By David Gerrard
I am a "cis-man," meaning my gender aligns with the sex allocated me at birth. Should I wish to become a woman I would be "reclassified" as transgender. However, despite transition, I would remain a biological male. In general life, the personal and social consequences of these choices deserve respectful, sensitive debate.
But let's shift focus to sport where discussions concerning female transgender athletes are clouded by emotive comment, and clamour for inclusivity. To be clear, no single rule fits all transgender females. The game breaker, for reasons soon apparent, is whether transition occurs before or after the onset of male puberty.
Most male differences are linked to puberty, when, under the influence of the sex hormone testosterone, boys demonstrate growth, strength and other distinguishing characteristics. Normal testosterone levels become almost 10 times higher in males than females. Little surprise that the basis of separate male and female sporting events is this fundamental sex difference. Studies conclusively prove advantages for male athletes of up to 20%, and to as high as 50% in strength and power events.
In 2015, the International Olympic Committee welcomed transgender women in accordance with "gender identity," imposing a criterion for testosterone, less than 10 nmol/L during the prior 12 months. However, they conveniently overlooked two factors. First, the approved testosterone level remains five times higher than for a normal female. Second, there are clear benefits from post-pubertal, testosterone-driven development in transgender females. This flawed thinking has spawned vigorous international debate, pitting arguments for inclusivity against fairness.
I am not alone in my advocacy for biological females, irrespective of their gender identity. They deserve protection from biological males, particularly transgender female athletes who remain beneficiaries of male puberty and openly compete under the thin veneer of "femininity".
The mana of Dame Yvette Williams, Barbara Kendall, Sarah Ulmer, Georgina Earl, Caroline Meyer, Dame Valerie Adams, Lisa Carrington, Jo Aleh and Polly Powrie contributes to our proud Olympic legacy.
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Let's respect their kaupapa, and the dreams of thousands of other cis-female athletes… this is all about fairness.
David Gerrard is a sports medicine professor who was New Zealand team doctor at the 1984 and 1988 Olympic Games and Chef de Mission at the 1994 Commonwealth Games and 1996 Olympics. Gerrard was an Emeritus Professor at the University of Otago Dunedin School of Medicine and is going to the Tokyo Olympics as part of the medical team for international swimming body Fina.