I’m not going to lie, I was really surprised to get so many replies to the poll in my last post – 43 so far! Honestly, I thought there were maybe 3 of you out there. So that was a nice boost. I won’t lie that I felt a bit drained after pouring intimate stuff into my post on mental health so it’s good to know that some people are reading my posts!
The two highest scorers on my poll were posts about my training program, and posts about feminism. I want to tackle the latter, really, as I’d have to figure out the training program thing (maybe I could ask my coach to guest post, as he’s the one who writes them!) It was a bit foolish of me to put that option in the poll, as I never read about training programs or have any opinion about which ones are better than others. I’m far too passive (lazy) & I enjoy having things worked out for me.
So I’m going to tackle the requests for more posts about feminism. I was going to write a general post about how, yes, I’m a feminist (I hope that was always obvious!) and my feminist beliefs, but that seems a bit dry. One important aspect of my feminism is that it will be intersectional or it will be bullshit (to slightly misquote quote Flavia Dzodan), and that means I am trans-inclusive (and sex-worker inclusive, for that matter).
To bring this post more in line with the (intended!) theme of this blog, I have been thinking about sports and trans*people. I think it’s been a lot on my mind recently because of two things – Janae Marie Kroc coming out as genderfluid, and Ronda Rousey’s comments about Fallon Fox (and other things).
To preface this blog: I am keenly aware that I’m writing on a sensitive subject, and therefore I’ve tried to be as correct with my language as possible. However if I’ve got anything wrong or used any terms incorrectly, I’d appreciate & welcome corrections!
I do believe that transwomen are women (and that transmen are men; although it is usually transwomen who are the more talked about). The idea that gender is solely about what is, or isn’t, in your underpants is an outdated view shared by misogynists and second-wave radical feminists alike. But what about transwomen & transmen in sports? I’m not a member of a sports authority, or a scientist, and I agree that this is a difficult issue. There have already been very highly-publicised cases of women who display “male characteristics” causing controvery in sports (I’m thinking of Caster Semenya and the horrible time she had “proving” she is a woman). There are also cases of openly trans people competing in some sports – think Fallon Fox in UFC.
There are arguments that having male characteristics (bone structure, muscle mass etc) is an authomatic advantage in sports like UFC (and powerlifting). It’s well known that men are, on average, stronger than women. The on average caveat is important, though, as pound-for-pound, one of the strongest bench pressers in the world (IPF) is Jennifer Thompson with 140.5kg at 61.4kg bodyweight. Still, a male body is an advantage. That said, there is scientific evidence that post-hormone therapy, trans women lose muscle mass and bone density, and it’s not uncommon for them to have less testosterone than cis women after two years of estrogen therapy. The IOC agrees with this, for both FTM and MTF athletes.
At the risk of being a bit rude to Fallon Fox – if she had a natural advantage over cis woman fighters, she would beat them more often ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
The IOC requires trans athletes to have undergone gender reassignment surgery and had at least two years of hormone therapy before they can compete in their chosen gender. Of course, not all trans* people choose to have gender reassignment and/or hormone therapy, so what then?
As I said before, I’m not a sports authority or a scientist, so I can only state my opinion. I’m also never going to be a placing athlete or a record holder, so my views are tempered by that. But I believe that if I’m going to be true to my feminist beliefs, then of course I would be fine with competing against a trans* athlete at any stage in their transition. There seems to be this right-wing idea that men everywhere will be putting on dresses, “pretending” to be men if this was allowed, but that’s ridiculous (as ridiculous as the right-wing idea that if we let trans* children use their gender-appropriate bathrooms, those bathrooms will be filled with “men in dresses” claiming to be women – that just does not happen).
To bring this post back to the people mentioned above: for those that don’t know Janae Marie Kroc, she is (or was) a very well-known powerlifter and bodybuilder (Kroc Rows were her invention). Last year she came out and prefers the female pronoun, but doesn’t identify as trans and isn’t undergoing any sort of gender reassignment therapy or surgery. I think she is really inspiring – there’s no denying that coming out as anything oher than a red-blooded heterosexual male when you’re a bodybuilding & powerlifting idol must be HARD. Would I compete against Kroc? Well, not in any real-world scenario (because she’s a former world champ and not even in the same weight class as me!) but in a theoretical world, yes. At the moment the IPF doesn’t allow transgender athletes, but if powerlifting gains IOC recognition (as I believe it is trying to do) then it would have to adhere to the IOC’s rules, and Kroc would have to undergo reassignment if she wanted to compete officially. But “off the federation”, I think it would be an honour to just train with her, let alone compete. That said, she does ID as genderfluid, not female, so whether or not she would want to compete in a women’s class isn’t clear.
(I did want to address genderless, non-binary and genderfluid people in this post, but I will save it for another time).
As for Rousey; I know she’s not a powerlifter, but I think she has a lot of fans among people I know. I really wanted to get behind her as a feminist role model, but her transphobic comments about Fallon Fox have really put me off. Plus, I know trash talking your opponents is part of the whole UFC/MMA spectacle, but threatening to beat up Kim Kardashian and denigrating “do nothing bitches”? Not feminist. I know your faves will always be problematic, but it’s OK to let go of a fave if they prove just that bit too problematic; and Rousey is too much for me. Your mileage may vary, of course.
As a postscript to this, I read an interresting article from the Orlando Sentinel today, about the case of a body found 27 years ago which was initially assumed to be a woman who had given birth to “several” children. The article is here but it’s paywalled, so the pertinent bits of text can be read on this Tweet (hat tip to Zoe for pointing the info out). If the body of a trans woman can be mistaken for that of a cis woman who has given birth several times, does that not indicate that hormone therapy does indeed affect bone structure and muscle mass? It makes you think.