The Impact of Trans Runners on Women’s Running

Originally posted on Salty Running

Do we non-transgendered people have a right to care about Bruce Jenner’s transition to Caitlyn Jenner? While I am happy that because of Caitlyn more transgender people feel empowered and perhaps less afraid to be themselves, I do wonder what transgender-acceptance means for the world of competitive sports.

I distinctly remember what happened to Caster Semenyawho won some gold medals in the women’s 800 meters at the World Athletics Championships in 2009 but was forced to undergo genetic testing to determine whether or not she was a man because of her masculine appearance. She was eventually cleared to run as a woman.  I know this is different from being transgender, but the outrage was horrendous.  Can we expect the same treatment to transgender individuals?

Personally I don’t feel the need to know the gender of the people I race with.  I focus on my race and my pace. But do most people think that way? I don’t want any of us to have to have to prove we are who we say we are.

So is it fair for transgender women to race against ciswomen? Do those who once had the advantage over women by being born male have a competitive advantage after making their transition? Or will there be an ‘other’ category like there is when we are asked to identify our race? Will we all have to prove our gender if we are fortunate to winPRIZE money or place in the top of any race, or will our appearance be enough? Or will gender tests be given to the elite runners alongside drug tests? What exactly what would those tests prove? How would they be administered? Would athletes take them (consider the uproar caused by Dr. Renee Richards when she refused to take a chromosome test at the U.S. Open)?   At what point during her transition would a transgendered woman be on an equal playing field with her ciswomen counterparts?

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