March 17, 2021

Generally, sports have always been segregated by sex. This is because of the perceived difference in athletic performance between cisgender men and women. This segregation is meant to achieve fair competition by ensuring that all athletes are in a level playing field. The difference in athletic performance between males and females is predominantly due to high levels of androgenic hormones like testosterone in males resulting in increased strength and muscle development. Although females produce androgens, their levels are markedly lower than those in males.[1] This segregation is based on the traditional gender binary notion that assumes that one’s gender conforms to their sex assigned at birth by default. This becomes problematic when it comes to transgender athletes. A transgender person has a gender identity that differs from the sex which they were assigned at birth. Pursuant to human rights, the world over is striving towards inclusive and equal societies. Segregation based on sex excludes transgender athletes hence there has been a need for their inclusion to achieve equality. In the case of Richards v. United States Tennis Association[2] the U.S Supreme Court held that the state has a responsibility to afford every individual an equal opportunity to enjoy a full and productive life. Hence, the court concluded that a test barring Renee a transgender woman from taking part in the women’s tennis tournament was discriminatory. Nonetheless, the obligation to ensure equal opportunities for all conflicts with the duty to ensure fair competition in sports. The conflict is higher when it comes to the inclusion of Trans women athletes. Inclusive Policies The first significant policy is the 2003 Stockholm Consensus on Sex Reassignment in Sports developed by the International Olympic Committee. The Consensus recommended that transgender women who underwent sexual reassignment after puberty could participate in female competitions only if; they had undergone gonadectomy at least 2 years before the competition, they have legal documentation of their gender identity and they have had hormonal therapy administered for a sufficient length of time to minimize gender related advantages.[3] This policy was discriminatory as it was ignorant of the cultural and economic differences among transgender persons. The surgical procedures are expensive hence economically inaccessible. Further, many countries do not recognize transgender persons hence, it is difficult to access legal documentation. This policy excluded many Trans women athletes hence the IOC came up with a more inclusive policy. The 2015 policy only requires one to have declared that her gender identity is female and that their testosterone level is below 10 nmol/L for at least 12 months prior to the first competition.[4] Nonetheless, there is medical evidence that challenges this policy. A 2020 study found that the 12 month threshold is not sufficient to achieve fair competition. It concluded that Trans women retain an advantage in upper body strength and endurance over cisgender women for 1-2 years after starting gender affirming hormones. This new research means that the IOC one-year threshold of testosterone suppression is too short to achieve a level playing field.[5] Exclusive Policies There are sports policies that completely exclude transgender persons. USA Powerlifting Policy maintains that participation of Trans women in […]

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