s category, the few reasons to include them are:


1. Equality and Opportunity: Athletics consist of sports and sports are played on skills which is independent of looks, body mass, body parts, and depends on a whole range of factors including hard work, coaching, access to good resources and facilities, here no one should have to choose between who they are and to participate in the sports they love. Not including the transwomen into women’s category will be seen as discriminatory. However, these points are challenged further.

2. Focus on identity: Gender identity is separate from biological sex, when transwomen compete with women’s into women’s category it will align them with their gender identity. The international Olympics committee in their fundamental principle of Olympics says in 4th principle that “participation in sports is a human right” that is every individual must have the possibility to practice sports, without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play.

3. Hormone therapy: The whole controversy whether to include the transgender in women’s category only came up when, the transwomen won against the cis women and here their genetics were also questioned. Many transgenders undergo hormone therapy, which significantly reduces physical advantages associated with testosterone. Studies show a decrease in performance after a certain period of hormone therapy, that is the participants undergo 12 months course to lowers their testosterone level to pass the physical test.


Inclusion into Separate Category

To introduce a separate category of only the transgenders is definitely the spark into the sports history and yet this comes with diverse problems. If the transwomen are not included into women’s sports category and a separate group is to be made there will be rare chances to play fair. For example, in a 100 meters sprint race there is only one participant in the trans category, who will she compete with? It takes them many years with great confusion to openly accept that they belong to a special category called the transgendered, if such category is built, its unlikely that the trans-youth will ever have the courage to openly accept it.

A great example of this is “Lia Thomas”, who discovered that she is a trans in 2018 and yet she played in the men’s category in the same year 2018-19 as she didn’t have the courage to go public as a trans, this event had caused her distress. She only accepted this after, and competed in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) competition.


Case Laws

1. Laurel Hubbard from New Zealand. The first openly transgender athlete to compete in a different sex category, her participation was in women’s weight lifting in Tokyo sparked accusation of unfairness and support in 2020.

2. Lia Thomas who competed for her university men’s team in 2018-19, before winning a women’s national college little in march and also won her NCAA division.

3. Chelsa Mitchel’s belonging to the cis gender category defeated Terry Milly who was a trans athlete in outdoor track State Open Championship in june 2020


Conclusion

Transgenders are also humans like the male and female and others, they must also have the right to build their own identity. It takes them courage to be brave and face the reality of their unexpected realm and when they do, it leads to progressivism but in disguise. Its however very debating whether to also include the transgender in to the women’s category as one may say yes and other may deny it as including them would only lead to unfairness and unjust to the category of women and men. The sole purpose of having two distinct domains that is men’s sports and women’s sports depended on providing proper fairness and equality. In particular a person’s biological condition is definitely significant as the transgenders don’t fall into either the female or the male category. The role of acceptance of them solely depends on us. There is no doubt that the transgender female faces a lot of challenge in the pursuit of their success but this does not give justification to violate or compromise the rights and opportunities that of the female athletes and also if a mistake is committed with undue knowledge its forgiven and the person is given a chance to change then.

Why can’t the transgender be given the change to openly accept their change into the society of sports?

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