My nephew Ben wrote an intelligent and emotional piece about how Mack Beggs, competing as her birth gender, cheated to win an undefeated high school wrestling championship. She competed as a “she” while taking steroids and performance-enhancing testosterone in order to live as a “he.”
She wanted to compete as a “he,” but the Texas authorities that govern sports competition have a rule that students must compete with the gender of their birth. It’s confusing because now we have a “young man” competing as a “girl” (which she is), but with enhanced strength and muscle mass of a male. This gave her an advantage over her female competitors.
Should Beggs have been allowed to compete against girls? After all, she was undefeated. She beat every competitor and won all her matches. Would she have won against boys? I don’t know. It’s confusing.
The rules are still being written, and probably will never result in a fair match.
The 2011 NCAA Inclusion of Transgender Student Athletes Handbook (yes, there’s such a thing) uses these rules (summary courtesy of transathlete.com) to determine when a man can beat up a woman.
The following policies clarify participation of transgender student-athletes undergoing hormonal treatment for gender transition:
1. A trans male (FTM) student-athlete who has received a medical exception for treatment with testosterone for diagnosed Gender Identity Disorder or gender dysphoria and/or Transsexualism, for purposes of NCAA competition may compete on a men’s team, but is no longer eligible to compete on a women’s team without changing that team status to a mixed team.
2. A trans female (MTF) student-athlete being treated with testosterone suppression medication for Gender Identity Disorder or gender dysphoria and/or Transsexualism, for the purposes of NCAA competition may continue to compete on a men’s team but may not compete on a women’s team without changing it to a mixed team status until completing one calendar year of testosterone suppression treatment.
Any transgender student-athlete who is not taking hormone treatment related to gender transition may participate in sex-separated sports activities in accordance with his or her assigned birth gender.
• A trans male (FTM) student-athlete who is not taking testosterone related to gender transition may participate on a men’s or women’s team.
• A trans female (MTF) transgender student-athlete who is not taking hormone treatments related to gender transition may not compete on a women’s team.
Let me unpack this. In the NCAA:
- A man can beat up a woman if he’s been on drugs to suppress testosterone for a year.
- A man can beat up a woman if she is a transgender competing as a man.
And in Mixed Martial Arts, a man can beat up a woman if she’s Fallon Fox. In September, 2014, Fox destroyed Tamikka Brents in a very lopsided match.
On Saturday, Fox defeated Tamikka Brents by TKO at 2:17 of the first round of their match. In addition to the damaged orbital bone that required seven staples, Brents received a concussion. In a post-fight interview this week, she told Whoa TV that “I’ve never felt so overpowered ever in my life.”
In 2013, MMA fighter Ronda Roussey said she would fight Fox, but thought it wasn’t a good idea for Fox to fight women.
“She can try hormones, chop her pecker off, but it’s still the same bone structure a man has,” Rousey said. “It’s an advantage. I don’t think it’s fair.”
It’s not fair that a transgender young man (Beggs) wrestled other girls (Beggs is a girl) while taking performance-enhancing substances. It’s not fair that a transgender woman (Fox) fought other women because she was born a man.
I could imagine a wrestling match or an MMA fight where a transgender man, fighting as a woman, would fight a transgender woman, fighting as a man. That would mean two men are beating up two women, or two women are getting slammed by two men. It defies description.
How could any transgender sport ever be fair?
It couldn’t. There’s no way to rewrite the laws of nature, or God’s creation, or Darwin, or whatever you believe. (Imagine trying to modify “the survival of the fittest” to take these modifications into account!) If a person is born a female, with female DNA, that’s what that person gets, until they die. Likewise with a male. We can write all the convoluted rules we want, but we can never make it truly fair.
If we are willing to live with unfair advantages built-in to our sports, then by all means, we should standardize some rules. But we shouldn’t pretend they are fair.
In the end, transgender sports will always be about a woman getting beat up (or beaten in a race) by a man, and that’s never going to be fair–or right.