In the midst of prejudice, transsexual athletes struggle for space in sport

Transsexuality is still a controversial subject in society, and sport is no different.  Even with many homosexual athletes speaking openly about their orientation, transsexuals still view prejudice as a major obstacle in the search for a place.

If the subject is still very little discussed today, until 2003 it was impossible to compete.  It was in that year that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) first addressed the theme to allow trans people to compete in the Olympic Games.

What seemed like a breakthrough was actually still restrictive.  The athletes were required to undergo hormone replacement therapy, legal recognition of the new gender, and mandatory genital reconstructive surgery.

Over time, the theme was rediscuted by the IOC.  For the Rio 2016 Games, a new report was released to ensure that trans athletes were not excluded from sports competitions.

Disadvantages for trans women in sports

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Providence Portland Medical Center chief physician Joanna Harper told the Vice site that trans women are outnumbered in sports.  “Men run, on average, about 12 percent faster than women over long distances,” she said.

Another disadvantage is that trans females are likely to be taller than cis females, being impaired mainly in gymnastics and bodybuilding, in which height is not an advantage.

An example to be cited is that of MMA fighter Fallon Fox, who in 2013 was allowed to compete.  She stated that she feels physically disadvantaged when fighting women.

Before the surgery, held in 2006, Fallon began a hormone replacement therapy, which continues to this day.  If it is stopped, Fallon can develop osteoporosis, since his testosterone levels are lower than that of his adversaries.

Women considered men by science

Many athletes have already discovered that science did not see them as women.  An example is the Spanish runner Maria Patiño, who spent her entire life as a woman and only on the eve of the selective for the Olympic Games in Seoul-88, discovered in a genetic test that had the pair of chromosomes XY, male character.

Carrier of the androgenic insensitivity syndrome, Maria Patiño’s body produced male hormone, testosterone, but its cells did not respond to it.  Even so, he was considered a man by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), which prevented him from competing to participate in the Olympics.

Another example is the case of the Brazilian judoka Edinanci Silva, she had to operate hastily before the Atlanta Olympics in 1996 to meet the IOC criteria for being considered a woman.

Difference between intersexuals and transsexuals

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Basically what differs from terms is that in transsexuality there is discontent with the body – which arouses the desire for surgery – and in intersexuality the person is born with body characteristics not expected for their sex.  One of the most common cases is that of the South African runner, a gold medalist in the 800m in Rio 2016.

The International Association of Athletic Federations (IAAF) has required the broker to undergo tests to confirm her intersexuality, which designates the variety of interactions of the human sex that does not fit the definition of male or female.  The tests revealed that Semenya had no uterus and produced high levels of testosterone.

In some cases, intersex people have external genitalia, others do not.  Only with tests can you prove if there is any internal difference, such as chromosomes or sex organs.  In the case of Semenya, the testicles did not descend.  She needs to be medicated to regulate her hormone levels and to be able to compete.

Prejudice, an obstacle difficult to overcome

Fear and insecurity are still very much present in the lives of transsexuals, in addition to the lack of visibility of the media and the routine prejudice, whether of fans or even of other athletes.

In Brazil, the country where travestis is most killed on the planet, participation in competitions is minimal.  Expanding the debate on this issue is still not enough, but it is the first step.

Gina Bradwell
Gina Bradwell is a bodybuilder, personal trainer, freelance writer, strength coach and author of “Overweight to competitive bodybuilder.” She has written thousands of articles on anabolic chemistry, dieting and health.

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