Do trans girl athletes have an advantage? [Moderated title for clarity]

Data from 18 states suggests they are wrong.

And really, no cite is needed to dispute this. Excluding trans girls from girl’s activities doesn’t undermine their gender identity? Seriously? Someone was asking if other posters have played sports. Have you ever met a trans person? Have you ever been a marginalized minority in any dimension?

Any and all of those may end up being an issue, we currently don’t have enough numbers to know.
If the trend of identifying as trans continues then those numbers will very likely begin to feed through to performances. We know the performance issues of male over female is huge even in high schools, given a large enough population of trans people who do not undergo medical interventions it is pretty much certain that we’d have to face some pretty tough questions at some point.

Certainly all of the above are realistic problems and so I see no harm is considering how we might mitigate against them before it becomes an issue. Why not be proactive if it helps generate potential solutions that optimise the balancing of inclusion, fairness and safety for all?

Sure, we can say it doesn’t look like an issue at the moment. That is a valid approach and if the numbers stay low enough then the issue could probably be safely ignored at that level (as it is in pretty much all pre-teen sports I know of, i.e. they all play together)

I’m sure for some people it may well do and I wonder how far that goes. Do you think that co-ed sports before high-school is undermining to anyone’s gender identity? When boys and girls are all thrown together en-masse and there is no gender segregation do you think that is harmful for members of either gender?
Is there not a case to be made that setting up such gender barriers in the first place is where the harm is first generated?

So, we agree there’s no problem now, I think. I guess I’m opposed to further ostracizing an already ostracized group (transgender teens) just in case there may be a problem someday. And, as to your second statement, I’m pretty sure that if there were a problem today, right-wing news sources would be all over it.

Where do nonbinary/genderqueer/genderfluid people play?

Perhaps we should be throwing away the century old idea of equating gender and physical sex characteristics. Sports segregation should be tied to physical characteristics, not gender identity. We used gender in the past because we didn’t acknowledge the existence/validity of the trans community. Now that we do, perhaps sport shouldn’t be a place where we rigidly define people’s genders, since gender is a continuum not a light switch.

Right now letting transgirls play with the cisgirls isn’t a problem, in part because it’s a situation in it’s infancy. At some point, a child with the physical body of a very athletic 17 year old cis-boy will be competing directly against other children with the physical bodies of 17 year old cis-girls, and the results will be ugly, it will be national news, and defending the situation will be hard to do.

I agreed with that quite some time ago

Fair enough but what quantitive value do we put on that “may”? It isn’t as if we don’t know about physical discrepancies between males and females. It isn’t as if the potential issues haven’t been clearly stated. It’ll be a hard situation to defend if future harms are shown to have been easily predicted but ignored.
I’m not saying you necessarily have to implement sweeping changes now but having the discussion and keeping the situation under review seems sensible so that you are ready to act should the situation develop.

I don’t know what you mean by this. I’m not sure what second statement you are referring to. I don’t believe I said there was definitely a problem today did I?

For high school kids? Probably with their assigned-at-birth gender. Not directly relevant to this thread, but there’s at least one non-binary person playing for the US Women’s National Soccer Team.

Sorry, I was rushing out a reply. I meant where you said “we currently do not have enough numbers to know.” I think that, if there were any issues in any numbers at all, right-wing and anti-trans news sources would be all over it.

Here’s the problem with trying to solve something that isn’t a problem yet. If a problem ever arises, we won’t know the right way forward until we know what the issues actually are. At this point, there is no problem. I know you’ve said that, but here’s what I was responding to:

So, I was responding to someone who DOES think there’s a problem now. I don’t know why you chose to jump in if you don’t agree with Summerday.

No, and i would love to see more coed sports. At all but the most competitive levels and roughest sports they work fine, even for adults. As i think I’ve mentioned, all the sports I’ve enjoyed as an adult have been coed.

Yes, some high school kids are looking to move up to professional sports. That’s a tiny minority. Most are playing sports for the sake of playing, to develop skills, to experience teamwork and a sense of belonging. Those can all be accomplished in coed settings.

If it’s one child, i don’t think it really will be a problem. There will be one trans girl who blows away all the other girls. That happens on a smaller scale all the time, due to rather wide dispersion of athletic ability. For both girls and boys.

What would be a problem is if cis girls became uncompetitive in the girl’s teams. Not for the top position of one team somewhere, but in general. That really would be a problem. But i think we’d already see evidence of that in the many places where trans girls are allowed to play on the girls’ teams. And we don’t. If that ever happens, yeah, we’ll need to deal with it. But I’m not in favor of borrowing trouble at the expense of a stigmatized minority.

I see what you are saying and I suspect you are correct. I am sceptical that either side of the debate can truly be trusted to remain dispassionate when evaluating whatever evidence is out there. There are vested interests on both sides to see what you want to see and disregard the rest. That is part of the reason why I welcome non-partisan, pragmatic and fact-based approaches from such bodies as the UK sports council. It may not give neat answers but I don’t get the feeling that it is being swayed by ideology.

Just to clarify the point of mine that you referred to. Those issues you raised are highly likely (though not certain) to become a problem in the future if enough trans people, with no medical intervention, are taking part in high school segregated sports. We don’t have enough numbers at the moment to know that for sure and we don’t know if that will happen at all.

I would argue that we do indeed know a lot of what the problems will be and what some sensible ways forward might be seeing as we are already having to wrestle with them at adult levels and high-school age ranges already overlap in terms of bodily maturity.
Sure, the full picture is not known but it we would be wrong to suggest that we know nothing about what any potential problems may look like.

To be crude and somewhat hyperbolic.

Imagine a girl’s rugby team with zero medical gatekeeping. You have the potential for massive disparities in strength, speed and collision force. All it takes is for one disproportionately huge trans girl to inflict concussion, brain injury or spinal injury on another girl and you have the potential to be sued for all the money in the world. Because lets face it, the legal system runs on a basis on reasonability and I think it would be impossible to claim that the above scenario could not be reasonably foreseen.

I appreciate your position, however a ‘Secretariat at the Belmont’ picture of a transgirl winning a 800m race by 50 meters is going to be a problem. But, who knows, maybe it never really happens at all, and the whole issue is a tempest in a teapot.

In reality, most athletes will go at a pace which wins the race. If Usain Bolt was running in a HS meet, he would run at a pace which had him comfortably ahead of the rest. He wouldn’t go at world record speed since that’s more difficult and takes longer to recover. A trans girl in a race will typically be able to stay comfortably at the front and win the race with relatively less effort. She won’t need to blast everyone away and win by a massive lead. This extra strength advantage means she will be able to compete at a top level in more events at the meet since she will be able to stay fresher through her events. Cisgirls will have to run at top effort to even have a chance at winning and will burn through their reserves, making it harder to win in other events. The trans girl will be able to get through her events much easier and typically do much better. So what would likely happen is that a trans girl would make the podium (top 3 finishers) in most or all of her events since she will have much more reserves of strength and endurance. In the Secretariat example, if Secretariat had to run 5 races that day, his jockey would have him win that race by just enough to win the race and save his energy for the rest of the races.

I would expect that the trans girl athletes to be bunched at the top of the results because of their higher power ability. It’s like they have an 8-cylinder engine and cis girls have a 6-cylinder. Even if there is 1 trans girl on a 20 girl team, I would expect her to generally be top 5 or higher. So she may just be 1/20th of the team, but I would guess she’d be 1/5th or higher of the finishers just because her athletic engine is so much more powerful than everyone else. Like the Secretariat example, he had a heart which was much bigger than the other horses which gave him an insurmountable advantage. The same is true with trans girls and cisgirls.

Given that many states (see puzzlegal’s post above) have been allowing transgirls to compete with cisgirls for several years (a whole decade for CT), I’m looking forward to all of your cites of transgirls dominating, as you expect them to. Maybe break up the myriad cites into two or three posts, so that it’s easier to follow.


Is there some place that records trans versus cis finishers? The only time I hear about it is when there’s a news story about someone complaining about a trans girl finishing at the top. If it doesn’t make the news, I’m not sure I can give cites since I don’t think it’s recorded in the results.

I personally would love to see the stats since I think they would be very revealing. If trans athletes are scattered in a normal distribution–a few a the top, a few at the bottom, and most bunched around the middle–then that shows there’s no performance advantage. But if they are generally at the top, then that shows their genetic advantage is carrying over.

Conversely, why wouldn’t trans girls compete at the level of cisboys? What about being a trans girl would remove that basic athletic advantage that comes from genetics?

Well, some of them are taking hormones or blocking puberty, or course. That’s going to have an effect. And then, there’s just the lack of numbers – if a school of 1000 people has 10 transgender people, how many are going to go into sports? How many of those will be good at sports? There are lots of cisgirls at the high school level that are much better than the average boy at that high school in, say, soccer or softball.

As I mentioned above, if transgirls were dominating some sport at some high school somewhere, it would be the top story on Fox, OAN, etc. It would be all they talk about.

I think you’re vastly overestimating the number of trans athletes there are. At my kids’ very trans-friendly high school (as I mentioned, they had a transgirl as prom queen years ago), I don’t know of any trans athletes.

This is why I say that there’s not actually a problem to address at this point.

Anyway, still waiting on those cites – surely, in the last 10 years in CT, 9 years in MA, etc., there must be lots of records being broken by trans athletes, as you expect.

Well, maybe some of the same reasons they identify as girls. Trans people aren’t just cis people in different clothes. Trans girls feel feminine. That’s based on something. Just because we don’t entirely understand it doesn’t mean it isn’t real.

Also hormone blockers in many cases.

Totally agree there. Hormone blockers will have a huge effect. If we were just talking about trans girls in athletics which were on hormones, it would be totally a non issue. Any genetic advantage would likely be marginal and insignificant if there was medical transitioning. But in HS athletics, that probably won’t always be the case due to age and timing of when they start to explore their gender. Logistically I think it makes sense to discuss the situation differently for trans athletes taking or not taking hormones, but I think that might be too difficult in reality at the HS level.

With regards to the stats, it would have to be done at a state or national level for the reasons you mention. A school might just have 2-3 trans athletes total. We’d have to look at a large enough sample to see how those trans athletes finished relative to their teammates.I still see it as an issue if the trans girl is at the top since the cis girls are also trying to get those top spots. But in the big scheme of things, it’s not really a significant issue that needs a hammer-like solution. So what if a team has a #1 athlete on one team that happens to be a trans girl.

From the many discussions we’ve had on this topic, I’m not sure this conclusion can be reached. “A trans woman is a woman”, but what “woman” means is what it means to her, not to you or to society. There are many examples of sincere trans women who are nonetheless very large and muscular. There was a pro wrestler who came out as a trans woman. Recently there was a Navy Seal who came out as a trans woman and stayed in the unit. I would have to guess that she will maintain the same level of physical fitness as before she came out. There was recently a story about a trans girl winning prom queen after she came out, but she played competitive football as a boy for 5 years before that. I think in general it will be true that trans girls will be more likely to conform to female norms, but some will not necessarily be like that.

Just to be clear, I don’t think this means that trans girls should be precluded from girls sports. I see it as a problem, but a relatively small problem in the big picture. But I don’t feel like the inherent athletic ability of XY genetics just goes away when someone is a trans girl

OK, then what is the problem? Not “what might someday be a problem” or “what could theoretically be a problem”, what is currently the problem?

Because I don’t see any problem right now. There was one article about a transgirl in Connecticut who did well in races (but lost, ultimately), and another article about a Texas transboy who was forced to compete with the girls (the opposite problem that you’re worried about) and that’s really it.

@Summerday, feel free to respond as well, because you also apparently think there’s a problem right now.

To me, as the parent of competitive daughters, the problem I see is that cisgirls are trying to compete for the top spots, the availability of which get greatly reduced by trans girl athletes. There are certainly valid reasons for having trans girls and cisgirls compete together, but we can’t just say that the competitive desires and goals of cisgirls are worthless and they are just a bunch of complaining transphobes who just need to try harder. The competitive cisgirls try extremely hard to reach the top. They have a harder time being athletic compared to boys. There are fewer athletic opportunities. Their friend group is less likely to play in sport-like games. Cisgirls will have more body image issues trying to merge their athletic body with feminine fashion standards. A cisgirl’s path to becoming a top athlete will be harder than a trans girl who has been competing as a boy for a decade or so. A cisgirl will have a much harder time gaining muscle for strength and losing fat for less weight in order to be at the competitive level. All those things are real problems for cisgirls when they compete against trans girls.

In the big scheme, addressing the mental health of trans girls may be more important than having the cisgirls deal with any issues due to having mismatched competition. But I don’t think that cisgirls concerns should just be dismissed as worthless complaints. They have valid concerns and we should see if there’s a way to address both the needs and desires of trans girls and cisgirls. The needs of trans girls shouldn’t just trump everything.