Why compare boys to women, and not trans women to women?
For those who support males competing with females there are two basic lines of thought when it comes to determining whether a person has transitioned for the purpose of athletics:
- "Trans women are women, period." (Identity is the only factor)
- "Trans women are women only if their testosterone levels are below a specific amount." (Identity & testosterone are factors)
The second definition is seen by some as discriminatory since it can deny a person's expressed identity based on biological factors. Because of this, some governing bodies are updating their policies to remove any qualifiers other than self identification. For example, public schools in 18 US States have no testosterone requirements for males who wish to compete against females. The Equality Act, which is supported by the majority of Representatives in the US House, would extend that policy to public schools in all 50 states. In Canada, some schools have adopted policies based on identity alone, and a Canadian governing body that oversees Olympic athletes allows males to compete against females without testosterone level requirements* (however, when competing in Olympic events, the IOC's policy is abided by).
Because of policies based on "Trans women are women, period", males are competing against females without testosterone blockers, or other efforts to level the playing field. This makes direct comparisons of male to female athletic performances perfectly relevant to the topic of transgender athletic policy.
How is this relevant to policies like the IOC's?
The IOC's policy follows the second line of thought and requires that males have low levels of testosterone in order to compete against females. To my knowledge, none of the boys below had low levels of testosterone. If they did, they would almost certainly have not performed as well. Because of this, the statistics are not an apples to apples comparison to what competition between males with low testosterone and females would look like.
However, the statistics demonstrate that the differences between the sexes are not trivial, so any attempt to create a level playing field between males and females must account for all differences between the sexes or risk allowing for unfair advantages.
Policies like the IOC's effectively work on the over simplification that "male - testosterone = female". However, testosterone levels alone do not account for all sex differences that affect athletic performance. If it is important to have a policy to regulate the male/female testosterone imbalance, why are there not policies that regulate other distinctions, for example the male advantage of height? (For more, this Washington Post infographic details many of the biological differences that affect athletic performance.)
If all of the performance related sex distinctions cannot be accounted for, should males be allowed to compete with females, even though there is no guarantee of a level playing field?
This site serves as a reminder that even the fastest and strongest women in the world may not be competitive at a boys high school finals event. Allowing males in any capacity to compete against females will lead to the erosion of the level playing field.
*Skate Canada allows male figure skaters to compete as females based on identity alone. In male competitions, the Quad is a staple; however, only one female has ever performed a quad in competition.