Transgender, what is fair?

by Cameron Griffin

transgender symbol

First I’d like to dispel any arguments in which people disagree with a transgender athlete competing in a competition involving physical ability are bigots. Arguing such a point proves a political or social bias for an agenda not related to the competition. In the recent months you may have heard the name Chloie Jönsson mentioned once or twice, especially within the CrossFit community. Chloie is a CrossFit athlete and male to female transgender who has recently stirred up a controversy in the world of CrossFit. Chloie has filed a 2.5 million dollar suit against the privately owned company stating the CrossFit Games barred her from competing as a female. Chloie states that the CrossFit Games have violated her civil rights by denying her eligibility to compete in the women’s division because of her male born status. Chloie Jönsson has gone from a CrossFit competitor to an advocate for transgender rights in a matter of months stating that she is suing the franchise for the future rights of all transgender’s. By all means I believe that Chloie Jönsson has the right to self-identify and live as a female but I do believe there is a difference between having these rights and whether or not there is fairness in competing against female born athletes in a sanctioned event.

The definition of fair competition from Merriam-Webster is:
“competition reasonable in view of the interests of those competing and the public and not involving practices condemned by law as inimical to the public interest”

I would like to point out the word “inimical” in the above definition. “Inmicial” is defined as unfriendly or otherwise hostile, which is exactly what Chloie has become in recent months. Raising a suit against CrossFit worth 2.5 million dollars is not only hostile but detrimental to the CrossFit Games by degrading athletes who earn nothing but respect for competing on their own dime the entire time. Chloie references the International Olympic Committee (IOC) when stating her accusations against the CrossFit Games, but each organization has right to govern their own sport. The MLB has different HGH testing rules than the NFL, and the NCAA differs with their transgender rules than the IOC, so why does CrossFit not have the right to refuse any competitor if the science is disputable and testing costly and ineffective?

Allowing science to rule is CrossFit’s mantra through Force*Distance/Time=Power. To be fair the science does show when a male to female transgender properly uses hormone therapy there is significant drops in testosterone (main component in muscle gain and retention), bone density, thinning of skin, and redistribution of body fat. All of the previous conditions lead to a decline in physical ability for any athlete. However hormone therapy does not change the bone shape or angles, lung capacity, or heart size.

Men and women have different angles between the quadriceps and knee. The ability for men to have better patellar tracking in athletic movements doesn’t diminish during hormonal therapy. In fact women are at greater risk for valgus knee positioning, increasing the risk of injury and a decrease of power generation. More physical advantages a man and a transgender male to female person will have are increased lung capacity, larger airways compared to height-matched women. Scientific findings suggest that gas exchange and ventilation will limit women’s ability during exercise. Regardless of hormone therapy a male will retain some of these advantages that can’t just be thrown aside because of legal differentiation.

The IOC does not have a cut and dry transgender policy. Like many have stated they still complete various types of tests that can disqualify athletes. It’s far more complicated with a multitude of testing and measurements which complete their evaluation. To this day no openly transgender athlete has competed in an Olympics event. Keelin Godset, a known female to male transgender athlete, had aspirations to compete in the Olympics for hammer throw. Keelin however sought not to abuse or intimidate other athletes and decided if he were to compete he would do so as the sex he was born as, female. Saldy Keelin was not fortunate enough to make it to the 2012 Olympics. None the less he was content to compete on a fair playing field with other female competitors with equal abilities. Another example of a transgender admitting to advantages is Jakabos Zsuzsanna openly admitting to being faster and stronger as a male to female athlete over other female competitors. So even other transgender athletes accept the fact of reality in which they were born, not what they relate to in the present.

With any drug manipulation there will always be a controversy of the effects. In no way can you expect modifications to be done chemically and not argue an advantage or disadvantage. That’s where the problem lies. There is a perception towards male to female and female to male athletes that has to be studied before being blindly accepted. There is lack of athletic data for male to female athletes in CrossFit and how they literally stack up against the median in the female community. While Chloie may be an above average athlete how you can prove that the advantages aren’t because of past training as a male? While another argument put forth is what if she goes against medical advice and decreases or goes off her hormone therapy thereby allowing her testosterone to increase allowing for greater advances during training, gaining an advantage over other women. Unlike the IOC, CrossFit has limited testing resources and in no way could they oversee an athlete using hormone affecting drugs constantly. It doesn’t matter whether Chloie has ever attempted abusing her therapy. I’d like to think she hasn’t cheated, but the opportunity is there for her and any other transgender athlete. This alone can be disqualifying in the Olympics but would remain untested because CrossFit doesn’t have the proper resources.

While the lawsuit is the largest issue for CrossFit, the long standing issue will be how CrossFit will be perceived. As I stated earlier Chloie Jönsson is seeking 2.5 million dollars, which is an uncalled for amount. How is her disputable right to compete in a private company’s event worth 2.5 million dollars? Since CrossFit is a private corporation chaired by Greg Glassman with thousands of independently owned and operated affiliates, with each owner and affiliate having differing business systems, style of coaching, and unique communities. With that alone CrossFit has the right not to even allow her into the competition, but instead they placed her in the category she was given at birth like everyone else is. To force yourself into a category of fitness and ruin other female born candidates is no less fair if you pose male type advantages. Anyone preaching tolerance is screaming it from a sanctimonious pedestal discounting many professionals’ opinions and factual proof of physiological differences. Regardless of desire to be a female, which is her right, Chloie Jönsson has to accept she was born physiologically a male and in such this gives her natural advantages over all women. If you want to preach acceptance you have to be honest with yourself first then expect the same from society.

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