A new report jointly released by AthletesCAN, the Canadian Association for the Advancement of Women and Sports and Physical Activity (CAAWS), and the Candian Centre for Ethics in Sport (CCES) entitled Promising Practices: Working with Transitioning/Transitioned Athletes in Sport, examines issues related to the inclusion of transitioned/transitioning athletes in sport (the document intentionally uses this terminology instead of “transgender” or “transsexual”). The report is a thoughtful and well informed discussion of the major issues to be considered in developing effective policies that are respectful and fair to all competitors. This document advances the conversation about gender transition and sport in important ways and should be on the reading list of all sport leaders in the United States.
The report also raises lots of questions. For example, we just don’t have the research to answer questions about whether transitioned/transitioning athletes have a physical advantage or disadvantage when compared with physically born men and women. What we do have is research on transitioned and transitioning non-athletes and the effects of testosterone and estrogen on their physiology, but how this applies to athletes’ performance and at what level of competition is a big question. We have no reason, according to research, to assume that transitioned athletes have an advantage or a disadvantage. As the report notes, we already know that the variability in performance and hormonal levels varies greatly among physically born men and among physically born women and that each binary gender category of male and female overlaps the other in performance and hormonal levels.
We also know that much of the conversation about inclusion of gender variant athletes is contaminated by prejudice, misconceptions and mistaken assumptions. This report is a major giant step forward in addressing these problems. The report is a reasoned and up-to-date discussion that counters some of the most persistent misconceptions and stereotypical assumptions about gender variance and gender binaries in general and as they pertain to the sport context.
This is great stuff. I encourage everyone to read this ground-breaking report. Thanks to our Canadian friends for laying the foundation for a challenging and important conversation, not only in the United States, but around the world.