Women’s sport must be kept for athletes who are born as women and no one should ever be afraid to say so Rod Liddle Sunday Times 01.03.20
The original article is here.
World Rugby’s noble decision to convene a “transgender workshop” in order to create new guidelines for dealing with players who have transitioned, different from those which apply in the Olympic Games, is likely to cause a bit of a rumpus.
If Bill Beaumont et al follow the scientific arguments, they will enrage the already perpetually incensed transgender lobby. If they dismiss the science in order to embrace a certain wokeness, as the International Olympic Committee (IOC) seems to have done, then there are pretty grave ramifications for the increasingly popular sport of women’s rugby. It’s kind of a no-win, a scrum from which there is no escape.
The transgender issue is back in the news partly as a consequence of World Rugby’s workshop and partly because weightlifter Laurel Hubbard, born Gavin Hubbard, is marching towards the 2020 Olympics. Laurel’s rivals are unimpressed because, as they see it, and as science sees it, Laurel is very much not a woman. When Laurel was Gavin, and competed against men, he didn’t do very well at all.
Many other female athletes have stuck their heads above the parapet. Tamsyn Manou, the Australian track and field Olympian, said women need to “take a stand” over transgender athletes in their sports. She said: “People are scared to say anything because of political correctness.” Well, indeed.
In truth, the matter is fairly simple to resolve: people born as men surely should not compete against women born as women, because they have what a recent paper in the Journal of Medical Ethics calls an “intolerable” advantage. The IOC, in its attempts to be fashionable, has welcomed trans-athletes so long as they abide by the demand to reduce testosterone levels to ten nanomoles per litre of blood, soon to be reduced to five nanomoles. This is an evasion and almost an irrelevance.
Testosterone levels in women have an “upper normal limit” of 2.7 nanomoles per litre, way below the levels demanded by the IOC for transgendered women. But it is not all about testosterone. Men have a greater lung capacity, greater bone density and very different musculature to women. That Journal of Medical Ethics report points up the much greater type-two muscle fibre in men, crucial for strength, and also reveals that men who have transitioned to women retain their muscle mass: it does not diminish no matter what procedures they undertake.
The transgender lobby argue that none of this should be a cause for worry, because we’re all different, aren’t we? Um, well yes, up to a point, but the science is pretty clear on the physical differences between men and women. They also argue that this is a piffling issue, given that fewer than 1 per cent of the population are transgendered. But in a sense, that’s rather the problem: that fewer than 1 per cent is punching very strongly above its weight in women’s sports. The transgendered cyclist Rachel McKinnon, now known as Veronica Ivy (one begins to lose track, I know), is the UCI Masters World Track Racing champion. The British cricketer Maxine Blythin (who, it should be said, has naturally low testosterone levels for a man) once had a batting average of 15, when playing against men. Since competing against women, that average has shot up to 124. Transgendered athletes are winning track-and-field titles in Canada and the US, including the extremely fast Andraya Yearwood. This issue will grow rather than recede.
And of course it is an intensely political debate, liberal left versus conservative right. Two states in the US, both Republican — Idaho and Arizona — have passed, or are passing, laws that make it illegal for transgendered men to compete against women in sport, legislation that the Democrat opposition insists is discriminatory and “transphobic”. The sides are clearly demarcated. Women athletes such as Sharron Davies and Martina Navratilova, who dare to voice their discomfort at what they see as the intrusion of transgendered men into women’s sport, are denounced as bigots or, worse, Terfs: trans-exclusionary radical feminists.
The ironies abound and multiply. Back in the 1960s and 1970s, when we were all wrapped up in a Cold War characterised by suspicion and intrigue, female athletes from the Soviet bloc were routinely accused of being blokes. Those of a certain age may remember watching gurning, hirsute, female Bulgarian weightlifters who made our own Geoff Capes look like Twiggy stepping up to take the gold medal.
The IOC back then was moved to take action, yet the first athlete to be banned came from the free world. The Austrian skier Erika Schinegger was kicked out of the 1968 Grenoble Winter Olympics on account of looking (and sounding) rather manly. Meanwhile in today’s Russia, transgenderism has been criminalised in many oblasts and transgendered people harried and imprisoned. You want transphobia? Look to the east. You want women to succeed at sport on a level playing field? Then keep those sports for women born as women.