During the 1977 U.S. Open, an interesting story arose from the women’s singles competition. Renee Richards, a transgender woman, was set to compete in the women’s tennis tournament after winning a court case giving her the right to partake. Different organizations in sports chimed in on the controversy. The United States Olympic Committee argued that “there is competitive advantage for a male who has undergone a sex change surgery as a result of physical training and development as a male.” Nearly forty years after Richards competed at the U.S. Open, there is still no clear single ruling ac ross the sports world on transgender athletes competing in sports.
While there has not been a prime example of a transgender athlete at the highest level of sport recently, a number of transgender athletes have been involved in controversies regarding their gender status. Fallon Fox, a professional MMA fighter, has been criticized for competing in the women’s division of MMA following a sex reassignment surgery. Those against Fox competing in women’s MMA have argued that she is built differently. from having a greater bone density to having larger hands and wider shoulders. Dr. Eric Villain, a medical geneticist and the director of the Institute for Society and Genetics at U.C.L.A., claims she has “fulfilled all conditions” in reference to competing as a female. Hormone replacement therapy adjusts bone density, muscle mass, and negates many advantages transgender athletes supposedly have according to Villain.
Many supposed unfair advantages transgender athletes have, tend to be regarded as un-scientific and largely myth. As of today, many major athletic organizations such as the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the NCAA, which is the largest governing body for collegiate athletics in the United States, have done studies on the subject. Many world sports organizations have released policies based on this knowledge allowing transgender athletes to compete under certain conditions such as having undergone sex reassignment surgery and having had hormone treatments for at least two years. However, other organizations such as CrossFit, which holds the increasingly popular CrossFit Games on a yearly basis, still has not created a policy on the status of transgender athletes. In 2014, CrossFit ruled that Chloie Jönsson, a transgender woman, would have to compete in the Men’s Division of the CrossFit Games “based upon Jönsson being born a male.”
With the evidence presented, it does not appear transgender athletes have a competitive advantage. Many arguments against allowing transgender athletes to compete are based on myth instead of scientific fact. It appears that post-sex reassignment surgery and following a significant amount of time taking hormone treatments, the advantages of being a transgender athlete are non-existent.