Opinion: Why transgender athletes should be able to play girls/women’s sports

The following is an opinion piece submitted by a student of WCU.

On April 5, 2023, Kansas overrode Gov. Laura Kelly’s veto which she has instated on a bill three years in a row, passing a bill banning transgender females from participating in girls’ and women’s sports from kindergarten to college. The bill will take effect on July 1. This will be a sad day for the transgender community in Kansas. According to Newsweek, Kansas is the 20th state to ban transgender women from playing women’s sports, following Wyoming who enacted their bill March 20.

Why is it that 20 U.S. states thus far have thrown a hissy fit over transgender women playing their gender’s sport? Is there any reason aside from transphobia that our government is fighting so hard to outcast the transgender community? Transgender women are women, and the notion to ban transgender women from playing women’s sports is disregarding their gender as a whole and undermining their rights.  

According to the Sport Science Institute, academic athletics comply with the Olympic guidelines stating that transgender women athletes must provide documentation that they have been on a testosterone suppression treatment for at least 1 year before competing as well as meeting the sport standard for documented testosterone levels at the beginning of their competition season and again six months later. Despite this requirement however, there is a lot of critiques claiming that post puberty body changes provide unfair advantages for transgender women despite the presence of testosterone suppression. This is the argument people use to their advantage when banning transgender women from women’s sports. However, the advantage that these athletes have is a small percentage, equivalent to an advantage a cisgender woman has if they are born tall and slender or to a higher-class family that provides them with years of training for the sport. 

For instance, Dr. Timothy Roberts conducted a fitness readiness test every six months for active-duty service members in the U.S. Army. They recorded every person’s performance, including 46 transgender women. The performance results for transgender women after one year of testosterone suppression treatment were just 10% more pushups and 6% more sit-ups than the average cisgender woman, and those who had been taking testosterone suppression treatment for almost two years or longer performed on an even playing ground with cisgender women, showing no performative advantage.

Furthermore, Joanna Harper is a transgender woman and medical physicist who competed for 30 years before transitioning and now 10 years post-transition, provides data in her book “Sporting Gender” showing that transgender women who received treatment to lower their testosterone levels did not perform better in a variety of races against female peers than they had previously done against male runners. According to the Connecticut Post, in February 2020, the families of three cisgender girls filed a federal lawsuit against the Connecticut Association of Schools stating that their girls were at an unfair disadvantage and could not win against their transgender competitor. Then, days later, one of the cisgender girls proceeded to win against the transgender girl. 

Cisgender women do win and compete fairly against transgender women. It is clear that the individuals who support banning transgender women competing in women’s sports have failed to research the data. Instead, they see transgender women as men and disregard not only their true and chosen gender as a woman but also the mental and physical effects of transitioning that they endure to compete in their gender’s sport. Admittedly, there is still research to be done about the effects of testosterone suppression on transgender women athletes, but it is impossible to conduct that research if states continue banning the participation of transgender women in women’s sports. Instead of banning something with little knowledge on the subject matter, allow transgender women the equal opportunity to partake in their gender’s sport and continue learning and understanding not only the science behind it, but the transgender community as a whole.