Why this matters
The latest Global Sports Matter Podcast two-part special dives into the lived experience of a transgender athlete, Chris Mosier, and the journey he and many others go through to be included in sports.
On the latest episode of the Global Sport Matters Podcast, "The Lived Experience of a Transgender Athlete: Part 1," guest host and producer Karen Given shares the story of transgender athlete and advocate Chris Mosier and his journey to living his true identity through sport, as well as the harsh myths and realities that many transgender people face today. (Listen to Part 2 here.)
Across the U.S., legislation centered on transgender youth athletes is being debated. The main argument in each piece of legislation seems to be around fairness, and that by allowing transgender girls and women to compete in sport with cis-gender women, there is an unfair advantage because of biology, but is that the truth?
He is a transgender man, track and field athlete, and founder of transathlete.com. Mosier has been competing on men's teams for years. And not just competing in the men's category, but beating his opponents. With each win, he provides what Given calls an "antidote" to the "worry that trans people are going to come in and destroy sports." As Mosier's story shows, that is far from the case.
Katrina Karkazis, a bioethicist and author of the book, Testosterone: An Unauthorized Biography, presses the point that there is a lack of scientific evidence and research examining performance differences between males and females, and a meta-analysis from 2017 looking at all available research concluded, "there was no evidence of performance advantage," she says. Reports since have only been able to find differences in performance in the category of sit-ups, which is not a sport, but that all other sport areas researched, so far, conclude the same thing - there is no difference.
Cyd Zeigler, co-founder of Outsports, has interviewed many transgender athletes and shares that the narrative being pushed that there is no loss in performance for trans women who have medically transitioned is false.
Says Zeigler: "They talk about a loss of strength, a loss of endurance, a prolonged recovery time after they work out. So many ways their performance is impeded when they transition."
What isn't discussed widely in the media and in these legislative bills is the number of trans athletes in sport, which is actually quite low, nor the fact that many trans women lose their races and competitions to cis-gender women or that Mosier is actually beating cis-gender men. Zeigler comments that these athletes aren't in the headlines, "A lot of them have been testifying before state legislatures, but they testify and then the media just doesn't pick up their stories."
What is clear to Chris Mosier is that legislation and rhetoric has a damaging effect on the transgender community: "hearing lawmakers talk about us in a way that dehumanizes us, that says that we are not worthy of the same experiences as our peers is detrimental. It's not only detrimental to the trans people who hear that about themselves, but it also deeply influences the way that other people treat the trans community."
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The spectra of sex, gender, and sexuality challenge our traditional understanding of sport and competition, but are increasingly central to the conversation around athlete and fan experience.
With legislation and organizing increasing around how these various identities intersect, sport makes a natural landscape for discourse and broadening our knowledge of these conversations. How are perspectives changing, and what can we discover by diving into the multitudes underneath these nuanced topics?