Trans women cannot have it all their own way
Iam transgender. I am a fierce defender of the rights of trans women, and a doughty opponent of anti-trans prejudice. Yet I still believe that World Rugby would be right to ban trans women from female rugby on safety grounds.
I understand why female sportswomen are furious that they have to compete against people who have grown up as males. And I think that trans campaigners who insist on the right to compete against natal women are harming the cause of trans women as a whole.
Now that I have provoked the Twittersphere into an orgy of loathing, let me explain why I am apparently being a traitor to my cause. As trans women, we have to own who we once were, as much as we celebrate who we now are. And anyone who has ever acquired a post-adolescent male body is at a huge advantage to anyone who has not.
Just compare the current English Under-17 boys’ records for all the athletics events from 100metres to 1500m to the winning times of the women at the 2016 Olympics. Our lads would have beaten the cream of the world’s female athletes at every event except the 100m hurdles.
And most races would not even have been close.
Not only are males faster than women, they are bigger too. To be precise, the average British male is more than two stone heavier and six inches taller than the average woman.
To return to rugby, if the taller, heavier, faster male hits the smaller, lighter, slower female, there is only ever going to be one winner. And the loser may take a while getting up.
Ah, you may say, but any trans woman who is allowed to compete in a female sporting event has been on female hormones and, quite literally, is not the man they were.
Well, nor am I. I have taken female hormones for more than two years. My oestrogen is at normal female levels and my testosterone is well within the World Athletics and International Olympic Committee limits for female competitors. Were I young, fit and talented, I would be available for selection as a woman for Team GB at Tokyo 2021.
In fact, I am a sedentary 61-year-old. But having once been male, my body fat is much lower than the female average and my skeletal and muscled mass are much higher (they are regularly tested as part of my transition process). I am also 6ft tall.
I am therefore much stronger than most natal women my age. A fit, highly trained trans woman in her twenties would likewise have an unfair advantage over natal women her age.
This is where trans athletes and campaigners understandably talk about their rights. Why should they be denied the right to pursue their sporting dreams, just because their psychological gender is at odds with the bodies they were born with? I sympathise with their longing to compete. I recognise their womanhood. But rights, like sport, are competitive. Sportswomen have their own right to fair competition. And trans women have an unfair advantage.
Sport is a zero-sum game: every medal won by a trans woman is one less won by a natal woman. A generation of female British competitors was denied Olympic and World Championship medals by Soviet bloc competitors powered by illegally administered testosterone. The possibility that a new generation might lose out to trans women is making enemies out of a lot of women who would otherwise support us. It is not doing the trans cause any good at all. If I had a child who, like the young Caitlin (Bruce) Jenner, was both trans and a brilliant athlete, I would tell them that they had a choice.
They could put their transition on hold long enough to fulfil their sporting dreams and then become the woman they have always been inside. Or they could prioritise their transition, become that woman sooner, and enjoy their sport as a recreation.
Would that give them everything they want, when they want it? No. But just ask a woman, it is really hard to Have It All.
Sportswomen have their right to fair competition. And trans women have an unfair advantage