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The Trans Issue - FINA to rule on transgender participation


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At the risk of opening up a can of worms, or rather perhaps to stimulate one, what are people’s views on the transgender issue in sports? Sparked by this:

Revealed: Swimming’s secret plan for historic transgender ruling

Apologies if it’s paywalled for you, but in a nutshell it’s saying that FINA is set to rule during the current world championship to tighten up regulations on transgender participation in elite events - ie, not to recognise m2f trans swimmers in womens’ events.

Now, I know this is a fraught issue. It was used as a wedge issue during Oz’s recent federal election and I know it’s also a culture war issue elsewhere (esp the US). But I wonder what members’ views are on it?

Personally, let me start by affirming that I do support social equality for trans people. It’s fair enough that trans people are afforded legal and social recognition of their gender identities. But I don’t believe it’s so straightforward when it comes to pure, I suppose I’d have to describe it as, biomechanical equality. It’s not like an f2m trans can physically father a child or an m2f can gestate one.

When it comes to elite sports competitions, we generally expect that al competitors should be competing on an equal playing field. We don’t accept performance enhancers like doping, for example. When it comes to trans competitors (and let’s be blunt, it’s basically mainly an issue with m2f athletes) I do believe that biomechanics offers them an advantage over biologically female born athletes. And just as I don’t believe para-athletes like Oscar Pistorius should have been allowed to compete against able-bodied athletes at the Olympics (his “blade runner” prosthetics were too much of a blurred line between offering advantage), I also think m2f trans athletes can hold an unfair advantage in elite competition for record marks or medals in an Olympics or world championship.

Feel free to refute me if you feel otherwise - I’m prepared to be open-minded and change my views if you can convince me. I don’t want t be a JK Rowling.  But I just think this is a case where trying to be fair and politically correct can have some negative impacts.

 

Edited by Sir Rols
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Its a complicated matter. 

I believe that transmen are men and transwomen are women. I recognise that trans people face every day systematic discrimination.

However there are legitimate issues around physical fairness which does need to be addressed. Its good that FINA and other peak sporting groups are leading this - exactly where these conversations should take place in a sensitive and pragmatic manner. (And far, far away from the self interested shrieks of politicians).

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10 minutes ago, Australian Kiwi said:

Its a complicated matter. 

I believe that transmen are men and transwomen are women. I recognise that trans people face every day systematic discrimination.

However there are legitimate issues around physical fairness which does need to be addressed. Its good that FINA and other peak sporting groups are leading this - exactly where these conversations should take place in a sensitive and pragmatic manner. (And far, far away from the self interested shrieks of politicians).

Thank you. Yes, that’s a far more succinct summary of what I believe than what I struggled to state.

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8 hours ago, Sir Rols said:

Now, I know this is a fraught issue. It was used as a wedge issue during Oz’s recent federal election and I know it’s also a culture war issue elsewhere (esp the US).

Well, it's blown up here now with cyclist Emily Bridges and I'm embarrassed this has become a culture war issue for Boris Johnson with radio hosts now frequently asking Labour MPs gotcha questions on how they define a woman. I don't think it's a thing that should be thrown around as a political football given the people caught in the middle.

That said, sport is a special case. There seems more than enough evidence that people who have gone through male puberty have significant retained advantage even after lowering testosterone. But even within sport there's a spectrum, of course. At one end we have sports where it's not going to make a difference, snooker as an obvious (and slightly silly) example (but you get the point). At the other end we have sports where it's a clear safety issue having someone with a man's build participating against women e.g. rugby union. Easy decisions in both cases. In most other sports it's trickier and the issue is fairness vs inclusion, but I'm increasingly of the opinion than having a women's category and an 'open' category is the best (or least worst) way forward...for both women and trans women athletes.

I just want to post this, written by British cyclist Katie Archibald because it's such a thoughtful intervention from someone who's worried about this from a competitive point of view...

 

Edited by Rob.
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No, but seriously;

It is near universal practice that a minor (under 18) does not undergo any permanent transition. Because gender dysmorphia is a thing, despite what some trans activists say. Not a square that you can easily circle.

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From what I’ve seen of it, looks like a reasonable compromise to me. And, yes, it needed to be a compromise, which of course is never going to please the hardliners on either side.

Btw Baron, your link seems to be a tad random.

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1 hour ago, Faster said:

The Canadian media response is already negative. Unethical/unscientific/violation of human rights. 

What human rights does it violate?

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2 hours ago, Sir Rols said:

From what I’ve seen of it, looks like a reasonable compromise to me. And, yes, it needed to be a compromise, which of course is never going to please the hardliners on either side.

Btw Baron, your link seems to be a tad random.

Corrected.  Thanks, Sir Rols.  Multi-tasking as always. 

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3 hours ago, TorchbearerSydney said:

A good, nuanced solution to a diabolically hard ethical question.

I would say not "hard" but rather "insoluble". 

There is no fair solution to this conundrum, and whatever sporting authorities decide to do will be unfair, unjust and inhumane to somebody.

Because I am a consequentialist I think the decision should be made on the basis of the greatest good and the least harm. Deontologists will insist on strict rules or rights. Virtue ethicists will choose a cause (or a side in a social war). And all of us will be wrong and nobody will be right.

Edited by Nacre
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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, Nacre said:

I would say not "hard" but rather "insoluble". 

There is no fair solution to this conundrum, and whatever sporting authorities decide to do will be unfair, unjust and inhumane to somebody.

Because I am a consequentialist I think the decision should be made on the basis of the greatest good and the least harm. Deontologists will insist on strict rules or rights. Virtue ethicists will choose a cause (or a side in a social war). And all of us will be wrong and nobody will be right.

Thank you for that. I’ve never formally studied philosophy or ethics, so that was a welcome explanation.

I was first prompted to post this thread after, while having breakfast in a cafe, I noticed a front page headline on the impending decision in one of the morning newspapers (it was actually one of the more notorious Murdoch broadsheets, which had led the wolf-whistling on the issue during our recent election campaign, and which I’m these days embarrassed to say I actually worked on over the years). It really got me pondering the issue, and actually got me quite perplexed. My natural inclination, informed by my experiences as a gay man, is to always support diversity and inclusion, yet I couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that do do so in this case had pretty negative consequences in the sporting level playing field. Hence, why I came here to hopefully get a bit of guidance, maybe a bit of reassurance that I wasn’t the arsehole in feeling as I did, and to canvas some opinions. I was a bit worried that it could blow up into a sh!t fight, but it’s nice to see my feelings confirmed that while we might be at each others’ throats at times on minor points of Olympics difference, we are usually pretty cool, calmed and reasonable on major ethical debates.   

I think, as others have said, FINA were on a hiding to nothing whatever they chose to do. It’s to their credit they made a ruling at all, rather than just ignore it as a problem for the too hard basket. I guess I feel FINA’s chief, overriding role is organise and oversee fair and free aquatics spots and competitions and that’s what they’ve done here - made a decision for the fairest eligibility for competitive events for the interests of the greatest numbers (consequentialist?, I gather). And yes, maybe that isn’t fair on trans aquatic athletes, but at least the are being acknowledged and being offered an open category to compete in as well. Is it perfect? Of course not, but it’s a fair basis, IMO, on which to go forward and perhaps work to improve upon in future.    

Edited by Sir Rols
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6 hours ago, Sir Rols said:

made a decision for the fairest eligibility for competitive events for the interests of the greatest numbers (consequentialist?, I gather).

I think what you're describing is more Utilitarianism. Consequentialism is the belief that you do things based on the desired outcomes (which may or may not be utilitarian), not based on whether the actions themselves are correct (which, if my understanding is right, would be the Kantian position).

Your very own Peter Singer is a consequentialist.

I don't know how I'd describe this decision philosophically. I don't know enough beyond the basics of the subject. You could argue it's utilitarian because there are far more women in the world than trans people, but I think there's more to it than just a numbers game (which can look like tyranny of the majority). It's more about fairness.

What it undoubtedly is is a clash of rights and I agree with Nacre that it's insoluble in many ways. Maybe we don't need to overanlyse this. The videos of Lia Thomas miles ahead of the rest of the field are hard to justify however you slice it.

Edited by Rob.
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Beyond this decision, and assuming this is the way forward for most sports, what do people think of this idea of a third category? Is that workable, are there enough athletes for it to work at elite level in particular? Or would widening the men's category - in as inclusive and welcoming manner as possible - be more realistic?

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11 hours ago, Rob. said:

I think what you're describing is more Utilitarianism. Consequentialism is the belief that you do things based on the desired outcomes (which may or may not be utilitarian), not based on whether the actions themselves are correct (which, if my understanding is right, would be the Kantian position).

Utilitarianism is one form of consequentialism. Peter Singer is a utilitarian, for example. 

11 hours ago, Rob. said:

I don't know how I'd describe this decision philosophically. I don't know enough beyond the basics of the subject. You could argue it's utilitarian because there are far more women in the world than trans people, but I think there's more to it than just a numbers game (which can look like tyranny of the majority). It's more about fairness.

Yes. Murdering one person for the sake of giving a cookie to 1,000 people isn't worth it as the harm to that one person far outweighs the benefits to the thousand who would get a cookie.

My opinion on this topic:

I think the thing that non-trans people need to remember is that this really isn't just about sport for the trans community. It's about denying their very identity or existence. That's why the stakes seem so high to them, and why they don't care if they destroy womens sport. For them sporting exclusion is just another form of the many other forms of exclusion they have to deal with. Thus, this is a fight for their very right to exist as trans people and if a few female athletes miss out on gold medals then tough. 

To a neutral party, though, sporting exclusion is NOT the same as the other forms of social exclusion because of the real harm on another class of people: biologically female athletes. Allowing trans women into the workplace or the bathrooms of their choice doesn't really hurt anyone else. But allowing trans women to compete against biological women does. So it's not the same as the broader campaign to accept trans people.

EDIT: To clarify I am not a trans-person and don't claim to speak for them. Saying that they "don't care if they destroy womens sport" may not be accurate or fair.

Edited by Nacre
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BTW, is Caitlyn Jenner a real woman?  It's never been clear to me but did she really have that appendage cut off and--not just taking the hormones, etc., but keep the little guy in case things didn't work out and s/he could quickly return to his/her/their natural state --  therefore, truly and physically an ex-male? 

And if so, do they keep them in formaldehyde jars on the mantlepiece??  :blink:  Or is there a "recipient" waiting list?

(Just checked www.olympic. org.  He's still William Bruce there.  No mention of him transitioning.  Hmmmm.) 

What will Figure Skating do?? :blink:

Edited by baron-pierreIV
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All sport is exclusionary based on biology. It is why you see the same body types consistently in any given sport. You aren't going to see a guy built for rugby winning the 400m freestyle. No matter how hard you try, if you do not have the natural endurance and biology you are not going to be an elite distance/endurance athlete. 

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10 hours ago, baron-pierreIV said:

What will Figure Skating do?? :blink:

Eteri Tutberidze has announced she’s found the new Valieva…

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Meanwhile, Putin’s about to announce his support for trans rights. The Russian swimming federation is scouting boys orphanages nationwide to assemble their 2028-32 women’s swim team as we speak

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Bad argument which is trotted out every time there's a discussion of trans inclusion in women's sports. It's bad because sports aren't segregated based on these other attributes but they are segregated based on sex. These exact same arguments could be used to argue for the abolition sex segregation in sports which I don't think anyone wants.

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