The fairness of transgender women in sports

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Controversy surrounded a New Zealand-born weightlifter who is the first transgender woman to compete in the Olympic Games.

Last month, weightlifter Laurel Hubbard of New Zealand became the first transgender woman to compete in the Olympics. Hubbard will soon become a trailblazer for transgender women, although the possible “advantages” are still being weighed.

“I’m not entirely unaware of the controversy which surrounds my participation in these games,” Hubbard told reporters at the Olympics. She also said the International Weightlifting Federation is “inclusive” and “accessible.”

The fact that transgender women have made strides in sports, becoming able to compete in either men’s or women’s athletics, has become extremely controversial among sports fans and athletes. While records are being broken left and right, some are questioning if there is an unfair advantage transgender women possess.

Many believe that what is lacking is consistency. Why is it okay to go from setting records in men’s sports to then competing in women’s sports? If it were believed to be fair, then all sports would be coed.

It has become public that the use of Testosterone is the deal-breaker in terms of competing in sports for both genders. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) ruled that transgender athletes who identify as female could compete on female teams, according to Forbes magazine, only if they could prove that their testosterone levels were at a certain low level for a minimum of one year before competition.

IOC President Thomas Bach is not in full agreement with the testosterone guidelines because it’s unclear how fair it actually is. “It differs from sport to sport,” he said.

If a transgender female athlete wishes to compete with naturally high levels of testosterone, then the requirements still apply. Certain athletes may abuse this power and claim to have naturally high testosterone.

In this year’s Olympic Games, transgender female runners Christine Mboma and Beatrice Masilingi of Nambia were not allowed to compete in the 400 meter race because of their testosterone levels. They were still allowed, however, to compete in the shorter distance races, because the rules only applied to long distances.

Mboma and Masilingi’s circumstances have sparked major controversy. Many believe it is unfair that they are women when they are competing in short races — but they are not women when they are competing in long races.

Senior athlete Ryleigh Cunnane feels that, “It is not fair. Men are biologically built to be stronger people, so a -transgender woman competing would be totally unfair because her body would be more capable of winning.”

Junior Tatum Vorsteg is on the supporting end of transgender women in athletics.

“If someone were born a woman and were six foot four, 250 pounds, going up against a five foot six, 135 pound woman who was born a male, would you complain? Probably not, because the transgender woman is at a disadvantage due to their size,” Vorsteg said.

“So if it were backwards,” she added, “why would it be any different? It is a size based disadvantage, not a gender based disadvantage. They are both women, and they are both valid.”

The world is changing, as well as the people in it. While this controversy is still being dealt with to make it fair for everyone, those at the forefront of the IOC will do their best to ensure fairness and eliminate any abuse of power that athletes may be trying to achieve.