Update: This article was written before the NCAA changed their transgender policy.
People who are born male and then medically transition to live as females later in life, also known as “transgender females,” have stirred up controversy over the last couple years due to dominating women’s sports. As transgender females, they identify as women, dress as women, and usually wish to be called by newly chosen female names.
But, their bodies retain the strength advantages they gained from going through normal male puberty when they were younger. Testosterone suppression therapy is part of the medical transitioning process, but testosterone’s effects on their physical abilities don’t just go away. University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas is the latest athlete to make headlines. Born a male, she now identifies as a woman and has dominated swimming events while competing on women’s teams.
The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) currently requires a minimum of one year of testosterone suppression therapy for trans athletes to compete in the women’s division. Some scientists argue that this isn’t enough to level the playing field and protect the integrity of women’s sports. Parents of Penn students and women’s sports advocates have spoken out about the unfairness of a natural-born male competing against swimmers who were born female.
Both Penn and the Ivy League issued statements defending Thomas and the NCAA policy. But the NCAA has yet to declare its position on the hot-button issue. NCAA’s board of governors is expected to review the policy later this week and issue a statement, according to their spokesperson who talked to Fox News Digital.
Several studies from recent years show that one year of testosterone suppression therapy isn’t enough to ensure a fair competition between a transgender female and cisgender female, or those who are natural-born women.
The latest study was released last month by the Macdonald-Laurier Institute of Canada. It states that “there is neither a medical intervention nor a clever philosophical argument that can make it fair for trans women to compete in women’s sport.” The study goes on to say, “For trans women who have successfully suppressed testosterone for 12 months, the extent of muscle/strength loss is only an approximation (and modest) -5% after 12 months. Testosterone suppression does not remove the athletic advantage acquired under high testosterone conditions at puberty, while the male musculoskeletal advantage is retained.”
The study recommends alternative means of including trans women in athletic competition, such as restructuring the male category as “Open” and the women’s category as “Female,” meaning only women who had “female” recorded on their birth certificate.
An article published on WebMD in July of last year backed up the Canadian study’s findings. Joanna Harper, a transgender competitive runner, and British medical physicist, said that there’s “absolutely no question” that trans women maintain strength advantages of cisgender women, even after testosterone suppression.
“That’s based on my clinical experience, rather than published data, but I would say there’s zero doubt in my mind,” Harper told WebMD.
With the growing mountain of evidence against the equality of an umbrella inclusivity policy, it will be interesting to see what the NCAA board of governors decides. Stay tuned for the final verdict.