21 June 2012

Keelin Godsey: Competing As A Woman, Living As A Man?

Keelin Godsey wants to make the US Olympic team in the hammer throw, and compete in the Olympics in London this summer.

Normally, that would not seem like such a remarkable story.  However, Keelin is trying out for the women's team.  But wait:  It's not what you think.  Keelin was born female, and named Kelly, at birth.  He has been living as male but does not plan to take testosteone, or undergo any of the other medical aspects of his transition, until some time after the Olympics.

His dilemma is the exact opposite of what we're used to hearing:  a male-to-female who wants to compete as a woman.  Also, the MTF athletes of whom I'm aware didn't begin competing as females until their surgeries were complete.

So, in essence, Keelin is competing as a female, and once he stops doing that, he is going to live the rest of his life as male.  

There doesn't seem to be quite as much of a fuss over Keelin as there has been over the MTFs I've mentioned.  That may be, in part, because he is not considered a favorite to make the team.  But I think that, even discounting that, his situation isn't deemed as controversial as the MTFs who want to compete as female.  One reason is that because, as a female-to-male who has not begun to take testosterone, he is not perceived as having an advantage over other female contestants.  That perception is probably accurate:  If Keelin has any advantages, they would have to be in superior training or native ability.  

On the other hand, some female athletes--as well as many fans--believe that male-to-female athletes shouldn't be allowed to compete as females, even after they've had SRS/GRS.  Of course, some hold such a belief because of their general perceptions about gender.  However, many more believe, somewhat erroneously, that a MTF athlete has physical advantages over those who were identified as female at birth.  

It is true that on average, males are taller and heavier than females.  While I was average on both counts as a male, I am probably around the 80th percentile in both categories (although I mate be in a somewhat higher percentile in the, ahem, weight category!)for women my age.  But my transition had one very typical effect on me:  I continuously lost strength, muscle mass and physical endurance from the time I started taking estrogen and anti-androgens.  And I know that even if I were to ride and train as much as I did in my hyper-male days, I would not be as strong or fast, or have as much endurance, as I did in those days.

There is medical and other literature to corroborate what I've just said.  The changes I have described happen with remarkable consistency.  So, one doesn't need semantics or any other fancy rhetorical footwork to argue that MTFs have little, if any, advantage over most females in most sports.  Conversely, because the changes FTMs experience are even more dramatic and consistent, it's easy to see that because Keelin hasn't begun to take testosterone, he has no advantage over the other female contestants.

Personally, I hope Keelin makes the time.  His mother says it's been a lifelong ambition of his.  I'm guessing that he has wanted to live as male, if not all of his life, then for a long time.  Lots of people don't even get to live out one dream; I will be happy to see him live out both.