Allowing Transgender Athletes to Compete Their Choice of Sport is a Matter of Life or Death

Via wikimedia commons
Zdenka Koubkova is a transgender from Czechoslovakia who won several national titles as a track athlete.

According to a study by the American Academy of Pediatrics, half of female-to-male adolescents, 29.9% of male-to-female adolescents, and 41.8% of non-binary adolescents have attempted suicide.

Along with this, Dr. Nicole Martins, an Associate Professor of Media Studies, has this to say about the effects of representation in the media: “There’s this body of research and a term known as ‘symbolic annihilation,’ which is the idea that if you don’t see people like you in the media you consume, you must somehow be unimportant.”

Keep in mind that sports are extremely televised, and something like a trans person daring to live their lives is widely publicized; I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to draw a connection between transgender people in athletics and representation in the media.

Transgender people are undoubtedly victims of symbolic annihilation. The result of symbolic annihilation is low self-esteem, which then can develop into depression; those who are depressed are far more likely to attempt suicide.

To me, this is enough of a reason to allow transgender people to compete the way they want: it helps a vulnerable minority see themselves in a positive light. It gives them hope that they can live the way they want and be happy, regardless of the hardships. Media is a powerful tool, and only a fool would dismiss the way that it affects people.

But in case saving lives isn’t enough of a reason for you, I’ll continue.

A particular criticism leveled at transgender women is that they have an advantage over biological women, because they have a higher testosterone level. Strangely enough, people don’t seem to worry about transgender men having a disadvantage against biological men.

I’d love to know why this criterium is only ever applied to transwomen. Biological women can also have abnormally high levels of androgens; those women have what’s known as Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. Perhaps they should be barred from competing in women’s sports as well.

Funnily enough, taking estrogen has the reverse effect of what bigots think; it actually reduces muscle mass and worsens performance, according to Dr. Eric Vilain of UCLA. If a man has any advantage prior to transition, it will be null and void after a year on hormones.

So let’s stop dog-whistling and talk about what this debate is actually about: people are irrationally afraid of transgender people. They want their hate and delusions to prevail over what the words of experts say, which is that being transgender is just plain old biology, and that allowing them to compete is perfectly fine. But of course, it’s the American Medical Association, American Psychiatric Association, the Mayo Clinic, and the American Academy of Pediatrics that are wrong.

by sarah smith–contributor