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Transgender Athletes in the Track and Field Community

Updated March 19, 2021
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Transgender Athletes in the Track and Field Community essay

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Because the term transgender, commonly referred to as Trans, has come into a widespread use only in the past couple of decades, the official meaning to transgender is still under construction. Meaning that the definition to transgender can mean several different things to several different people. According to Susan Stryker an “amazing author, Associate Professor of Gender and Women’s Studies, director of the Institute for LGBT Studies, winner of the Lambda Literary Award for the Transgender Studies Reader” she believes that the term transgender means a person that believes that they are not the gender that they were assigned with at birth so they “cross” the boundaries created by society and become the gender that they feel they are meant to be (Stryker, Susan) (The Department of Gender & Women’s Studies)

Although people use the term transgender to also describe someone who has undergone sex reassignment surgery, a surgery that helps you remove or add a genitalia to ones body, that may not be the right term to use (Odunze, Millicent). The term transexual would seem to be a better fit. Transexuals are those that seek or undergo surgery or medical treatment to change the appearance of their birth genitalia and reduce their gender dysphoria. Gender dysphoria is a conflict between a person’s physical or assigned gender and the gender with which he/she/they identify.

“People with gender dysphoria may be very uncomfortable with the gender they were assigned, sometimes described as being uncomfortable with their body (particularly developments during puberty) or being uncomfortable with the expected roles of their assigned gender” (Ranna Parekh). While transgenders are those that just identify as the opposite gender they were assigned at birth and have not yet undergone surgery. Many transexuals feel the need to undergo surgery because they want their outside appearance to match what they feel internally. Although there are two different terms transgenders and transexuals face the same amount of discrimination.

They have faced discrimination because of how they live their lives and who they are and because of the surgeries that transsexuals undergo. They have faced inequality, all throughout history in all places from school, to work, to sports and even politics that cisgender people, those who identify with the gender they were assigned with at birth have never gone through In the 1970s there was a feminist movement that used the slogan “the personal is political”. Stryker stated that these feminist were critical on transgender and transsexual practices.

Feminists at the time believed that what transgenders and transsexuals believed in or the way they acted were just “personal solutions”, meaning women that are facing discrimination for being a female are simply taking the “easy” way out and becoming men so that they won’t be oppressed. They also believed that these transgender/transexual female to male were trying to escape the poor pay that women suffered through. (Stryker, Susan). To think, these feminists were fighting for their rights and believed they should not be discriminated against, discriminated against transgenders/transexuals. Alongside politics, transgenders/transsexuals face discrimination in school as well. Between the time span of July 14th and September 1st, 2006 a research project was undertaken for the “Equalities review”.

When researched “the project undertook a mixed quantitative/qualitative approach to collecting and analyzing information on transgender and transsexual people’s experiences of inequality and discrimination in the UK”(Whittle, Stephen). According to this article The young trans person, who are creating their identity in school, meaning they start dressing or acting the gender they believe to be, faces bullying and harassment in schools Around 64% of young trans men and around 44% of young trans women will experience harassment or bullying at school, not just from their fellow classmates but also from school staff including teachers. These are higher rates/percentages than shown in many studies on young lesbians and gay men at school.

Meaning,that gay and lesbian people face less discrimination than the average transgender person. The research also stated the commonly held belief that “there is less tolerance of “sissy’ boys than tomboys, finding that females who become trans men later in life faced the most harassment and bullying at school. The research shows a major difference in final educational achievement levels in the trans population compared to the average. Many trans people leave school after completing Level 2, but 34% obtain a degree or higher degree (later in life), compared to the UK national average of only 27%.”(Whittle, Stephen).

To think , this is only in the United Kingdom imagine how many more kids in the world are facing harassment and bullying due to the fact that they do not feel like the gender they were assigned to at birth and these are only children, there are many adults as well that face discrimination in the workplace rather than at school. Because getting a job is such a competitive field, transgenders and transsexuals tend to ‘hide” what feels right to them and act, some would say, “straight”In fact, as stated by the research that was done in 2006, “The equalites review”, “ 42% of people not living permanently in their preferred gender role were prevented from doing so because they feared it might threaten their employment status” Not only do transgenders and transsexuals fear that they will lose their jobs but they still face harassment in their everyday environment.

Stephen Whittle, Lewis Turner, and Marryn AL-Alami stated that it is not surprising when they had found that almost 1 in 4 trans people are forced to use an inappropriate toilet at work, or none at all, in the early stages of their transition. They stated “At work over 10% of trans people experienced being verbally abused and 6% were physically assaulted.” Because of harassment and bullying a quarter of trans people will feel the need to change their jobs. The transgender/transsexual community faces so much discrimination it is truly heartbreaking. Transgender/transsexuals have to “hide” their identity and who they feel they are while the heterosexual community doesn’t have to “hide” who they really are in work or in school or anywhere in general.

Although some workplaces may say that they are abiding by the policies against transgenders that isn’t the case most of the time. The researchers from the Project of engendered penalties wondered what it was like being transgender in a workplace. So they surveyed a transgender woman that was working in a big supermarket. Her response went: “I work for the ******* store and have been there for 7 years, last December I was diagnosed with gender dysphoria, and approached my personnel manager about transitioning at work… We had a verbal agreement that I would use the ladies locker room and the customer disabled toilet, I started back to work as ****** (new name) put my stuff away and started work. Half an hour later I was summoned to Personnel, told there was no way I could use the locker room and was made to take my stuff out and carry it through the whole shop and keep it in a computer games cupboard…

I was not allowed a key and had to ask a supervisor every time I needed my bag or coat, I was also sitting on the checkouts and getting abuse from customers which led to panic attacks, but they refused to take me off them. I managed to get in touch with my regional Manager and he arranged a meeting with the Manager, my store manager and myself, they told me they had wasted too much time and money on me and that they didn’t know what to do with me and that they would not be supporting me… I was given a filing cabinet in the car park attendants office for my bag and, they also decided to keep the disabled toilet locked because it had been vandalized so often and my only alternative was to cross the car park and use the garage toilet. (Correspondence with Press For Change)”

In this case, she states all the discrimination she has been put through\is somethings so frustrating and the situation could have been dealt with differently. Transgenders have to deal with so many problems that affect their everyday life. Like previously stated politics, work, and school all discriminate against trans women and males. Not only do they have to deal with those three but also with sports. Sports, I feel like, have the most discrimination towards the transgender community. Although it may seem illegal discrimination against transgender/transsexual people happens all the time. There is not any specific law that protects them from discrimination in sports specifically. Unlike work and school, they don’t have policies to try and make these transgender women feel better. In fact, NCAA has certain rules that may make a transgender feel even more like an outcast.

NCAA (The National Collegiate Athletic Association) is an American organization that controls the rules in many college sports. NCAA is not only a program that regulates rules but it is also, as stated by the NCAA website itself, “a member-led organization dedicated to providing a pathway to opportunity for college athletes” (Cortez). In their website, they provide athletes and coaches a handbook of rules that athletes need to follow. The handbook includes one specific section on transgenders and it does not look good especially for transgender females to male.

The handbook states that a trans male (female to male) student-athlete who has gotten a medical treatment with testosterone for a diagnosed Gender Identity Disorder or gender dysphoria and/or Transsexualism, for purposes of NCAA competition can compete on a men’s team, but is no longer able to compete on a women’s team without changing that team status to a mixed team (Co-ed) “A trans female (male to female) 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.”

With thus being said, if a transgender/transsexual female ( male to female) were to transition in the middle of the season they would not be able to compete with the gender they feel apart of. As for transgender males, (female to male) it is a bit easier on them because once they transition they could run with the gender they feel they are. Upon further research I do see why this may seem appropriate because men are seen to be faster due to their testosterone levels. Before boys and girls hit puberty their bodies are very similar but once a boy hits puberty he has twice the amount of testosterone the girl has. Then once a man hits 20 years old he has twenty times the amount of testosterone according to healthline (Healthline,2018) ‘Because women produce less testosterone, we are at a disadvantage in terms of muscle,’ said Dr. Emily Kraus, a care sports medicine physician at Stanford Health Care in California.

‘Males have a greater amount of muscle bulk.’ So more muscle can help a person run faster. Also, men’s muscles tend to have larger fast-twitch muscle fibers, which help with sprinting, than women do, Kraus said (Laura Geggel).So yes, men tend to be faster and the reason why they need to be taking year of taking testosterone suppression before competing against females that were born females is so they won’t have that advantage. They need their supplements to kick in before they can compete, but I feel as if a year is pretty long and it could make a transgender feel like an outcast.

Now, NCAA clearly is more strict upon college students, but in high school, it’s a whole different scenario. Take Nattaphon Wangyot for example, a transgender male to female that is competing against the gender that she feels she is. Even though her participation in Alaska state meet drew some controversy, there were no actions taken to disqualify her which was shocking. In high school track meets sometimes do not abide by the NCAA rules. Although Wangyot did not get disqualified she did receive much backlash from people, including her competitors as well as families and fans of the sport track and field.

The website, flow-track, states that Wangyotts presence in the girls 100m and 200m races brought protestors. The conservative group Alaska Family Action called a press conference to vocalize what they believe was an injustice–that someone born male should not compete against females.” Not only was she facing discrimination from a track and field audience but she was treated differently from the other girls. The website continues to state “It wasn’t until track season that the attention intensified. Wangyot went from a team sport to an individual sport and the question of whether or not she had an inherent advantage because she was born male came up.

Beginning in volleyball season in the fall, Haines assigned extra chaperones on road trips–one of whom was specifically supposed to shadow Wangyot. Carlson said it ‘wasn’t really necessary,’ because there were hardly any issues from opposing players, coaches or parents(Transgender Teen Runner Breaks New Ground in Alaska.). This discrimination has not only happened to Wangyot but as well as another young trans female that lives in Connecticut. Andraya Yearwood took second in the one hundred meter dash for her state meet. Unlike Wangyot Andraya Yearwood states that she is glad that she is running for her High School and is treated just like any female. The only problem is her competitor’s parents or family who think it is unfair. In high school, ABC news states, “athletic conference rules allow high school athletes to compete based on the genders with which they identify.

Critics say the rules give male-to-female transgender people a competitive edge over cisgender women, whose biological sex matches their gender identity , because some have higher testosterone levels than non-trans females.”(Allen, Karma.). Thus making it an unfair advantage because,as stated earlier, the higher your testosterone levels the faster and stronger you will be. Men have higher level testosterone than women and are biologically faster. These critics may have a point in why it could be unfair to those girls that are training year round just to be beaten by a trans male to female.

But, they have to take a look into their perspectives if they feel like a woman they should be discriminated against just because it might make you lose. Then so be it if you lose. As a track runner, I feel like this would push me to run even faster. These athletes should worry about themselves and race the clock not the people around them. That is all that matters. Placing in track should not matter to a real track athlete. You can run the slowest you have ever run and can place first but that should not feel like an accomplishment, you should feel accomplished after you hit your best time. In conclusion, transgenders already face so much discrimination why give them more rules in a sport that should be fun.

From school, to work, to sports they face discrimination all the time because of who they feel like. Something cisgenders do not have to deal with. Sometimes you have to put yourself in other people’s shoes to try and understand what they are going through With all the research given, take into consideration transgenders are people too. They want to fit in just like everyone else. Can we just give them a break and let them compete against the gender they feel they are. Stop looking at transgenders as if they aren’t like us. They are human too.

Work Cited

  1. Allen, Karma. “Transgender Teens Outrun Track and Field Competitors but Critics Close Behind.” ABC News, ABC News Network, 13 June 2018, abcnews.go.com/US/transgender-teens-outrun-track-field-competitors-critics-close/story?id=55856294.
  2. Cortez. “What Is the NCAA?” NCAA.org – The Official Site of the NCAA, 7 Feb. 2018, www.ncaa.org/about/resources/media-center/ncaa-101/what-ncaa. Franklin, Bernard, et al. “NCAA Inclusion of Transgender Student-Athletes.” NCAA.org, Apr. 2010, www.ncaa.org/sites/default/files/Transgender_Handbook_2011_Final.pdf.
  3. Healthline. (2018). Testosterone Levels by Age: Normal Levels, Low T Signs, Women & More. [online] Available at: https://www.healthline.com/health/low-testosterone/testosterone-levels-by-age#other-options6 [Accessed 17 Dec. 2018].
  4. Odunze, Millicent, and Casey Gallagher. “FAQ: Sex Reassignment Surgery.” Verywell Health, Verywellhealth, www.verywellhealth.com/sex-reassignment-surgery-2710288.
  5. Stryker, Susan. Transgender History: the Roots of Todays Revolution. Seal Press, 2017. “The Department of Gender & Women’s Studies.” The Department of Gender & Women’s Studies, gws.arizona.edu/user/susan-stryker-phd.
  6. “Transgender Teen Runner Breaks New Ground in Alaska.” Track, www.flotrack.org/articles/5052566-transgender-teen-runner-breaks-new-ground-in-alaska.
  7. Whittle, Stephen, et al. Engendered Penalties: Transgender and Transsexual Peoples Experiences of Inequality and Discrimination. Communities and Local Government Publications, 2007.
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Transgender Athletes in the Track and Field Community. (2021, Mar 19). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/transgender-athletes-in-the-track-and-field-community/

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