07 March 2014

Fit To Compete As A Woman

In 1976, male-to-female transsexual Renee Richards was denied entry into the US Open.  The United States Tennis Association based its ban on a "women-born-women" policy of which, it seemed, no one was aware until the USTA cited it.  She won a suit against the USTA and competed for several years, rising to as high as #20 in women's tennis rankings.

The controversy over whether MTFs should be allowed to compete as women has continued through the ensuing decades and over different sports ranging from golf to mountain bike racing.  Now the battle has reached fitness competitions.

Yesterday, personal trainer Chloie Jonnson-- who has lived as a woman since she was a teenager, had gender reassignment surgery in 2006 and has been taking female hormones--filed a discrimination suit against the Cross Fit company in Santa Cruz, California. She sought--and was denied--the right to compete in last year's Cross Fit Games, which determine the fittest man and woman. 

The suit alleges that one of Jonnson's teammates asked about the eligibility of transgender competitors in an anonymous e-mail to the game's organizers. (Anonymous e-mail.  Hmm...Sounds familiar.)  In response, the Game's organizers determined that athletes have to compete in the gender to which they were assigned at birth.

None of the news accounts I've seen mention any previously-written policy on the matter.  Some things don't change in four decades, I guess--namely, the level of knowledge about transgenders possessed by organizers of some athletic events. According to every scientist and doctor familiar with transgender patients and issues, someone who was born a male and takes hormones for several years has no advantage in strength or endurance over female athletes.  Even the International Olympic Committee, not exactly known for its progressivism, allows transgender athletes to compete in the gender by which they identify as long as they've had sex-reassignment surgery.

One thing that makes Jonnson's case particularly interesting and disturbing is that Cross Fit is based in California, which has some of the strictest laws barring discrimination based on gender identity.  I'm not a lawyer, but I would guess that fact alone should compel Cross Fit to allow Jonnson to compete. Or so I hope.

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