Transgender athletes deserve to play sports too

My mom was the second female athlete to compete in high school cross country competitions in New York state. According to her, it was accepted wisdom at the time that a woman running more than a mile would cause her uterus to fall out.

My mom was a runner. That’s who she was. Many a conversation she had with people she just met in our small town included the line, “Oh you’re the woman I see running every morning.”

I myself was never an athlete. I played soccer and baseball in elementary school. In high school, I did drama club and boy scouts. Since I’ve come to Mankato, I have taken up pickleball, a sport I wish had been around when I was a teenager because it’s the first sport I’ve played that I was not completely terrible at.

I know there are many reasons why sports should be gendered. Testosterone helps generate muscle mass and since men have higher testosterone levels, women won’t be able to fairly compete at elite levels with men and are at increased risk of injury when it comes to full contact sports like wrestling.

And with the segregation of sports by gender comes the issue of transgender athletes. Where do transgender athletes compete then? What about intersex people?

It’s a hot-button topic that’s generated a lot of interest in the past decade.

What I want to ask however, is what happens if sports are completely gender desegregated?

Right now it appears men would dominate most sports. Sorry ladies. But women have been found to have advantages when it comes to endurance sporting events.

Furthermore, the research into female athletes and athletic practices is itself lacking. Cara Ocobock, in her book “Sex in Sports: Men Don’t Always Have the Advantage,” she writes, “Women are horribly underrepresented in exercise physiology — both as researchers and research participants. Because of this lack of representation, we know comparatively little about the best training and nutritional practices for women, much less their performance limits.”

Consider also the following scenario. Take any two random groups of people. Actively encourage the first group to participate in athletic activities, while discouraging the second group in various ways, such as by telling them they’ll lose vital reproductive organs if they run over a mile. Encourage different diets in each group. In fact, go so far as to constantly attack the self esteem and body image of the second group so that they become more likely to develop eating disorders.

Now ask yourself which group is going to produce better athletes.

My point is: I’m not sure we really know if cis men are naturally better athletes compared to cis women or if such advantages are the result of years of society structuring things so that cis men are more likely to develop superior athletic abilities.

Ultimately, cisgender and transgender people deserve to play professional sports. It’s just as simple as that.

Write to Jeremy Redlien at

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