Male bodies don’t belong in women’s sport by Janice Turner in The Times 23.02.19
The original article is here.
In 1990, after trouncing Zina Garrison 6-4, 6-1 to win her ninth Wimbledon singles title, Martina Navratilova hurtled into the stands to embrace her lover Judy Nelson. A generation before gay marriage, two years after Clause 28 forbade promoting the “acceptability of homosexuality”, Martina defied prejudice and sneers with that joyful Centre Court hug.
For living as boldly as she played, proposing to her present partner before the world at the US Open, Navratilova earned her place in any LGBT pantheon. Yet now she is a pariah in the movement she helped forge, kicked off the advisory board of Athlete Ally, an LGBT sports campaign, while activists lobby the BBC to drop her as a commentator. For what? Because she believes it unjust for male-bodied athletes to compete in women’s sports.
Writing in The Sunday Times, Navratilova said that Rachel McKinnon, a Canadian trans woman who won the 35-44 age category Masters Track cycling world championship, had unfair advantages. The podium photo shows a hefty 6ft-plus, 14-stone McKinnon, who only recently took up the sport, dwarfing two female cyclists. McKinnon had not broken the rules, which merely demand she lower her testosterone (albeit to levels still five times higher than the average female), but she retained the larger skeleton, muscle mass and greater aerobic capacity acquired in male puberty.
It seems quite mad that I have to prove the bleeding obvious: that men are better at sport, which is why Edwardian ladies founded their own competitions so they had any chance of lifting a trophy. But here goes: in every sport based upon strength or speed men have a 10 to 30 per cent advantage. The men’s 100m record, for example, is 9.58 seconds, while the women’s is 10.49, a time regularly achieved by top teenage boys.
In the 1970s, Navratilova, for all the “transphobia” slurs, championed Renée Richards’s right to play in the women’s US Open. Richards, who later became her coach, was over 40 when she underwent full surgical transition yet held her own against females at their physical peak. She has since reflected that if she’d transitioned at 22, “no genetic woman in the world would have been able to come close to me. And so I’ve reconsidered my opinion.”
Now, the 100th best young male player could, without surgery, enter the highly lucrative women’s circuit and probably beat Serena Williams. Are Martina and other elite athletes who have supported her — Paula Radcliffe, Chris Evert, Kelly Holmes — bigots for trying to preserve the integrity of women’s sports?
This week I heard a British university professor argue that sex-segregated contests were outdated: women, he said, could improve their times competing against men. The Emperor’s New Running Shoes doctrine dictates that biological sex does not exist: all that counts is the amorphous inner feeling of “gender identity”. Stonewall’s slogan “Trans women are women, get over it” doesn’t mean “trans women should be treated socially and legally as women” — with which many people, including myself, would agree — but that they are biologically women: their bodies are women’s bodies, their penises are women’s penises. (I’m not exaggerating, this is the avowed policy of a mainstream lobby group with the government’s ear.)
If you subscribe to this magical thinking, of course natal males should play in women’s sports, at the very moment they identify as female. When the US powerlifting body concluded it was unfair for trans women to compete against biological women because male “advantages such as increased body and muscle mass, bone density, bone structure, and connective tissue” remain after testosterone suppression, trans activists disrupted events. (McKinnon believes it a human rights violation even to reduce her testosterone, which she sees as naturally produced by her “female” body.)
Yet as Invisible Women, a new book by the feminist campaigner Caroline Criado Perez, demonstrates on every page, biological sex is real. In our pain thresholds and immune systems; our response to stress or cold; the way we manifest Parkinson’s disease or heart attacks; the rate we burn calories or absorb poisons: all reveal distinct differences between women and men.
But to state that biological sex should have any sway in political decisions is now, bizarrely, verboten. You might think, well what does it matter about women’s sports? Trans women constitute a tiny fraction of the population and few will become elite athletes. OK, a few fast girls will never win or feel free to complain at the injustice. A few other unfortunates will be hurt in collisions with bigger trans players: 6ft 2in, 15-stone Hannah Mouncey broke a woman’s leg in Australian rules women’s football. Small beer.
Except the idea biological sex is irrelevant, old-fashioned or a bigoted concept has seeped far into public life. Across the country schools are unilaterally erasing single-sex toilets for “gender neutral” facilities, even though this is a breach of equalities and human rights legislation. Both sexes hate sharing bathrooms at puberty, but girls suffer the added shame of learning to use sanitary protection knowing boys are nearby, fearing washing bloody hands in communal sinks. Parents report girls risking urinary tract infections “holding it in” until they get home.
Yet this is where Stonewall has left us four years after it decided to incorporate the T with the LGB. Taken over by extreme biology-denying activists, at odds with thousands of former supporters — including its own founders — who have petitioned for women’s voices to be heard, with its lesbian CEO Ruth Hunt resigning this week reportedly in some despair and Martina Navratilova, the greatest LGBT athlete of all time, cast out for speaking the truth.