As the coronavirus spreads in China, so does fury at the government
Welfare reform partially succeeded in the 1990s when legislators stopped haranguing about “welfare queens” gaming the system and started showing how governmental payments harmed the poor. We need a similar change in the transgenderism debate. Bathroom criminals are a problem, but we should emphasize a larger set of potential victims: transgender humans themselves, and women athletes who will suffer unintended consequences.
While ideologues theorize, this issue’s cover stories (see "Suffer the children") show that superficial sex changes usually don’t solve deeper problems. Trendy magazines celebrate trans kids, but those temporary mascots have to live with their decisions for decades—and studies show the frequency of regret. Now, let’s think through another issue that hasn’t gotten much attention outside some sports pages: A small percentage of women are hyperandrogenic, which means they have testosterone levels like men’s.
Last year hyperandrogenic athletes Caster Semenya of South Africa, who won the Olympic women’s 800-meter gold medal, and Dutee Chand, India’s star female runner, made headlines. Women with lots of testosterone are, like men, stronger and faster than similarly athletic women without that advantage. Providence Portland Medical Center expert Joanna Harper says the average difference between men’s and women’s world records is 12 percent, and the best marathon time ever for a woman would put her just outside the top 5,000 men’s times.
We should emphasize a larger set of potential victims: transgender humans themselves, and women athletes who will suffer unintended consequences.
Harper, born male and now transgender, told The Science of Sport that as many as five hyperandrogenic athletes may have made the eight-person final in the Olympic race that Semenya won. Harper favors protecting “female athletes from those athletes who undergo male-type puberty. … Billions of potential female athletes deserve the right to compete with some semblance of a level playing field. … Requiring all women to compete within a given testosterone range is the best way we currently have to create such a playing field.”
Harper also spoke of a condition, 5-alpha reductase deficiency (5-ARD), that is rare worldwide except in isolated, inbred pockets. Given the globalization of sport, Harper’s dystopian concern is that if high-testosterone women continue to compete against other women, “those interested in developing the next generation of women’s sports stars will look to these areas to find girls with 5-ARD, and aid in their athletic progress. This would be an extremely bad scenario for the rest of the women in the world who care about sporting success.”
Harper admits that discriminating against very-high-testosterone women is hard and in one sense unfair—they did not do anything to gain such an advantage—but sees no other way to maintain fair competition for the other 99 or so percent of women. And now we come to a dystopian situation: What about young men who choose the transgender route and then compete with young women not in fun local events (like coed softball) but on big stages?
This is not hypothetical. Weightlifter Gavin Hubbard, former head of Olympic Weightlifting New Zealand, is now Laurel Hubbard, winner last month of a major women’s weightlifting competition. Some women lifters said Hubbard should not be allowed in their event, but their pleas did not avail within the current trans trend. In Alaska last year, biologically male Nattaphon Wangyot finished third in the 200-meter dash of that state’s high-school female track and field championship. The College Fix website captured the current mood: It reported the justified concern of Saskia Harrison, a female runner who just missed the cut, under a “Don’t question it, bigots” headline.
What to do? Genesis says, “God created man in his own image … male and female he created them.” We are sexually binary, but ever since one day in Eden mutations happen and life sometimes doesn’t seem fair. We should protect the few in a way that does not harm the many.
We cannot successfully do that in knee-jerk ways. The Texas supervisory board for high-school athletics arrived at what it thought was a simple, conservative solution: Athletes compete in their birth gender. But in February, biologically female Mack Beggs won the girls wrestling state title after a 58-0 season. Beggs, who has declared herself a boy, has been taking testosterone for two years. Some female wrestlers forfeited their matches with Beggs out of safety concerns. Now the policy needs amending.