A study into whether trans women genuinely have an unfair advantage over cis women in sport following hormone therapy and testosterone suppressant. Does their complete lack of success at elite level prove they can compete fairly.
Trans inclusion in Sport
Whenever we talk about trans women fairly competing in women’s sport, those trying to ban them invariably talk about unfair advantages, but are these claims themselves unfair and does the wider picture paint a totally different story?
The IOC hold a firm position of aiming for full trans inclusion, but with the recognition that there is not one single qualification criteria that applies appropriately for every sport, they have left it up to each sporting body to find the criteria that applies to their own sport. Their intention was to encourage criteria to enable inclusion to each sport, however the voices insisting on full bans rather than fair inclusion are the voices being heard, believed and acted upon. As a result, we have seen several sporting authorities using the IOC guidelines to remove rather than include. Even though not an Olympic event, there is no greater example at how much influence Gender Critical beliefs are now having when trans women were excluded from fishing and Chess events!
So what are those voice saying to have such impact.
“Even if they go off of T, there is still men competing against women. Men after puberty still have so much more muscle mass, lung capacity, bone density and fast twitch fibers,” – this was a statement by Canadian female powerlifter April Hutchinson about what she describes as “the unfair competition that women face when competing against transgender athletes.” And it’s an argument used time after time by those trying to justify a complete ban on trans women competing in women’s elite sport.
My clear aim in this article is to carefully and methodically explain why I strongly disagree with the implications of that statement, and most importantly why I believe there already exists very justifiable scientific evidence that trans women DO NOT retain any unfair advantages in women’s sport that is simply being ignored. Strong words I know, because most people, like Hutchinson, Davies and Navratilova do not believe that this evidence exists, but in this article I will fully set out my reasoning.
This could never be a short article, but I do believe it is an important one, so here goes!
So what is this article about? – It’s firstly to acknowledge the undeniable fact that trans women have yet to have any meaningful impact in elite women’s sport, and ask why, and secondly to question how any potential retained advantages could logically be upheld as being ‘unfair’ if it doesn’t actually result in having a significant advantage that destroys all opposition. Simply having an ‘advantage’ has never been an issue in any other aspect of elite sport, unless it’s truly deemed ‘unfair’.
I openly acknowledge that some ‘assigned male at birth’ who go through a male puberty may retain some advantages, but the result of these advantages are clearly not ‘unfair’ if they are not translating into winning performances. The claim they are dominating sport and destroying women’s records is so far from the truth it is laughable.
‘We must follow the science’ is the claim made by both sides, and rightly so, but every time we point to the total lack of success in elite women’s sport, this is quickly brushed aside as if totally irrelevant. Well it simply can’t be.
So what I aim to show is that the nonexistence of any meaningful success is vital to this whole debate and can in fact be regarded as the scientific evidence that proves that trans women retain no unfair advantage.
Clearly this needs to be fully explained, and it will be, so please bear with me!
Science in sport is important. Science deals in facts not feelings. So here are the starting point facts that we take from science in regard to sport:
Pre Puberty: The sporting difference between men & women is scientifically acknowledged as resulting from puberty with there being no discernible male or female sporting differences prior to that point in child development.
The following excerpt is taken from a 2017 published article on ResearchGate: Sex differences in athletic performance emerge coinciding with the onset of male puberty
“… In fact, until puberty MM (muscle mass) and sports performances are similar in males and females; then, after the hormonal boost and the sudden increase in testosterone in males during adolescence there is a clear differentiation between men and women in terms of MM, strength and sports performances”
So it is well established and not disputed that prior to puberty, neither boys nor girls have sporting advantages over the other. So pre puberty there is clearly no justification whatsoever for any calls to ban trans girls from sport in schools, and also for those on puberty blockers.
Post Puberty: This is where it all changes, and Gender Critical voices in sport will now point to scientific studies that show the difference between cisgender males and cisgender females. They will use data (that is invariably taken from studies not conducted on elite trans athletes) to compare testosterone levels, muscle mass, bone density etc etc. And there is no denying that these studies can show there are differences between men and women that results in differing sporting abilities.
So having identified these differences, how do we then prove these identified advantages do actually transfer into a benefit in sport, because we have no way of knowing the exact difference resulting from each single advantage – so for example, we can’t say with any proven certainty that a 0.5% difference in muscle mass would result in a 0.5 second advantage in the 100m; we can only do this in only one way – by comparing sporting records. And this is the first vital point to note.
Every credible and approved scientific study requires tests that are conducted under laboratory controlled conditions to establish trusted and verifiable results. Whilst not intended to be a part of any scientific study, elite sport actually replicates this in every major sporting final and in every sporting event. All the top competitors compete together under strict rules and conditions that are carefully monitored and verified to ensure fairness, with accurately recorded results down to a 100th of a second and every millimeter of distance or height.
So this means that, even though not intended or set out to be a scientific study, it is the sporting record itself that has given us the scientific evidence to accurately compare male and female sporting abilities, and this is always the evidence used. When we see those Gender Critical compare cis men to cis women athletes we never hear muscle mass or bone density – we only hear of the clear percentage advantages proven by their scientifically recorded times, distances or heights.
Even though I’m sure this is abundantly clear, here is just one example extract taken from the Journal of Sports Science & Medicine (Women and Men in Sport Performance) that shows precisely how it is the recorded results of elite events are used to calculate the percentage difference in men and women performance abilities across various sporting events:
Sex is a major factor influencing best performances and world records. Here the evolution of the difference between men and women’s best performances is characterized through the analysis of 82 quantifiable events since the beginning of the Olympic era. For each event in swimming, athletics, track cycling, weightlifting and speed skating the gender gap is fitted to compare male and female records. It is also studied through the best performance of the top 10 performers in each gender for swimming and athletics. A stabilization of the gender gap in world records is observed after 1983, at a mean difference of 10.0% ± 2.94 between men and women for all events. The gender gap ranges from 5.5% (800-m freestyle, swimming) to 18.8% (long jump). The mean gap is 10.7% for running performances, 17.5% for jumps, 8.9% for swimming races, 7.0% for speed skating and 8.7% in cycling. The top ten performers’ analysis reveals a similar gender gap trend with a stabilization in 1982 at 11.7%, despite the large growth in participation of women from eastern and western countries, that coincided with later- published evidence of state-institutionalized or individual doping. These results suggest that women will not run, jump, swim or ride as fast as men.
So my first point I’ve established is that it’s clear we recognise and acknowledge that recorded times/distances at elite sporting events provide the data that is taken as the scientific evidence universally accepted to prove cis men have a clearly sporting advantage over cis women. It is why the classes are split. This is not exactly world shattering news.
But what is earth shattering for trans athletes is that this is currently where the evidence and proof based on results ends. Why? Because that is highly unscientific.
Let’s not kid ourselves, ‘advantages’ in sport exist at every single level. It may often be talked about, but the truth is there is no such thing in elite sport as having ‘a level playing field’. You can gain a massive advantage (or disadvantage) simply from the place in the world you are born, the sporting inspiration and facilities available to you, the level of equipment and access to the best facilities, the quality and availability of professional coaches to train you, and of course the level of natural God-given talent or advantage you are born with.
If you want to be an elite basketball player, being only 5’ tall (1.52m) is a massive disadvantage that may of course preclude you, but it will be the ideal height if you have aspirations and talent to become a top jockey. Of course hard work and dedication is a clear requirement to reach the very top, but hard work alone cannot make a champion.
And there have been many examples of sporting legends who achieved their goals with the benefit of incredible natural advantages due to the way they were born; the most obvious being Michael Phelps (you can read here on how his natural differences are celebrated whilst those of Caster Semenya were targeted) and read here to see how team GB has massively benefited from what’s known as ‘financial doping’ which is the act of greatly outspending all your rivals to ‘buy’ winning advantages – in neither case were any rules broken and the plethora of gold medals that resulted in both examples are celebrated and never frowned upon.
So clear advantages in sport have always existed. The reality is that every aspiring athlete and coach strives to identify those advantages to maximise them. So being able to prove an advantage is never itself a red flag that merits investigation nor action resulting in exclusion or bans. What has always rightly been unacceptable, is deliberate cheating with the illegal use of performance enhancing drugs, or anything sport deems as an ‘unfair’ advantage, as for example witnessed by the banning of new sporting equipment deemed giving too much of an unfair advantage – so this is what needs to be established. In sporting terms, what does ‘unfair’ advantage truly look like.
So at this point I would like to help demonstrate what a clear sporting advantage looks like to use as a barometer that I can refer back to in this article. I believe this is arguably no better illustrated than by a heat of the 2021 Tokyo Olympics, Mixed 4 x 400m relay as pictured below (an event I have previously written about).
In this Mixed Relay event featuring both male and female runners, the standard race order is to start with a male athlete, followed by the two women and then the final leg run by the second man. With all teams sticking to this running order there is no visible comparison between the sexes, but in this one Olympic heat the Nigerian Team chose to make a switch, and their third leg was run by a male runner against 6 women, which in turn resulted in their second female running the final leg against 6 men.
What occurred in that race was very clear for all to see, and will in truth be of no surprise to anyone screaming about the vast gap in male & female sporting abilities – with his clear male advantages, the Nigerian runner Nathaniel took hold of the baton on the third leg toward the back of the field, but immediately sped past all the female runners – as the image at the start of this section shows, coming into the home straight Nathaniel had opened up a 30 to 40m lead over all his female competitors – they simply couldn’t keep up with him – he had destroyed them, and let’s remember, they are all elite Olympic runners.
But when he handed over the baton to his female teammate, Okon-George, the tables were now turned as she faced six male runners, and by the time she crossed the finish line, her 30-40m lead had totally disappeared as she had been caught by the entire field – all six male athletes were able to eat up that massive advantage handed to her by her male runner, and Nigeria had finished the race in last place.
Rarely has male advantages in elite sport been so visually demonstrated in the context of an Olympic event with the best male and female athletes competing together, so this race truly demonstrated exactly how much of an advantage elite cis men have over elite cis women.
And this is exactly what you would expect and why the record books back this up. That is why Gender Critical advocates point to established sporting records in order to demonstrate a substantial and clearly unfair proven difference between the sporting abilities of cisgender men over cisgender women.
I don’t deny this. This has been scientifically established. But this is where my agreement ends.
This is because, we totally agree on the correctness of comparing cisgender male and female sporting results, but why do we not consider it illogical or unscientific to abandon this method when then looking to compare trans women’s sporting ability to cis women?
To compare trans women performance to cis women, it is meaningless and irrelevant when you simply use the results of cis men who have not undergone hormone therapy treatment or taken testosterone suppressants, which are drugs clearly designed to help the body transition to be more ‘female’. So to understand the true impact of this treatment, genuine scientific proof can only come from the comparison with actual trans women athletes.
It may be true that we are still in the early stages of having universally accepted peer review scientific studies of trans athletes and the full impact of their treatment, but to look for scientific proof of the impact of this treatment there are two papers I can now refer to:
In 2021, The Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport (CCES – an independent, national, not-for-profit, multi-sport organization with a vision of fair, safe, accessible, and inclusive sport for everyone) published a scientific review entitled: Transgender Women Athletes and Elite Sport: A Scientific Review. These are the key findings taken from their report:
Key Biomedical Findings
- Biological data are severely limited, and often methodologically flawed.
- There is limited evidence regarding the impact of testosterone suppression (through, for example, gender-affirming hormone therapy or surgical gonad removal) on transgender women athletes’ performance.
- Available evidence indicates trans women who have undergone testosterone suppression have no clear biological advantages over cis women in elite sport.
This report concentrated on the impact of post puberty testosterone on trans women, and therefore the impact on athletic performance of trans women taking testosterone suppressants, and their finding is clear. The evidence is that the reduction of testosterone can enable fair competition.
But following the publication of this study, it was noticeable that the Gender Critical argument started to move away from Testosterone (especially as it has also been established that conditions such as PCOS result in cis women having Testosterone levels way into the expected male range), and shifted to studies showing the difference in other areas such as muscle mass and bone density.
So the following scientific paper does look at the impact of the hormone therapy treatment that trans women undergo.
The Journal of Clinical Endocrinologyendocrinology https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Endocrinology Endocrinology (from endocrine + -ology) is a branch of biology and medicine dealing with the endocrine system, its diseases, and its specific secretions known as hormones. It is also concerned with the integration of developmental events proliferation, growth, and differentiation, and the psychological or behavioral activities of metabolism, growth and development, tissue function, sleep, digestion, respiration, excretion, mood, stress, lactation, movement, reproduction, and sensory perception caused by hormones. Specializations include behavioral endocrinology and comparative endocrinology. & Metabolism (JCEMM – state they are ‘the world’s leading peer-reviewed journal for the dissemination of original research as it relates to the clinical practice of endocrinology, diabetes, and metabolism’) published the following article on 13 July 2023: The Impact of Gender-Affirming Hormone Therapy on Physical Performance
This report reveals there is scant evidence describing the impact of gender-affirming hormone therapy (GAHT) on physical performance in non-athletes or trans athletes. The focus has been on the inclusion or exclusion of trans women and non-binary individuals recorded male at birth within the female category due to potential physical performance advantages from prior male puberty.
While it is reasonably clear that testosterone is the main driver of male performance advantage over females in the general population, what is less clear is the impact of GAHT on muscle strength and physical performance. It is also unknown whether trans women who have received GAHT have a definitive performance advantage once adjusted for height. As such, the aim of this narrative review is to examine the impact of GAHT on physical performance and influencing factors, including muscle mass, muscle strength, bone density, hemoglobin, and cardiorespiratory fitness.
This report is therefore important, because those Gender Critical (like April Hutchinson) who cannot deny that testosterone levels can be reduced, then argue that other factors are key, such as ‘muscle mass, muscle strength, bone density, hemoglobin, and cardiorespiratory fitness.’ This study therefore addresses these claims, and this was its conclusion:
Summary and Conclusions
Studies in nonathletic trans women after GAHT (gender-affirming hormone therapy ) demonstrates no change in height, but have shown decreases in hemoglobin, bone density compromise, and decrease in muscle mass and strength, which continue to decline beyond 2 years. While absolute muscle mass is higher, their relative muscle and fat mass percentages and muscle strength corrected for lean mass are no different to cisgender women.
Limited evidence suggests that physical performance of nonathletic trans people who have undergone GAHT for at least 2 years approaches that of cisgender controls. Further controlled longitudinal research is needed in trans athletes and non-athletes.
One further study that I for one eagerly await, is the Loughborough University study conducted on cyclist Emily Bridges, spanning many years and right the way through her entire transition period. It will offer a truly unique and comprehensive scientific study on a truly ‘elite level’ athlete (who I will return to later in this article) and will show the precise impact of GAHT on an elite trans women athlete. This should shortly be published and even though one just one athlete, because of its unique nature and the thorough nature of the study, its results will be highly significant.
Whatever studies show or point to, the factual evidence of what is actually happening is far more relevant than any theory as to what might happen if any retained advantages are genuinely unfair. So to be recognised as being unfair, this would mean trans women were retaining advantages that meant they were still able to compete at a comparable level to men, and please remember what that looks like with visual barometer that I earlier identified, as the impact would be as clear to see as with the Olympic Nigerian 4 x 400m Relay team.
But to start this section, I would firstly like to refer back to my own personal journey of trans discovery to illustrate my position and thought process when sport was one of the key trans issues identified to me, as I never take a pro-trans position if the facts do not support it.
As the father of a trans daughter I needed to learn so much when she came out to me 8 years ago, because like most parents today I had no prior knowledge or understanding of being trans. I quickly saw all the issues, that even then were being discussed vehemently on social media, but one by one I saw through all the lies and misinformation that was being spread.
In truth, I discovered nothing that caused me any genuine concern that couldn’t be explained with truth and honesty. But I never forget the specific moment when someone said to me “But what about sport? Surely that presents a problem”. And if you can excuse the pun, I was stopped in my tracks. I couldn’t disagree, because at first sight, this did appear to be a problem to me.
My immediate rational reaction was “Of course men have a sporting advantage, as male puberty must give trans women a massive unfair advantage. We simply can’t deny this and it would be wrong to insist otherwise”. So I realised I needed to look further to discover the full extent of this issue and the best way to approach it.
Given the belief of having such an advantage, I also knew it would be very easy to find clear evidence of trans women impacting heavily in women’s sport. With such a clear advantage it surely couldn’t be hard to find. So I searched the internet for evidence, but no, there was literally nothing.
The reality was I could not find one solitary trans women who had had ANY success in elite women’s sport. And that was genuinely surprising, and confusing, and certainly far from what I was expecting.
I specifically recall searching for ‘successful trans women in sport’ and found a Wikipedia section entitled ‘Notable Trans Athletes’, and at a time when the likes of Piers Morgan was publicly claiming trans women were ‘breaking world records and destroying women’s sport’ I found a ‘Notable Trans Women in Sport’ list of no more than 30 names. But to my further surprise, not one had achieved anything at elite level and I barely recognised anyone listed.
I have a record of checking this list again in 2019, when I tweeted that the total number of trans women listed was still at only 30, and yet again in 2020 when it was still only 33.
This list included every trans women who had any impact in the entire history of sport, and the numbers were so low that at the time, they included the likes of Kellie Maloney who was a Boxing manager and promoter, but was never an actual competitor! Contrary to the Piers Morgan claims, there had not been a single trans women elite world record holder or World or Olympic Gold medal winner.
And a quick update check on Wikipedia and the number listed is now showing as having dropped to just 26, as pictured above (as those that were too obscure to include have now been removed). And as far as elite level is concerned, it does now include Laurel Hubbard, who is the solitary trans women to ever qualify plus actually compete in an Olympics – and she came last. Two names appear in red meaning they do not even have their own Wikipedia page. Remember that requirement of showing a clear unfair advantage? – well clearly there is no evidence that any unfair advantage has ever existed with trans women.
So it was abundantly clear to me, even 8 years ago, that the impact of trans women at the highest elite level was simply non-existent, and even below elite level it was still incredibly minimal. In many online discussions that I have on this subject, at the point of proving that trans women are having zero impact or success in elite sport I will invariably be told that it’s not just about elite level as women’s places are being ‘stolen’ at events like ‘Park Runs’ – which are non-professional, recreational events, and purely for fun. There is absolutely no justifiable reason to remove trans women at that level. It is ONLY in elite sport where careers are impacted and that is why it is ONLY elite sport that is truly relevant to this discussion.
So if trans women were perceived as having such an unfair advantage, the next obvious question to me was ‘why?’ are they not winning as surely they should be, and as they are not, there must be a reason why not. And for this we do need to look toward the science.
Unlike those Gender Critical constantly voicing their opinions, I have always made it clear that I am not qualified or ever claim to be an expert on the science, so I always let others who have way more genuine understanding and knowledge discuss this aspect. In this regard, I will always greatly credit and thank Kirsti Miller (twitter: @KirstiMiller30) as she truly has unbelievable firsthand knowledge and the genuine real life experience to match.
The message that came from Kirsti was loud and clear; due to her personal experience and her subsequent scientific studies, she has established that the drop in sorting ability is due to the treatment that she and all other trans women undertake as part of their prescribed medical transitioning as a trans women – so there is no premeditated effort to remove male puberty advantages to be able to compete in women’s sport, the impact was simply a bi-product of their life affirming treatment that has nothing to do with sport, but does have a dramatic impact on sporting ability. It greatly reduces it.
And remember what I stated about sport not being a ‘level playing field’, well this is what Kirsti has to say on the subject –
As a World Junior Champion athlete, so at the highest level, Kirsti has personally experienced this dramatic impact and drop in abilities that had led to her own journey to delve into the science and fully understand exactly what the medication entering her body was doing. (you can read an article we published on Kirsti here,)
So if you want to know more on the science, Kirsti is your girl, but my ongoing focus in this article will be on the clear fact that, following their treatment, trans women are experiencing a genuine lack of sporting success, but every time I reiterated this to those Gender Critical and so their calls for full bans were totally unjustified, this was simply dismissed as though it was somehow irrelevant and proved nothing.
But it does matter, their lack of success is totally relevant.
Yes there are social reasons that will undoubtedly play a role in prohibiting or holding back some trans women who have that natural God-given sporting ability to compete at the highest levels, but given that most will have identified this ability well before they choose to transition, their ability would already have been recognised and it makes no sense that every single one failed to follow that path just because they were transgender. Many yes, transitioning is never an easy mental health path or process, but please, not all.
And if we are truly to continue down a line of excluding competitors for having any advantage then be careful what you wish for as it simply can’t and won’t start and end with those trans or intersex. If you really want to go down that path of excluding, for example, all women with ‘male range’ testosterone levels, then cis women with PCOS will be removed from women’s sport, and understand that 10% of women suffer from this condition. In a recent study of the Swedish Olympic team, it has revealed that 37% of the Women’s team have PCOS, which is over 3.5 times the Women’s average of 10%. Would we really want to ban 4 out of every 10 women on the Swedish team, and this just covers PCOS – how many would remain in that team if we then started removing those with other advantages?
To follow this path we start going down a real rabbit hole that I for one do not support.
Natural advantages have always occurred, and are what makes sport what it is. Sport is an entertainment business, and do we really want to see everyone cross the line together because all advantages had been removed to artificially create ‘a level playing field’, or do we want to watch the likes of Usain Bolt power his way to Gold after Gold. Clearly it’s the later. The desire to see Bolt leave allcomers trailing in his wake understandably filled stadiums around the world – he was genuine Box Office. This was sporting spectacle at its very best, and as a sports fan, I believe it is vital we preserve this. A ‘Level Playing Field’ evet is not in itself a bad idea and would cause interest, but only as a side event to see if we could find a way to even out all advantages.
So if we continue down this route simply to isolate and exclude trans women (who I repeat are having no real impact) then it can only be fair to introduce exclusions based on all other advantages, and unlike with the overhyped claim about the inclusion of trans women, this truly would destroy sport.
It is important to step back and see that this is all being led and influenced by bigots who simply do not want trans women in ANY aspect of their lives, so my plea is to please not let their views and beliefs ruin sport for all.
Intentional cheating must always be the true focus to rip out and remove, plus the regulation to stop ay genuinely unfair advantages, but not the removal of athletes simply for having a natural advantage that doesn’t contravene any rules.
As stated, all the current scientific comparison of elite times and distances are only between cisgender men to cisgender women. But in true scientific terms, a comparison is meaningless unless there is a true comparison of the actual subject matter, i.e. to establish the factual sporting difference between trans women and cis women we can only compare their records.
It is only the records from trans women that must be used and not cis men, because there is a clear difference; cisgender men DO NOT undergo GAHT for gender dysphoria. It is totally unscientific to believe this considerable medical intervention insignificant and irrelevant.
If we were to adopt an ‘anything goes’ policy whereby trans sporting inclusion was based purely on a Self-Declaration, then I would say that data comparison with cis men would be fully justifiable. It would legitimise the argument “if Usain Bolt declared himself female he would have destroyed all women’ – And yes, he clearly would. But that’s because he would not have undergone the required GAHT treatment for the required number of years to qualify.
Trans women (still permitted in elite sports that haven’t already introduced bans) can only compete on this basis, so trans women athletes will have undergone hormones therapy, plus taken T suppressants and proven their testosterone levels reduced to within the required ‘female’ accepted level, so this cannot be ignored.
So the only comparison of any genuine scientific relevance can never be to cis men, and can only be the direct comparison of cis women to trans women athletes following their treatment.
This in turn means the only scientific way to prove a sporting comparison to trans women athletes is exactly the same way, via trans women performance results. It would clearly be intrinsically unscientific to do anything else.
We know that trans women have been permitted to compete at elite level in most sports over the last 20 years (the IOC first permitted tans women inclusion in 2004), so no matter what the numbers, there will have been trans women competitors in every sport at some level around the world.
Trans people haven’t suddenly emerged from nowhere, they have always existed, and even though social barriers exist which will undoubtedly have played a part, given the numbers in the last 10 years that are now openly identifying as trans, those with any natural born sporting ability within this period living in the more accepting parts of the world will have been applying that ability within their sport.
If we acknowledge that an average sporting lifespan at elite level in sport usually spans from around aged 16 to 36, the current generations of sports men and women will have competed roughly 50% of their total sporting life during the last 10 years. As this includes all those transgender, please don’t try to claim the numbers couldn’t exist. There is nothing stopping EVERYONE openly trans in the last 10 years, who live in any ‘accepting’ country, from applying any natural God-given sporting abilities to the full.
And because of all the media fuss, whenever any trans women has any impact at any level of women’s sport, we will hear about it because they are actively seeking it. If it’s out there, they will find it, and it becomes major media headlines.
As a result we have all seen the handful of examples, even though it’s all pretty much below the elite level. I suspect that most reading this article will have heard of the College swimmer Lia Thomas, but how many other US College athletes are known in the UK? And no matter how loud those Gender Critical shout to make the numbers appear significant, the numbers remain totally insignificant.
So please just take a step back to think. If the numbers are, as we are so often told, that great and the impact that genuine, how come we never hear of them and it’s always just the same 2 or 3 names?
Lia Thomas was heralded as THE shining example of ‘women’s sport being destroyed’, but regardless of the fact that her times were far from destroying cis women and the evidence shows Lia Thomas did not have an unfair advantage, where are all the others? Name any other trans women swimmers that you are aware of, because I can’t name one. And that’s for the simple reason there are no others having any impact.
Believe me, I tried to find one. I tried a basic Google Search of: ‘trans women swimmers’ and the first name to top the list was of course Lia, but the second was Riley Gaines, who is not trans but a cisgender women swimmer who hit the headlines simply because she wasn’t happy competing against Lea, and the third was Sharron Davies, an x-Olympian cisgender women swimmer who now dedicates her whole life to trying to remove trans women from sport. So apart from Lia, no other trans swimmers.
This is why I earlier highlighted the visual barometer of the Nigerian Olympic 4x400m Mixed Relay race which clearly exposed the visual impact of an elite male runner destroying elite female runners. If there was any elite level trans women that transitioned and retained that kind of advantage over cis women, this is precisely what we would be witnessing event after event after event. But as I need to keep stressing, we are not seeing this anywhere.
I am however told ‘Oh but look at how Lia Thomas totally destroys cis women swimmers – she won a race by 38 seconds!” – yes, one race – and it’s always the same single race that is quoted. And yes, in that race we did see the same visual impact of the Nigerian mixed 4×400 – BUT – this is precisely why I only use the examples of elite races at the highest level, as this one race with Lia was her competing against far lower quality opposition. So this race did not compare her to the top cis women swimmers, simple swimmers who were not in her class. And when her times are compared to the top cis women competitors, her times are not extraordinary in any way and we see nothing like the 4x400m Relay example. Lia Thomas does not ‘destroy’ cis women nor hold a single women’s record.
And I know what then comes next, as I’ve also heard this repeated every year for the 8 years – that ‘there hasn’t been sufficient time, but it will happen’. Well I’m sorry, that’s also simply not true.
In response, I always refer to the clear example that tennis player Emma Raducanu provided, that if you are new to a sport but have a sufficient advantage over your competitors at the very highest level, it can take little over 18 months to climb from the very bottom to reach the very top and become a Champion. That’s how long it took Emma to become the US Open Champion.
And in the last few weeks we have seen another clear example of this. As reported by the BBC “Tigst Assefa needed just 18 months to go from marathon debutant to smashing the world record by more than two minutes. The Ethiopian’s astonishing Berlin race – winning in two hours, 11 minutes and 53 seconds – intensified attention on “super shoes” after she ran in a pair using “unique technology“.
With a clear advantage over competitors at the very top of the sport, she took just 18 months to go from debutant to elite winner. And the use of these shoes is clearly being questioned as an ‘unfair’ advantage. So I repeat, it takes less than 2 years for an athlete with clear advantages, especially if they are ‘unfair’ to reach the very top.
There is no time barrier to success. If you have that level of sporting ability or advantage over the competition you will fly through the lower rankings because you will be destroying allcomers, and if any trans women who was had even an average elite male standard prior to transition and retained that advantage, we would be witnessing events like that Mixed Relay example day after day.
So do I really need to say it again? …. We are not experiencing anything remotely like this.
And please remember, it only needs one single trans women from anywhere in the world in every sport to achieve this for trans women to be truly dominating and yes, to have destroyed women’s sport – but they haven’t. In the last 5 years we have seen just a handful of trans women emerge in sport who were ALL at an elite standard prior to transition, but not one has managed to be competitive enough at elite level to get anywhere near breaking world records or winning elite titles. There is simply no credible evidence to suggest ‘it will happen’ because there has already been more than enough time over the last 10 years for it to happen.
Before moving back to the science it was important that I had fully established the total lack of trans sporting success, and having done this, I will now return to the science that is claimed as so important by those Gender Critical.
When it is stated to those Gender Critical that the treatment trans women undergo removes male puberty advantages, they do what April Hutchinson did at the very start of this article, they identify individual male puberty advantages that are retained after transition treatment, and this I don’t necessarily dispute. If the science proves that some advantages are retained, then that should not be disputed.
But the question that must then be answered, is what level of impact any retained advantage actually gives trans women, and is it therefore correct to portray as an ‘unfair’ advantage – and this is where the Gender Critical argument comes crashing off the sporting rails.
As already established, we can scientifically prove a difference in muscle mass, bone density, etc, however what science cannot provide is any factual evidence as to what any single advantage translates into in any given sporting event. For example, science cannot prove what precise % difference in sporting ability is solely down to muscle mass differences. It can’t tell us the precise % difference due to bone density differences, or in testosterone levels, nor any other measurable difference.
So science can measure there IS a difference in specific items as measured, but the only scientifically proof of any actual impact of each difference will be of the overall combined impact of ALL factors that are both advantages and disadvantages, i.e. the factual recorded times and distances that athlete is capable of achieving.
It is therefore unscientific to simply point to any individual retention of male puberty development and claim it an unfair advantage. Sporting advantages are made up from a combination of many varying aspects, that includes all the other advantages previously listed in this article. Can we measure the actual sporting advantage of employing a new professional coach?
So it’s not just about muscle mass or bone density as those alone do not necessarily give an overall sporting advantage when combined with all other factors that impact on sporting performance levels. This is why I do need to keep returning to the point that the only factor that matters post transition is the recorded time or distance achieved by trans women as proven in the sporting arena.
Therefore, in exactly the same way that best recorded times and distances are the only accepted scientific way to prove the difference between cis men and cis women, trans women athletes times & distances need to be compared to those of cis women to scientifically prove any advantage, or even disadvantage.
And this is precisely why the dismissal of a lack of trans elite winners or records can no longer be accepted. It is the lack of any significant success in itself that IS the evidence that their times and distances are not reaching anything like elite level.
Please do not argue that because hardly any trans athlete recorded times currently exist on record, that this somehow justifies dismissing this, because any inability to find evidence is the proof in itself that times are simply not reaching anywhere near elite women’s level. No matter how many trans athletes there are in the world, there will always be a trans women who has recorded the fastest trans time or longest distance in every single sport, and the fact is that whatever this recorded time or distance may be, it clearly hasn’t come anywhere near to those being achieved by cis women in every single sport.
And Trans Women will have elite sporting ability, as being trans is not a barrier. Please just consider the sporting ability Caitlyn Jenner was clearly born with, excelling in the ten different sporting disciplines required to win an Olympic Decathlon Gold Medal. It is not insignificant that she achieved this pre transition, as it is now abundantly clear she would have had a much lower chance of achieving the same result in the women’s Heptathlon had she competed following hormone therapy and testosterone suppressant – clearly not impossible, as an outstanding athlete of that level may one day be able to compete fairly at the very top of elite women’s after transitioning. If an athlete does compete at the very top of men’s sport pre transition then it is only fair they should compete at a comparable level in women’s once they transition, but to date no one so far has even come close to achieving this. Cyclist Emily Bridges may well have been the first, but she was cruelly robbed of that opportunity by the imposition of a totally unfair and unjustified ban.
And please do not forget, any trans men competing at the top of women’s sport will no longer compete against women, so this even’s out the argument that cis women will face a higher level of competition, as trans men reduce that competition level.
Caitlyn Jenner recently claimed that with no testosterone in her body for 10 years she can still hit a golf ball 280-290 yards, as if this somehow proves her treatment hasn’t reduced her sporting ability. Well the current LPGA Tour No1 women player Xiaowen Yindriving has an average distance of 280 yards, and all the top ten Ladies average distances range from 270 to 280 yards. Phillis Meti was a Women’s World Long Drive Champion and her World Record for the women’s longest drive is in fact 413 yards. So it is not unrealistic in any way for an elite cisgender woman to hit a golf ball that distance and in comparison, the current men’s PGA driving averages gives the range of the top 10 men from 303 – 311 yards.
Age has been proven as no barrier to playing elite level golf. Jerry Barber is the oldest to ever compete in a PGA Tour tournament when he played the 1994 Buick Invitational at the age of 77, and Jack Nicklaus played his last professional tournament aged 65.
Jenner, aged 73, is therefore still capable of driving a golf ball in the elite women’s range, but not the men’s. As a former Olympic Decathlon Gold Medal Winner, she has a natural elite level sporting ability in multiple sports and proven capable of competing at the very top of elite level. So all she has proven is that as a trans women she’s competitive with top women golfers, but not top men, which is exactly what I would have expected to see.
It is yet another constant GC claim, like from Martina Navratilova, that average male athletes will transition simply to win medals. The reality is the opposite. A perfect example of a top elite level athlete is Emily Bridges, who pre transition was at the very forefront of junior men’s cycling. She set a national junior men’s record over 25 miles in 2018, and then aged 19 she won the GB Junior Men’s National and just weeks later came 4th in the World Juniors, missing out on a bronze medal by 10th’s of a second – but it was noted that she achieved both these whilst in pain. So following the events she had a scan, which revealed she had been competing in both events with a broken ankle! She really is an incredible talent. But having made the decision that she had to transition, just three months into her hormone therapy treatment she was now being lapped by male cyclists who she had previously beaten with ease. The impacts of hormone therapy and testosterone suppressant are considerable and the years of scientifically documented study on her performance levels will shortly be released for all to see.
But what so many then fail to even question is why would Emily do this if she were not 100% genuine about her gender identity? Why would she have put herself through this when she was already on a clear path to achieving sporting fame, fortune and recognition in men’s cycling? The next Sir Chris Hoy, Sir Bradley Wiggins, Mark Cavendish, Jason Kenny, Chris Froome. Can anyone truly believe that such a talent would choose a life attracting such hatred and danger (including death threats) when she could have secured a lifetime of public adulation and celebrity status? There is simply nothing to justify Emily’s life choice unless it were 100% truthful. Her dreams of sporting glory may be curtailed, but the reality is that she never had any genuine choice, and clearly she didn’t do it to ‘win medals’. It has cost her medals.
Being true to herself is still the most important decision she has made, and all credit to her. This has been recognised by Vogue Magazine, naming Emily as one of their Vogue 25, stating: “Since its inception in 2018, the annual Vogue 25 list has celebrated the influential women pushing British society forwards – and this year’s list is not only dazzlingly impressive, but comprised of trailblazers finding success wholly on their own terms.” .
Trans Women do not transition for medals, they do so simply to be true to themselves. They do so to survive.
And please contemplate this – what cis man would genuinely commit to years of hormone therapy and testosterone suppressant that would see them become infertile, see their body change shape including growing breasts, and intentionally give themselves Gender Dysphoria by aligning their body with the wrong sex! They would have to live their full life as a women, not just whilst in competitions, but 24/7, and would have to do all this for a full two years before they were even eligible to compete. And most importantly, please don’t forget as demonstrated, they will experience a big drop in their sporting ability during these 2 years. So after all that, their realistic likelihood of winning a medal at any elite games? – practically zero. It’s simply too outrageous to believe any cis man would do this.
Every week, those ‘Gender Critical’ desperately search for any story they can find to try to show how ‘unfair’ and ‘selfish’ trans women are, and this week another ‘non-story’ surfaced with the Guardian headline : ‘Transgender world champion fencer branded ‘entitled cheat’.
This is the story about a trans women fencer Liz Kocab, who defeated Finland’s Marja-Liisa Someroja, in the Women’s Epee of the 2023 over-70’s Veteran Fencing World Championships in Florida, with the claims of being an ‘entitled cheat’ coming from former university swimmer, Riley Gaines. But what are the facts around this claim of ‘cheating’.
It is firstly important to clarify that Liz competed within the USA Fencing transgender and nonbinary athlete policy which allows competitors to participate “consistent with their gender identity” but only if they meet the qualifying criteria. So she had competed having proven her hormone therapy treatment and testosterone level below the permitted level.
But what about Fencing as a sport – does this have clear male advantages that require male and female separation for fair competition? A very simple Google search told me it doesn’t.
In the Paris 2024 Olympics there will be a total of 212 fencers competing, with an equal number of men and women, who will compete across twelve medal events, and for the second straight time, the Olympics will see both men and women fence against each other in the individual and team events held in all three weapons (foil, épée, and sabre). There is no cis male advantage that merits separate competition to ensure fairness.
So clearly there would be no newsworthy story whenever a cis man defeats a cis women in fencing, let alone when a trans women wins. The simple fact that this non-story about an over-70’s event where Sex gives no unfair advantage is the only one that Gaines can find to highlight, in itself tells us that trans women are having no genuine impact in women’s sport.
And so finally, here is the all-important conclusion to all of this.
If the fastest recorded trans women time can be identified in each sport, it can then be scientifically compared to the fastest recorded cis women’s time. But quite clearly, whatever that time may be, we already know that it will be substantially lower in every sport, as if it were higher, it would be a trans women that would currently hold the world record time. But none do.
And if no trans women record can be found in any given sport, then that in itself is the clear evidence that there is no logical or scientific reasoning to speculate it could possibly be faster or further than the current world record!
If I refer back to Emma Raducanu and Tigst Assefa, if you have the ability and advantages over all your competitors, it really doesn’t take long to rise from the very foot to the very top. If trans women genuinely retain an overall unfair sporting advantage it would have happened by now and most likely in every sporting event as it would only take one trans athlete is each event.
If there were trans women competitors with a genuine unfair advantage at the lower levels working their way through the ranks we would be seeing examples like the 4×400 mixed relay – but we are not seeing anything,
So please just think logically – please think scientifically. We know that ‘women will not run, jump, swim or ride as fast as men’ because we have proof of records that show men with faster times and longer distances in every elite sporting event, but when comparing cis women to trans women, there are no trans women with times that are faster or distances that are longer than cis women. The accepted science method therefore proves that cis men have an advantage over cis women but also proves that trans women do not have any unfair advantage over cis women.
If they have no overall advantage enabling them to be winners, then any individual elements of retained advantage simply cannot be deemed as ‘unfair’ advantage. As stated, not all advantages are unfair and ONLY unfair advantages are a genuine issue in sport.
I fully support the need for further research and scientific studies on the abilities of trans women athletes and this should continue. But there is clearly no justifiable reason for maintaining or implementing any kind of ban on trans women in the meantime.
And please do not claim or believe that ‘Open’ Categories offer any kind of genuine or fair solution. If trans women athletes have been unable to reach any kind of competitive level with cis women athletes, how would they have any chance in a Category that included cis men! The only reason ‘Open’ Categories are being proposed is because there is a clear recognition that a blanket ban is against huma rights, but inclusion still has to be realistic and fair, and not just an unrealistic token gesture in an attempt to claim inclusion.
In one way, Open events would at least show how trans women performance levels were way below that of the elite cis women, but not surprisingly, last week the World Aquatics was forced to cancel its first ‘open races’ after no one registered for their Open 50-metre or 100-metre races at a World Cup meeting. A World Aquatics statement said “Following the close of registration for the open category competitions, World Aquatics can confirm that no entries have been received for the Open Category events”
So if you listen to all the science it is very clear. Trans women do not retain any overall unfair advantage and it’s about time that elite sport finally acknowledge this and halt this unjustified, unscientific ban on trans women exclusion as it needs shouting from the rooftops again and again – trans women DO NOT have an unfair advantage – it is far more likely they have an unfair disadvantage!
It is time that it be recognised that the calls for bans are totally unscientific and come purely from a bigoted place of not accepting trans women as women as it has nothing to do with sport or fairness.
If we all agree this must be ruled by the science, then this madness must surely end; the science IS clear and it is more than evident that trans women do not retain any unfair advantages to merit exclusion.
I invite all those who disagree to say why – not just dismiss, not just point to any evidence in differences in muscle mass or bone structure, or any argument I have already addressed in this article, but to explain exactly why trans women are simply not competitive if they genuinely retain such a massive unfair advantage.
And finally a challenge – the only reason trans women record times are not used is because they are not readily available, so if you are a sport statistician with access to sports data I have a challenge for you. Produce as comprehensive a list as possible of all the fastest, longest, highest times and distances ever recorded by trans women in women’s sport in every sporting event. It may be that this is found in College records, or at any level where times and distances are officially recorded.
The list of recorded performance level for cis man and cis women is already there, so now it’s time to produce the true evidence for trans women. Then the true data will either prove or disprove what I have set out in this article – but let’s all be honest for once; I’m sure we all know exactly what it will show. The evidence exists and please, it really can’t continue to be ignored.
So what now. Even though it is trans lives that are impacted negatively by these unjustified blanket ban sport policies, trans voices are never heard or included within the decision process and this needs to change. And my hope is that this article will reach those from sporting bodies that have already implemented such a policy. And if you are reading this, I ask that you please consider the following; unless you are able to disprove the points I set out in this article, you now know there is simply no justification for the retention of any such bans or exclusion.