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March 31, 2022

The Real Issue with Transgender Athletes: The Separation of Men & Women in Sports.

 

Is it fair for a woman to compete against men in sports? And how about the other way around?

Most of us probably think that men and women should not compete against each other. It’s our conditioning. But what if I told you that this is just another example of Patriarchy at play?

Please hear me out.

There have been a lot of controversial arguments about transgender athletes lately. Some states decided to ban transgender athletes from school sports. And it’s always based on the same argument.

Conservatives usually use examples of transgender women being physically stronger than other women—but they are missing the actual point. It’s much deeper than that, in my opinion.

A friend of mine recently shared a long thread on Twitter that blew my mind. Here it is:

 

As we can see, there is much more to this debate. It’s about our assumptions about gender. I was also raised with the belief that men are just stronger than women. But today, I am not so sure about that.

What if the separation of men and women in sports is the actual problem in this debate? What would happen if kids were not separated by gender in sports?

Actually, there are examples of that. In Germany, it’s not unusual to have mixed teams up to a certain age. Girls and boys play soccer together at a young age (often to get a team together in rural areas).

Unfortunately, we live in a society that makes fun of little boys losing against little girls in sports. At the same time, boys are intimated to use all their force when competing with girls. Therefore, we think it makes sense to separate them. But I think that’s a mistake.

How about teaching boys that there is no shame in losing against a girl in sports? Wouldn’t that be an awesome starting point to introduce equality at a young age? Wouldn’t that empower young women to not belittle themselves?

I believe that gender is not a determining factor in sports. But what is an important factor? It’s our size and weight.

I am a short dude. I weigh less than 150 pounds (less than 70kg). If I compete against a woman of my size, I don’t see why she wouldn’t be able to beat me. If I compete against a woman who weighs 200 pounds in martial arts, there is a good chance that I will get knocked out.

Let’s look at the best female basketball player of our time Brittney Griner (who is still in a Russian jail these days). According to Wikipedia, she is “Standing 6 ft 9 in (206 cm) tall, Griner wears a men’s US size 17 shoe and has an arm span of 87.5 in (222 cm).”

I think she could easily compete with men. On the other hand, my chances of becoming a good basketball player are not so big. But what happens if we go surfing or snowboarding? It’s not an advantage to be extremely tall in these sports. Griner would have a hard time winning a competition against a short dude like me.

Long story short, I think it’s time to rethink our ideas of gender in sports.

How about shifting from gender to size?

When we separate by size instead of gender, it doesn’t make any difference if someone identifies as a woman or a man. The idea that gender matters when competing in sports is deeply rooted in our subconsciousness—but it could still be wrong.

And, of course, we can’t make these changes overnight. Changing our mindset on this issue is a long process.

Let me give you another example.

There used to be a huge gap between men and women in snowboarding. But this gap almost disappeared within the last five years. Why is that?

From my experience, 20 years ago, there were far more boys competing, and any girl who was talented had no competition.

Some girls would win every competition because there were no other girls. What sounds great first is actually the worst thing for any athlete because there is no motivation to get better.

But then things started to change. More and more women started to compete—and the level of women’s snowboarding went through the roof.

Maybe we just have to give women the chance to compete against men? Maybe if we practice together, the outcomes will be similar?

I know that many people will heavily disagree with what I just wrote. But I think this is worth having a conversation about.

Yesterday was a historic day for women’s soccer. The FC Barcelona played against Real Madrid in front of 91.000 fans—and we are talking about the women’s teams.

 

As long as we are not able to overcome the separation of men and women in sports, let’s at least try to inch toward that goal.

And if we do that, we don’t need to have silly arguments that hurt the feelings of transgender athletes.

What do you think?

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