Professor Explains Why Most M2F Transgender Athletes Are Being Banned From Female Events
By Professor John Banzhaf, George Washington University
Following the lead of World Rugby, World Swimming, and the Rugby Football League, World Athletics has just banned most biological males who believe themselves to be female [often called trans women] from competing in female sporting events unless they avoided going through puberty as males.
The organization’s stated reason is that males, even if they honestly believe themselves to be female, “retain an advantage in muscle mass, volume, and strength over cis women” even after 12 months of gender affirming hormone therapy.
This ruling is logical and simply follows a well established practice of having sporting events limited to only one class, but there is also another important reason for maintaining this long standing separation of male and female teams.
Most who oppose M2F persons competing in most girl’s and women’s events stress fairness and equality; noting that, in many sports, the competition between biological males and biological females is not just unfair but inherently very unequal. They pose the following analogies to prove the point.
Would a 20-year-old be permitted to compete in the Senior Olympics (> 50) simply because he feels like – and/or even believes himself to be – 55 years of age, and even if he claims that many senior citizens can outperform some 20-year olds?
Similarly, would a boxer or wrestler who weighs 240 pounds ever be allowed to even step into the ring or onto the mat in matches in lightweight divisions simply because he believes himself to much lighter, and even if he can show that a few heavyweights might lose to a much lighter but more skilled opponent?
The reason that the answer to both questions is obviously a resounding “NO” is the same as why a White person who believes herself to be Black – as a few women have – will not be admitted to programs set aside for African Americans.
Moreover, it isn’t unfair to prevent M2F athletes from competing on girls’ and women’s events, or at least is less unfair than what has long happened at many universities where males are likewise often not permitted to participate at all.
At George Washington University, like many other colleges and universities, there is a women’s varsity volleyball team but no corresponding men’s varsity volleyball team.
As a result, male students who may have played and even excelled in high school volleyball, and spent countless hours in conditioning and practice, cannot continue their athletic careers in volleyball, simply because of their gender.
Thus there is a strong incentive for males who want to play varsity volleyball – as well as to be eligible for substantial monetary volleyball scholarships – to be able to play on a female team, suggests the law professor.
But this has never been permitted, and few argue that it is unfair – much less illegal discrimination – to deny all male students this opportunity solely because of their gender.
Moreover, keeping M2F players off the varsity women’s team will adversely affect only a very few players at most, since only about 1% of all students are transgender, whereas the policy limiting varsity volleyball play to those without a penis disadvantages many young males who played volleyball in high school or with leagues before coming to college.
In short, requiring M2F biological males to play volleyball on the men’s team if they wish to play varsity volleyball will affect a very much small percentage of students than those who are male and cannot play varsity volleyball at all simply because of their gender.
Moreover, those M2F persons who are not permitted to play on a women’s team are not being denied their identity or treated as non-persons as some have tried to argue, since they can still do virtually as the other things which make them feel female (e.g. manner of dress and hair style, makeup, etc.) without playing on women’s team.
There’s also another very important problem, he suggests. In many situations, biological boys playing on girls’ teams are permitted if not required to shower and share locker rooms with female teammates; a situation which arguably violates the sexual and bodily privacy of the remainder of the team.
Thus a federal appeals court has ruled that a biological man’s privacy is invaded if he is required to expose his nude body to a search by a F2M transgender person, and presumable the same would be at least as true if a biological girl or woman were required to expose her body to a M2F person. As the appellate court explained:
‘[W]hile all forced observations or inspections of the naked body implicate a privacy concern, it is generally considered a greater invasion to have one’s naked body viewed by a member of the opposite sex. . . . ‘The desire to shield one’s unclothed figure from [the] view of strangers, and particularly strangers of the opposite sex is impelled by elementary self-respect and personal dignity.” Here the privacy of a biological man was violated when he had to expose himself to another man – but a trans man.
This is obviously true when females are required to be exposed to a male when showering or changing clothing in a locker room, even if the male claims to feel like a female. In this regard it must be noted that most M2F persons do not have “bottom surgery,” so females will have to shower and change clothing with a person with a clearly visible penis and testicles.
Thus requiring an entire team of biological girls to undress and be viewed by a biological M2F biological boy would be even more embarrassing and a much greater invasion of privacy because there are many victims, and because they are both much younger and also female, argues Banzhaf.
Fortunately, this problem can easily be eliminated by having the biological male shower and change in a separate area; which is exactly what occurs when a girl joins a boys’ football team (e.g., as a kicker). But this logical solution is too often not the procedure which has been adopted, since many schools require the girls to undress in a locker room with a biological boy.
For example, most members of a high school girl’s volleyball team in Vermont have been barred from their own locker room – and also placed under investigation – because they refuse to change in the presence of their biological male teammate.
The school’s solution was to tell all the girls who feel uncomfortable to change in the single stall in the restroom, but that reportedly requires some 30 minutes for all the biological girls to change one-by-one in a tiny toilet stall – compared with only a minute or two if all the girls could change at the same time; as they did in the past, and as girls’ volleyball team members at other high schools typically do.
In summary, there are now at least two strong arguments against permitting M2F transgender athletes to play and compete on girls’ and women’s teams:
First, in most sports, biological males have a very significant size and strength advantage over their female competitors which can rob girls and women of opportunities to compete fairly and win, obtain scholarships, and other advantages.
Indeed, even one M2F student permitted to compete as a female can dash the hopes of dozens if not hundreds of girls hoping to be crowned state champion, but a deterred by having to go up against someone with male muscularity and strength, often larger and stronger bones, a bigger heart and circulatory system, and other clear advantages.
Second, forcing biological girls and women to shower and change clothing with a M2F biological male violates their fundamental right to sexual and bodily privacy.
Girls as well as their parents quite reasonably do not want penises in a female locker room, not only because it’s a gross invasion of female bodily and sexual privacy, but also because of a concern about possible rape or other sexual assault in a largely empty locker room – which has, in fact, occurred.