Equality for Transgender Athletes


Courtesy of Ted Eytan

Transgender athletes in sports has become a much talked about controversy after transgender Penn swimmer Lia Thomas won a NCAA Division I national championship in women’s freestyle.

Issues involvingThere have always been issues with discrimination against the transsex community have long been present in society, especially in athletics. On April 6, 2023, The United States Education Department (USED) publicly announced a change to Title IX. The change prohibits sex-based discrimination in federally funded education programs. This makes it so that make it is illegal for schools to ban transsex students from participating on sports teams. Instead of acknowledging the student’s sex at birth, the schools will look at the sex that the student identifies themself as currently. Also, the addition allows any school in the U.S. to prohibit transsex athletes to be able to compete with sports teams that match their current sex and not with the sex given at birth, but only if there is a question about the equality of athletics. The new addition to Title IX adds that schools are not allowed to put blanket bans in place to keep all transsex athletes from competing.

The new changes to Title IX are different out of the education system. In higher competition levels around the world, the transsex community is still unwelcome. The World Athletics says that to be able to compete as a woman an athlete with a different sex assigned at birth has to have testosterone levels below 2.5 nanomoles per liter for at least 24 months before any international competition. The average testosterone level for a male is from 10 to 35 nanomoles per liter. World Athletics believes that the regulations are made to create “integrity of female competition” and fairness.

The president of the organization, Sebastian Coe believes that Trans women would not be welcome in sports. “We will be guided on this by science around physical performance and male advantage which will inevitably develop over the coming years,” Coe says in an article by Science.

A group of students is studying transsex athletes at Loughborough University. One is a part of the transsex community, Joanna Harper. She has studied transgender athletes for several years, and she is the first author of four peer-reviewed papers on the subject and has earned previous undergraduate and master’s degrees in physics and medical physics respectively. “The idea that it was necessary to ban trans women to protect the female category seems so far-fetched,” Harper said.

Lia Tomas, an openly trans woman who participates in high-level swimming has been receiving lots of hateful comments. These comments are mostly coming from largely known athletes, politicians, activists, her competitors, and even some of her teammates’ parents. These comments are about Tomas competing in the women’s division and even hate towards her sex. Tomas has been on hormone therapy since 2019 which changes many biological aspects of her mentality and body including reducing muscle mass, making her have very similar abilities to her competitors.

The research about the general topic of the transgender community did start recently and it is such a large topic that is very complex in many ways so there is still a lot for researchers to study.