Anyone who knows my writing knows that I am not a huge fan of CrossFit. Discrepancies among coach skill levels and the fact that CrossFit is (in my opinion) an extreme sport lead me to believe that there are better (and safer) options for the beginning fitness enthusiast simply looking to get in shape.
That being said, there is nothing wrong with a physical competition like the CrossFit Games, even if it has inherent risks. I myself have been involved in 2 bodybuilding contests that were anything but safe.
Low calories and extreme workouts were the norm in preparation for these contests. So the idea behind the CrossFit Games is perfectly valid and admirable in my opinion. The competitors know the risks when they sign up and they take their chances.
What isn’t fine by me is the fact that society’s desire for transgender equality (as noble as it may be in everyday life) is leaching into competitive sports. Case in point one Chloie Jonsson, a transgender female athlete who was recently denied admittance to compete in the female division of the CrossFit Games.
Chloie has since filed a 2.5 million dollar lawsuit against CrossFit for violating her civil rights.
CrossFit allegedly sent a letter to Jonnson explaining their decision. Here is an excerpt from that letter:
“Our decision has nothing to do with ‘ignorance’ or being bigots — it has to do with a very real understanding of the human genome, of fundamental biology, that you are either intentionally ignoring or missed in high school.”
If that is truly the way they explained the situation to her, then shame on them for being pompous douchebags. I think the explanation should be a bit more scientific, and without sounding self-serving; more along the lines of the rest of this blog…
Facts, facts, it’s all about the facts…
“Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.” –John Adams
Let’s face the facts here – even before the onset of puberty males have been found in various studies to be superior to females in athletic activities .
And those advantages are before puberty, after puberty males dominance increases in almost every area of athletics. For example, men have a 30% greater lung capacity (on average) than women .
Women’s hearts are smaller than those of men of the same stature; on average a female’s heart is 25% smaller than a male’s heart. Thus, men also have a higher stroke volume (more blood is pumped per beat) and lower heart rate than women – meaning women generally tend to fatigue quicker than men.
Men have wider shoulders, greater bone density, a higher red blood cell count, and a more efficient gait (narrower hips) that increases athletic performance and decreases chance of injury.
Then there is the study from Thomas and French that shows that overarm throwing is decidedly better in men than in women . This could have huge implications in sports like Mixed Martial Arts and CrossFit where shoulder motion is of great asset.
Males have also been shown to have greater reflexes and broad motor skills than females in virtually all studies; one of the latest (2010) used both audio and visual stimuli with male and female athletes and showed a decided advantage for males . Men also carry 40% more muscle in the upper body and 33% more in the lower body than their female counterparts.
Granted, when a man begins to physically (and hormonally) transition to a female, she will lose a few of these advantages…but not all of them. Higher red blood cell count may go down due to less testosterone, muscle mass will diminish a bit, bone density might start to decline, and the brain may even change a little due to shifting hormones.
But to think that the athlete loses all signs of the male physiological advantage is absurd. The transgender athlete will most certainly keep the wide shoulders, extra lung capacity, bigger heart, more efficient gait, and resistance to injury.
Chances are that her reflexes will keep some of their adaptive male edge as well, and that she will keep the extra endurance from the bigger stroke volume of the male heart she developed during puberty.
Let’s be Objective…
Now, lets’ say for the sake of argument that only one of these scientifically based advantages remained after the sex change and hormone therapy. Only one. Then I would ask you – isn’t one one too many? Is this not supposed to be a fair contest – or at least as fair as the governing bodies can make it?
If you can ignore the amount of science presented in this article in favor of “equality” then I feel you are blinded to the truth by passion. Most certainly in many cases transgendered people are mistreated by prejudice people who do not agree with what they are doing. I am not one of those people. The only bias I am expressing is a bias towards fairness and equality.
I think transgendered people have every right to the pursuit of their own individual happiness – and if that happiness is best obtained by changing their sex then so be it.
But when a person who spent their teenage years with male hormones flowing through their veins (Chloie was a male until age 26) wants to compete on a level playing field with women who have not had that physical advantage – that crosses the line.
Speaking of Lines
Let’s not blur the line between equality and physiology; because if we do we end up mistreating and wronging another section of people – women athletes. Women have their own strengths and advantages, but in athletics the male athlete has an unmistakable edge.
In my opinion Crossfit is right on this one. Chloie has every right to live her life as the woman she was born to be – but that doesn’t make her athletic advantages null and void. Bravo Crossfit – not for being bigots (I don’t think you were), and certainly not for the lack of politeness in your explanation to Chloie, but for standing up for what is fair and just for female athletes the world over.
Please comment below and let me know your opinions!
Blanksby, B. A., Bloomfield, J., Elliott, B. C., Ackland, T. R., & Morton, A. R. (1986). The anatomical and physiological characteristics of pre-adolescent males and females. Australian Pediatric Journal, 22, 177-180.
Thomas, J. R., & French, K. E. (1985). Gender differences across age in motor performance: A meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 98, 260–282.
Ganong, William. “Fig. 34-7”. Review of Medical Physiology (21st ed.).
Spierer, D. K., R. A. Petersen, K. Duffy, B. M. Corcoran and T. Rawls-Martin. 2010. Gender influence on response time to sensory stimuli. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 24(4) (20: 957-964.