Trans swimmers ‘unfair’ to biological women
US Olympic gold medalist Nancy Hogshead-Makar says ongoing debate around trans athletes ignores biological women’s rights
Nancy Hogshead-Makar, the former U.S. Olympian who now leads the “Champion Women” organization aimed at promoting equality and accountability in sport, says the current discussion centered around the inclusivity of trans athletes in women’s sport neglects to take into account the negative impact it can have on biologically born women.
American swimmer Lia Thomas has become the public face of one of the biggest debates currently raging in sport: does a trans athlete’s right to compete outweigh the equal rights of her cisgender peers? , and does this inevitably lead to an uneven playing field in which certain positions are adopted that threaten the very ethics of sport?
“They only consider injustice to Lia Thomas, they don’t consider injustice to biological women.,“ Hogshead-Makar told RT.
“It’s a matter of competing rights, where the rights of transgender athletes to be able to compete, and the fairness of that, versus biological women.“
Thomas, the 6ft 4in athlete who previously competed for Penn’s men’s team at collegiate events in the US, was once again at the center of controversy as images released this week showed her in dominating fellow competitors at a recent swim meet, prompting more questions as to when exactly inclusivity replaces fairness.
Defenders of Thomas’s right to compete with women will say that suppressing testosterone is something that levels out all natural advantages.
Not so fast, Hogshead-Makar said.
“I am a civil rights lawyer, and I depend on listening to the scientists who propose the research,“ she says.
“What male puberty, which is this long-acting testosterone, gives to the human body is these huge impacts, depending on the sport, it’s usually between about 8% and 20% – sometimes up to 100 % – gaps between men and women ability to perform.
“So if we only had one basketball team, and you see who succeeds, because of male puberty, because of testosterone, you would never see women who could make that team. We have single-sex sports specifically to give women opportunities.“
But in addition, Hogshead-Makar says Thomas – along with another swimmer who finds himself in a similar situation, Iszac Henig – have taken steps to preserve the competitive advantages resulting from their decisions.
“Notice they both want to win,” she says. “They both choose swimming events where they can win. If Iszac Henig wanted to present himself as their gender identity, they would go on gender affirmation hormones, it would be illegal to still participate in the women and girls category.
“But they went ahead and delayed the testosterone so they could compete in the girls’ and women’s category, so they could win.
“In my day, when I was swimming in the 70s and 80s, we were swimming against East German swimmers who took lots and lots of drugs like testosterone, and they were still far from the men, they couldn’t compete with the men , so they were a bit better than us, but not [like the men],“ Hogshead-Makar added.
“Iszac Henig knows this. He chose to wait to take testosterone until the end of his competitive career, because he wants to win.
“I’ve been saying the same thing for 30 years as an advocate for gender equality in sport. If you want girls and women to have equal opportunities to participate in sport, they have to have their own team, they have to have a team recognized on the basis of biology.
“Because that’s the big difference, it’s male puberty that gives someone this huge athletic advantage. I think we all know that, people who play sports know that best, because swimming in particular, we train together, we train together, so we know how much faster men are than women. There’s no good training, good training, healthy eating that can match that performance. ”
Thomas made headlines again earlier in February when an anonymous letter sent by 16 members of the University of Pennsylvania women’s swim team called for the preservation of Thomas’ gender identity, but said it differs from the biology of her gender and how that can manifest in a sports setting.
And as Hogshead-Makar said, the fact that the letter was sent anonymously was a clear signal that its authors feared being “cancelled” for speaking out on such a controversial topic.
“I know exactly why they didn’t put their name on it [the letter]it’s because they were told that if they did they would never get a job, they wouldn’t go to college, the new school would google their names and see that they were attached to this letter, and that it would limit their future employability,“ she predicted.
“That they would be ‘cancelled’. They just couldn’t risk it. Even the parents still weren’t signing using their names.
“If you look around it’s not just female students at Penn who haven’t signed their names, we know most female athletes weren’t asked to speak to the media, they weren’t didn’t ask, ‘What do you think?’ The NCAA didn’t ask them, ‘Should Lia Thomas compete in the women’s division?
“They’ve been silenced. They absolutely can’t talk about it. We need to have more people like me and others, other athletes, come forward and support biological women having their own category in sport..“