Debate: Do Transgender Athletes Threaten Women's Sports? | Opinion

As transgender rights advocacy gains steam within the Democratic Party—and within the global Left, at large—many are increasingly debating how to reconcile this cultural ascendancy with the post-Title IX national flourishing of "women's sports" as a distinct and crucial sub-genre of our national sporting landscape. Lawsuits, for example, abound. To wit: Should those who have transitioned their gender from male to female be able to athletically compete with biological women, or should they be required to compete against the biological men with whom their chromosomal structure matches? What risks, if any, does wider acceptance within women's sports of those who have made a male-to-female sex-reassignment transition pose for the integrity of women's sports as distinct athletic institutions?

Writers Abigail Shrier and Juliet Jacques debate these very questions in our latest Newsweek "Debate of the Week." We hope you enjoy the exchange.

Josh Hammer is Newsweek opinion editor, a syndicated columnist, a research fellow at the Edmund Burke Foundation and of counsel at First Liberty Institute.

The Transgender Threat to Women's Sports

Whether to allow biological men into women's sports may be the silliest debate of our time. Fairness falls so completely to one side; outcomes are obvious and predetermined. If this were not 2020—if Americans were not terrified to acknowledge the plain truths in front of them—this discussion would be confined to its more natural domain: high school auditoriums, where boys and girls in glasses and blazers can earn high marks for casuistry.

There is hardly a woman alive who has not, in her teen years, challenged a boy her age to some competition she easily dominated when they were young, only to discover that in the footrace, the arm-wrestling match and the attempt to move a heavy box, the young man now has the better of her. She may be far more athletic, in much better shape, but that turns out not to matter when pitted against young men in contests of pure strength and speed.

Transgender Athletes Do Not Threaten Women's Sports

As a transsexual woman and fervent soccer player (and fan), the idea that someone would transition just to succeed in women's sports because they couldn't do so in men's sports is absurd. It does female athletes a massive disservice, assuming the inherent inferiority of any cis woman to any trans woman or cis man. And it pays no attention to the fact that transitioning is long, physically and psychologically grueling. Gender dysphoria may not have any indisputable or immutable criteria, but no one begins reassignment on a whim—in fact, gender identity clinics rigorously screen against this.

I kept playing soccer after transition, but once I reached the point of two years after surgery, aged 32, having had HRT to put my testosterone and estrogen levels within a "normal female range," I decided to carry on with a men's team (admittedly in an LGBT+ league), preferring that discord to the inevitable attention and abuse that would come with playing for a women's club. When I did play, casually, with cis women, I found my advantages were not hormonal—I was less quick and less strong than many of my new teammates—but cultural. Having been raised male, I'd had far more coaching, having not been discouraged or excluded from soccer at a young age like some of them. Consequently, I had advantages in its less physical and more teachable aspects: passing, moving off the ball and shooting.

2020 French Open women's doubles champions
2020 French Open women's doubles champions ANNE-CHRISTINE POUJOULAT/AFP via Getty Images