Before reading this, I recommend a scroll through this website to understand some of the terminology and also it's a great resource for information on transgender athletics.
Recently, the International Olympic Committee changed their official guidelines for the participation of transgender athletes. Prior to this change, it was required that transgender athletes have reassignment surgery, two years of hormone therapy, and a legal gender identification change in order to participate among the athletes of the gender with which they identified (see this CNN article).
The new change makes it so that those who transition from female to male are not restricted from entering as a male participant at their own discretion. Those transitioning from male to female, however, must declare a gender identification with female and their testosterone levels will also be tested prior to entering, as well as throughout the games. Testosterone levels found must be below 10 nmol/L.
To put it into perspective, the average adult female range for testosterone is between 0.5-2.4 nmol/L (converted from this chart using this converter). The average adult male range for testosterone is between 9.3 and 34.7 nmol/L, indicating that not only is the testosterone cap almost 4 times that of the average female but it is also still within the range of the average male. I'm not an expert on hormone therapy, how involved it may be, any side-effects, or how difficult it is to decline testosterone levels into the single digits, but I do believe that this change proves we are moving in the right direction and providing transgender athletes with more opportunities than before.
This change has been met with some pretty strong support, but even those who fully support equality initiatives still feel that it isn't "enough" of a change. But in my opinion, the negative remarks seem to claim that if a change isn't "enough" then it shouldn't have been made at all - which is crazy.
Consider this. People who struggle with gender identification are consistently fighting against the word "enough." They're not "enough" of the gender with which they identify unless they meet all the stereotypical qualifications of that gender. That is to assume then that if they don't meet those standards then they simply aren't that gender at all - which is, again, crazy!
To stare progress in the face and tell it it's not enough as if no one fought to get that far is insulting. Transgender athletes deserve an equal opportunity, even if some don't feel that it is equal enough. And for transgender women to feel as though it is unfair for them to have to prove their testosterone levels, consider how unfair it is to want to have continued male levels of testosterone while competing against women who would then be put at a disadvantage. If a cisgender woman can't take steroids, then transgender competitors with higher testosterone levels shouldn't be able to have an advantage either, even if it is one they were born with.
I get it, I get it. I seem to be running in circles. I just said that transgenders shouldn't have to fit a gender mold in order to identify with that gender and yet I'm saying there is a standard for hormones. But that's just it - hormones aren't some standard that we just made up one day. They are scientifically relevant and biologically embedded in who we are and how we develop. Having boobs doesn't make you a woman, having a vagina doesn't make you a woman, and having average female levels of testosterone doesn't make you a woman either. But for the sake of a competition that rests in treating both genders fairly and equally, hormones must be considered.
For those of you wondering "What does testosterone have to do with an athletic competition?" Testosterone is the hormone responsible for many processes in the body that effect the one's ability to maintain and build muscle mass. More testosterone = more neurotransmitters encouraging tissue growth. It also contributes to protein synthesis and increased growth hormone which enable exercise to help increase muscle mass (see this article for more information).
A few posts I've come across even seem to suggest that women and men should just be shoved together and compete with one another - taking out gender from the games completely. But let's get real - it is a proven biological fact that men and women are capable of different things in different ways and a competition between both genders in most cases would simply not be fair (hint: why do you think almost all of our athletic entertainment is divided by gender). Women have fought for the right to be treated equally, not for the right to be forced to compete with men just to make them feel that men are superior. All women, both born and transitioned, deserve a chance to compete on equal grounds together to prove their abilities and their determination.
I am not here to pretend that I know the struggles of a transgender individual, but I am simply trying to show that progress we make as a society, no matter how small, should not be made to seem invisible or fruitless. These positive changes represent so much and to discount them simply because you don't think it's "enough" is seemingly disrespectful to all those who have fought so hard.
The definition of "progress" is the forward movement toward a destination; it does not include a definitive or immediate arrival. Progress is simply the procedure, not the end result. The destination we seek is near impossible to reach. We strive for a perfect society knowing fully well just how unrealistic it may be, but to discount progress toward it through this necessity for "enough" is to say "why bother." And quite frankly I think even the craziest goals are worth striving for, especially those that involve making this world a place of equal opportunity for us all.
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