If a man and a woman race each other, who do you expect to win? Of course a lot depends on training, on age, on natural ability. Given two athletes with similar abilities, do you think your sex has a bearing on the outcome?
I have to admit when I saw a talk show discussing how transgender teens (assigned male at birth, but identifying as female) were allowed to be on and compete on the same track team as females — females that were born and have lived their lives as physiologically female — I was shocked.
You can read a short article here.
There are differences between a male and female body
Of course I am not talking about just the differences in anatomy. There are physical differences — differences that most people, myself included, just naturally assume make a male faster than a woman:
- Less fat
- More muscle
- Larger hearts and lungs
- More red blood cells
Of course some females can beat some males. Remember the Battle of the Sexes (Bobby Riggs vs Billy Jean King? If not, read about it here. But that was a 29 year old woman competing against a 55 year old male, hardly a level playing field.
There is little doubt that men do have a physiological advantage to women when it comes to speed — endurance is quite a different story, but I don’t think you’re going to see women beating men in the Boston Marathon anytime soon.
So is it unfair?
I personally think it unfair. To everyone. It’s unfair to a young girl who is, through no fault of her own, most likely beaten by a male — while the male may identify as female, she is still living in a male body with all the physiological advantages that entails.
It is also unfair to the transgender teen who identifies as female. She is already fighting an uphill battle to fit in and feel comfortable in her own skin. It isn’t that she wants to be female, it is that she is — but her body is not. And of course it’s incredibly unfair to say she can’t compete at something she loves to do.
Have we taken fairness too far?
I still remember showing my sister one of my half marathon medals — and her face falling when she learned everyone gets a medal (maybe she’d rethink that now after trying running and hanging up here running shoes after one injury).
I wrote a long time ago, I believe, musing on whether or not we should get medals. Yes, running a half marathon is hard. So is playing in any sport. Would I continue to run half marathons if there was no medal waiting for me at the end? I’m pretty sure I would, but I won’t lie, I’m damn proud of those medals. My nieces who are in their mid 20s are pretty amazed that this old lady can run 13.1 miles (or 10, or 9 — you get the idea!).
I see both sides on this issue, I think, but in the end, I think it is unfair to the female athletes — and probably a slippery slope, as well, because I can see young female runners wanting to take hormones or other substances in an attempt to be able to compete — which we know is a disaster waiting to happen.
Life isn’t always fair. And for some people, unfortunately, it’s more unfair than for others. I do have to wonder if those that identify as female but are physiologically male are truly satisfied with their wins?
Some more reading:
- How much do sex differences matter in sports?
- Men compete as women. Women silent.
- An Equal running field.
Talk to me:
Do you think it’s fair?
How would you feel if your daughter lost to a male who identified as female?
Will a man, with similar abilities to a woman, always win a road race?