by Robyn Banks
Caitlyn Jenner’s controversial coming out made headlines this month, and attracted hate and support in equal measure. While transphobia is always difficult to accept, the worst kind of bigotry has to be from those who veil it behind half-arsed logic and think they can justify their hate with a rational argument. It was in this vein that #givebackthegold was born.
This petition to persuade Caitlyn Jenner to give back the gold medal she earned competing in the 1976 Olympic men’s decathlon has garnered over 15,000 signatures on change.org. The accompanying text reads “Ms. Jenner (as talented as she is) claims that she has always believed herself to be truly female, and therefore, was in violation of committee rules regarding women competing in men’s sports and vice versa. Therefore, it is with a heavy heart that we must ask whether or not it is proper that Ms. Jenner should retain her olympic records in light of this”.
some actually believe they are supporting the trans community by signing the petition- by fully accepting Caitlyn as a woman past, present and future. If you’re one of those people here’s why you’re wrong.
“A lie can get halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes” is a quote attributed to various people, including Winston Churchill and Mark Twain, which is proven right time and time again. More than a month after Caitlyn Jenner stopped being part of the zeitgeist, some poor, confused people are still sharing this petition on social media and questioning Caitlyn’s incredible sporting achievements. For many, this is surely born of a desire to drag those who are different and successful down to their level of underachievement, but some people seem to be genuinely confused, and, more sadly, some actually believe they are supporting the trans community by signing the petition- by fully accepting Caitlyn as a woman past, present and future. If you’re one of those people here’s why you’re wrong.
There has been much controversy over the issue of gender verification in sport and the rights of trans people to compete, but luckily many sports organisations have started to come to their senses and are basing their trans policies on pretty sound reason. The text is incorrect when it states that Caitlyn was in violation of committee rules, as the IOC’s own rules state that a trans person may compete in their desired class so long as they :
- Have had gender reassignment surgery
- Have legal recognition of their assigned gender
- Have had at least two years of hormone therapy
In this way, you can think of sex classes in sport as being more similar to weight classes found in many martial arts.
This means that Caitlyn Jenner, while certainly a woman in 1976, would not have been allowed to compete in the Olympics as a woman, and there’s a very simple reason for that. Males and females, and here I refer to biological sex rather than an internal sense of gender identity, are physically different, and in 1976 Caitlyn Jenner was, for all intents and purposes, biologically male. Her internal gender compass may have been pointing quite neatly at ‘woman’, but that doesn’t change the denser muscle mass, lower levels of body fat and other physical advantages found in those with testosterone running through their bodies. The treatments that trans people undergo, such as hormone therapy, go a long way to change these physical differences and put trans women on the same level physically as cis women, which is why they are then allowed to compete. This is because sports tend to be about physical ability, rather than one’s sense of identity. In this way, you can think of sex classes in sport as being more similar to weight classes found in many martial arts.
Although this policy was only developed in 2003, even if it had been around in 1976 and Caitlyn had undergone her sex reassignment surgery, her hormone replacement therapy and had her gender legally recognised she may well have been met with the same bigotry in response to her sporting victory. Trans MMA fighter Fallon Fox had her right to participate in womens sporting events questioned so often, and with such vulgarity, she published a three part editorial on bloodyelbow.com detailing all of the very factually sound reasons she should be allowed to compete. So, far from trans folk who stick to a reasonable set of rules, it seems to be the transphobes who want to have their cake and eat it. If all of the science doesn’t stick, and you still think Caitlyn Jenner should have competed against women (well there is no decathlon for women, only a heptathlon, but in athletics overall), as much as it pains a militant feminist to admit this; cis women are still falling behind cis men, so it would only have made her victory even more astounding.
Caitlyn Jenner deserves her gold medal. She worked for it, she earned it by competing fairly against those in her physical class, and the International Olympic Committee has already told her she can keep it. So put your daft arguments to bed and stop sharing that petition.