The Politics of Transsexuality in Sports

Transphobia is ingrained within the fabric of society and invisibilised even today. While a significant amount of unlearning has accrued with regards to other sexualities, even within the queer movement that grew against prejudice and discrimination, transsexual people have hardly benefited from this progress. Read on to unravel the politics of transsexuality in sport.

Even within the LGBTQIA+ movement, there is transphobia that goes unheard of, with prominent feminists being TERFS or Trans exclusionary radical feminists, like JK Rowling. Transsexual people are routinely violated, hurt and abused, in both psychological and physical ways, and this history of disenfranchisement that continues to perpetuate is a stain on our collective conscience.

In sport- an ableist, discriminatory, largely eurocentric and sexist institution, transsexual people find no refuge. Throughout history, they have been disproportionately kept out of the mainstream sport, their identity delegitimised, with an emphasis on “biology” as the driving factor behind this discrimination. But gender policy has evolved to include some transsexual rights legislation, allowing transsexual athletes an entry point, diversifying the gender variance in the world of sports. However, the largest consensus still exists on the idea that transsexual people threaten those belonging to cishets others from their gender division, like the belief that trans women make the playing field “biologically unfair” for other women to compete in, and likewise for men.

A key to understanding these politics, or to breaking down blatant transphobia under the guise of biologically unfair, is to stand from the vantage point of gender as a spectrum and gender issues being nuanced and complex. This means that the male/ female gender binary must be broken down and the emergence of queer gender subjectivities within these communities, both pre and post-gender reassignment surgery, should be accounted for. Reducing gender and sexuality in sport to genitalia and biology is principally transphobic because it takes the identity of a non- conforming individual and attributes it to a biological state that they no longer accept.

Biological fairness is not and can never be achieved consistently in sport: racial, ethnic, cultural, genetic differences will always exist and will always determine the outcomes of sport- as do social, economic, and other factors. The outcomes of sport through winning and losing and unscientific constructions of “disadvantage” due to this cannot be a valid criticism of allowing trans people to compete in the identity they believe in because transmen ARE men and transwomen ARE women.

For those post reassignment surgery, there is no debate. Transwomen post-surgery are biologically women. But with regards to transwomen pre-surgery, they do have higher testosterone levels- but so do many cisgender women naturally, women with POS or other syndromes which increase testosterone levels. Further, trans people face unquantifiable disadvantages they face in the world outside which are crushing and that for a transwoman to win an Olympic medal or even get selected to represent their country at an international level required undergoing layers and layers of trauma and disadvantages that no ciswoman does. The disadvantage is not linear or one-sided, or always quantifiable.

Research backs this up: Cisgender women dominate sports, dominate accolades, and these half baked claims of science are just to veil further marginalisation of oppressed trans people. “No epidemic of transgender girls is dominating female sports”, and these narratives hurt and endanger further our most vulnerable.

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Featured Image Credits: The CT Minor

Riddhi Mukherjee

[email protected]

*This article was originally published in our e-newspaper Volume 15 | Issue 4. Click here to read the entire newspaper!


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