Sometimes I feel like I'm living inside a South Park episode. One where there is some exaggerated politically correct conspiracy that has gotten so big it might consume all of us with its insanity.
This past Sunday, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced a change in policy regarding transgender athletes. Athletes that transition from female to male are now eligible to compete as males without restriction. However, athletes that transition from male to female must officially declare their identity as female and show that their testosterone levels measure below 10 nanomals for at least 12 months prior to competing. Basically, the changes in regulations free trans athletes from previously required genital reassignment surgeries.
It's obvious right there in the guidelines that transgender females could potentially have an athletic advantage over biological females. The fact that there is open eligibility for females who identify as men in competition kinda insinuates that the guys aren't particularly worried about their new competition. (That's because the women feeling like men are inherently disadvantaged in comparison to men who've lived their entire lives as biological men.) However, the monitoring of testosterone levels in female athletes screams of inequality. Already transgender men are being treated differently than transgender women. Where is the feminist outcry?
It seems ironic to me, that a sporting event that so strictly prohibits substances affecting athletic performance would so quickly embrace the use of substances that alter an athlete's hormone levels in such extreme ways. Perhaps the cocktail of pharmaceuticals required to inhibit trans athletes' hormones aren't "performance enhancing", but they are certainly "performance influencing". A subtle difference, but perhaps an important one. Using substances that radically change the way a competitor's body works should be suspect. Competition is only fair if athletes aren't radically altering their bodies in unnatural ways.
Feeling like a woman does not a woman make. I realize making such a statement probably proves I need some sort of sensitivity training, but the IOC admits it in their guidelines (hence the differences in requirements for trans women in comparison to those for trans men). The problem with their guidelines is that they don't at all level the female playing field. No amount of injected estrogen can make up for advantages in height, bone density, and reach. And medical data conflicts on just how long it takes to negate the testosterone advantages biological males are born with.
While it's easy to see this whole scenario as some strange ploy by South Park's women to thoroughly ruin the sport of beach volleyball for men everywhere (Imagine Jake Gibb bouncing around in a bikini. You're welcome for the visual), that can't be what's really going on here.
The IOC stated that the changes are "necessary to ensure in so far as possible that trans athletes are not excluded from the opportunity to participate in sporting competition."
I get it. They want to be fair. But by attempting to be fair to everyone. They've ended up being fair to no one.
Will this be the death of women's olympic weightlifting, boxing, wrestling? There are some sports where passing through male puberty could leave a long-lingering advantage over the more traditionally feminine competitors. There is no way to make this fair. The Olympics will never be the same.
Maybe it won't change all that much. While it's easy to envision swarms of men switching teams (so to speak) in true South Park style for the sake of winning gold medals, that's not likely to happen. Putting your body through months of hormone therapy just to compete as a woman is extreme for everyone but the craziest of people, and statistically-speaking, "real" transgender people supposedly make up less than one percent of the population.
However, the possibility of even one unfair competition should be enough to make us protest. The spirit of the Olympics is about triumph and equity no matter a person's race, religion, or nationality. I'm just not sure where these trans athletes fit into this... or even if they should fit in at all. (Probably another sign that someone should sign me up for sensitivity training.)
Because I'm still not sure who I'm supposed to root for in a Judo match between a traditional woman and a transgender woman. Do I root for the trans woman? Because wouldn't that be the politically correct thing to do? To cheer on the minority, the historically oppressed, the poster child of progressive tolerance? Or do I support the biological woman? Because isn't that the politically correct thing? To pull for the historically oppressed, and breaking glass ceilings, and making progress toward gender equality? Because "Girl Power"!?!
The inner conflict might be enough to rip giant holes in Western Society's collective conscience.
One thing is for certain. The spirit of Olympic competition has definitely changed. I'm afraid the Olympics have fallen.