Do Trans Feminine Athletes Have An Advantage?

CW: transphobic language and mentions of medical transition.

I recently watched a documentary called Game Face which follows two LGBT athletes–Fallon Fox, a trans feminine mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter, and Terrence Clemens, a gay male college basketball player–as they struggle to come to terms with themselves and find their places in their respective sports. As a transgender athlete, Fallon Fox has been at the center of a debate in the MMA world in particular, and the world of sports in general. Do trans feminine athletes have an unfair competitive advantage over their cis feminine counterparts?

Some have asserted that Fallon Fox has an unfair advantage due to the fact that she “used to be a man”, which gives her a masculine bone structure that hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and sex reassignment surgery (SRS) are unable to change. So is there anything to this argument? Well, not really.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), two athletic organizations with a vested interest in maintaining competitive fairness in athletics, permit trans feminine athletes to compete with other women after one year of HRT. So if various athletic organizations such as the IOC and NCAA don’t think being a trans woman is an unfair competitive advantage while too much caffeine is, it would seem that there isn’t enough evidence to suggest that trans feminine athletes have an unfair competitive advantage.

The NCAA explains its policies regarding trans women by stating the following:

“…Some people fear that transgender women will have an unfair advantage over non-transgender women. It is important to place that fear in context.

“Transgender girls who medically transition at an early age do not go through a male puberty, and therefore their participation in athletics as girls does not raise the same equity concerns that arise when transgender women transition after puberty.

“Transgender women display a great deal of physical variation, just as there is a great deal of natural variation in physical size and ability among non-transgender women and men. Many people may have a stereotype that all transgender women are unusually tall and have large bones and muscles. But that is not true. A male-to-female transgender woman may be small and slight, even if she is not on hormone blockers or taking estrogen. It is important not to overgeneralize. The assumption that all male-bodied people are taller, stronger, and more highly skilled in a sport than all female-bodied people is not accurate.”

“It is also important to know that any strength and endurance advantages a transgender woman arguably may have as a result of her prior testosterone levels dissipate after about one year of estrogen or testosterone-suppression therapy. According to medical experts on this issue, the assumption that a transgender woman competing on a women’s team would have a competitive advantage outside the range of performance and competitive advantage or disadvantage that already exists among female athletes is not supported by evidence.”

In other words, trans feminine athletes are not significantly different from cis feminine athletes, especially after undergoing a year of HRT which takes care of any potential differences in muscle mass, bone density, etc. The variation that exists between trans feminine athletes who have undergone HRT for at least a year and cis feminine athletes is no different from the variation that already exists among cis feminine athletes. This policy is based on scientific research and expert medical opinion. If you don’t believe me, check my link to the NCAA’s policy and its reference section.

Despite the overwhelming support for trans athletes from various athletic organizations and the scientific evidence, many in the world of sports still believe the myth that trans feminine athletes have an unfair advantage. UFC president Dana White has argued, “Bone structure is different, hands are bigger, jaw is bigger, everything is bigger. I don’t believe in it. I don’t think someone who used to be a man and became a woman should be able to fight a woman.” Apparently Mr. White is unaware of the evidence. If he is aware of it, then it is likely he is relying on other people’s prejudices and ignorance.

When it comes to deciding whether or not trans feminine athletes have an unfair advantage, your choices are clear. You can believe in the science-based expert opinion I have presented here, or you can believe the transphobic pseudoscience non-experts who suddenly believe themselves to be experts when the topic comes up like to spout off.


4 thoughts on “Do Trans Feminine Athletes Have An Advantage?

  1. Not just sport, this applies to all areas. A transom an is less strong, so having her do the same physical labor she may have done before is not realistic.
    Personal safety changes and many other aspects as well.


    1. Indeed it does generalize to all aspects of life. That’s a very good point. I intended to focus on just this one aspect since it is currently especially controversial, but there is a point to stress the similarities between trans and cis women in other areas.


  2. First of all, lol at “trans feminine.” Well, it’s better than calling you/them women, so there’s that!

    I am afraid you are the one relying on pseudoscience & junk science here. Being on HRT for a year when you spent 20-something years as a man w/male body structure & male strength, does nothing to change the physical shape of his muscles, bone structure, etc.

    It’s weird watching you all clinging to any bit of junk science out there while trying to make your case. I mean, you posted quotes that talked about changes that happen when we trans kids, which is morally wrong & homophobic, btw; but those quotes have nothing to do w/Fox bc he grew into his male body, grew & expanded his muscles, & was socialized as a man for most of his life. Then he goes on HRT & has a few surgeries & you think his muscles shrink back & his bone structure changes?? From HRT?!? You are goving estrogen Way too much credit for doing things it just is not doing, not to mention it just cannot do these kinds of physical changes!

    The only reason these orgs, like MMA & the Olympic panel, etc., are allowing men claiming to be women to participate in female events is bc the small & very vocal, very demanding, very litigious group of men (& the women who center their lives on men) make a stink when things do not go their way.

    I mean, really, if they get missexed, they go running to the press, they just flip out & become violent against women! So if MMA didn’t let Fox compete, all of his friends, followers, & handmaidens would swoop down & attack everyone they can find until they bully the MMA into doing things the trans way. Same for the Olympic committee – they don’t wish to be sued by already unstable & sometimes violent men.

    I know you & people like you mean well, but this is just false information, propaganda. You are built differently from women. That is fact. Calling me & people like me, who know & understand the truth, transphobic is not going to change the fact that you are not, nor will you ever be a woman. It wont change the fact that in most instances, women are smaller & not as strong as men.

    Taking estrogen doesnt magically transform your body into a female or even feminine, otherwise Fox would have shrunk down to 5’7″, his muscles would be smaller, his bones would shrink….all because he was on estrogen? Come on! We’re not LARPing here, this is the real world; & in the real world, most males are stronger than most females & taking some estrogen isn’t going to change that scientific truth.


    1. You can read my sources and their references, which takes into account the scientific literature and expert opinion, or you can hold on to some delusion that the NCAA and IOP are caving to some progressive conspiracy. We’ve been ignored for almost the entirety of human history. The only reason the tide is turning is because science is backing us up and people are starting to realize sex and gender are not as clear cut and well understood as previously thought.

      BTW, none of what you said is consistent with the scientific evidence regarding the effects of HRT. Either educate yourself or move on.

      P.S. Fallon Fox is 5’7″ and she is a woman. You could have at least googled it before deciding to make yourself look really silly.


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