“To deny us the opportunity to participate, to compete, and to potentially excel is to take away part of ourselves that we cherish.”
When a child is born, a doctor announces, “it’s a boy” or “it’s a girl”. Chromosomes, anatomy, and hormones are the determining factors of a person’s gender. However, everyone has their unique gender identity, an internal sense of self-being, and a perception of one’s own gender. But for some people, their identity does not fit neatly inside the classification of “a man” or “a woman.” Trans people who analogously reciprocate that way use words like genderqueer or non-binary to address them. It has become an umbrella term that holds different connotations for different people. We must make an effort to understand that there is no one right or wrong way to be non-binary or transgender. Many people have theories about what it means to be transgender. But it isn’t about surgery, or sexual orientation, or even how someone wears a dress. It’s about how they feel on the inside: bottled up and muffled.
Historically sport has been recognised as a male domain. The masculine perception of sport was first quelled with the rise of women’s sports and further impeded with the gradual acceptance of gay athletes. The third departure from convention ensued from the emergence of trans athletes. At least 144 anti-trans bills are dangling down the throat of innocuous people condemned to seek acceptance. Most of them targeted trans children and trans women in sports attempting to serve as an entry point to large-scale discrimination. In 1977, the United States Tennis Association (USTA) and Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) introduced the Barr Body test, identifying a person’s sex chromosomes. When the transgender tennis player Reneé Richard refused to take the test, she was banned from the U.S. Open. In 2018, Hannah Mouncey, the only transgender woman in the Australian women’s handball team, was banned for being nominated for the Asian women’s handball championship because of the disparity in size. In 2020 Idaho became the first U.S. state to forbid trans girls from women’s sports leagues in schools and colleges. Also, World Rugby became the first international federation to block trans women from global competition, citing safety and fairness concerns. However, the Tokyo Games had been historic in many tiers. It witnessed the participation of transgender and non-binary athletes for the first time in the history of the Olympics. While the International Olympics Committee(IOC) initiated its early guidelines for the inclusion of trans-athletes in the Olympics way back in the year 2004, it was not until the Tokyo Olympics that laid the first stone for trans athlete’s participation in the world’s largest sporting spectacle. New Zealand’s weightlifter Laurel Hubbard, Canada’s footballer Quinn, and the USA’s skateboarder Alana Smith were recognised as competing across various events in the 2021 Tokyo Olympics. However, their participation fueled the controversy on trans women’s inclusion in women’s sports. The trans sports debate has been at the heart of a culture war in the United States.
Social media is flooded with disparaging comments, slaughtering the credibility of trans women in sports. Recently, I came across many tweets and posts that questioned trans women’s inclusion in sports. “Excluding trans girls protect girls’ sports,” “Trans women have a higher level of testosterone: an unfair biological advantage,” “It’s not transphobic, it’s about fairness”, and often addressing them as “biological males.” When someone is accused of being trans, they are subjected to scrutiny. That not only weaponises and demonises transness but also endangers all women. When a six feet cis woman is playing basketball, people say, “yep, she is made for basketball.” But when a six feet trans woman is encountered playing the same sport, she falls prey to the unfairness that people immediately make an account of. Even some individuals who claim to support trans people seem to take an issue when a trans girl wants to compete with other girls. This is often bigotry masked as caring about “fairness.”
No two athlete bodies look alike. No two trans women’s bodies look the same. As a matter of fact, trans women can exhibit biological diversity just like everyone else does. Some people consider male hormones as the determinant of athletic abilities, which is so inappropriate in itself. Does that mean a 70-year older man deserves more than an Olympic gold medalist woman since the man has a higher testosterone level in his body? No right. People say, “questioning the participation, based on scientific interpretation is not transphobic.” I agree that the moral stance for trans people doesn’t grant anyone exclusivity towards the final word. The debate starts when someone calls their transphobia an opinion. It is like mounting a castle in the air without any solid explanation or quoting something specific. The human condition isn’t at the mercy of biology, which, if read in reverse terms, should give no scope for transphobia in the audacity of calling it scientific.
All their life, trans people have battled with the issues like acceptance and equality. When finally they get a chance to compete internationally, their inclusion is considered unfair to cis women athletes. Trans women are WOMEN, and they do not threaten the fabric of women’s sports. Excluding and attacking them on the ground of immorality does. Many don’t bother about sports or fairness until a trans woman wants an equal share. And then, suddenly, they emerge as sports enthusiasts. If folks genuinely want to bring justice to the forefront, they’d fight against the main barrier to sports: socioeconomic disparity often intertwined with routine operations such as racism. All it takes is acceptance, not fear of the unknown, but welcoming the change with an open heart. Remember that rainbow is not a part of them, but we together make the rainbow.
-Siddhant A. Dungdung