This topic has gotten a lot of attention recently. My recent podcast dealt with this, but nobody watches my podcast, and I seem to be the only one discussing it to my satisfaction, so I shall do it here. This time, the short version.
First, let’s look at some facts. These are not my facts, they are the facts, and that means they are your facts too.
- Humans are born either congenitally male or congenitally female, with a very small incidence of an intersex condition present at the rate of from 0.05% to 1.7% of live births, depending on who you talk to. The overwhelming majority of the human race is either congenitally male or congenitally female. This discussion does not involve intersex individuals like Castor Semenya, but rather congenital men who “identify” as women and wish to compete in the Women’s division.
- The differences between males and females are caused by the presence of testosterone in the developing fetus, the result of the chromosomal configuration of the fetus, starting at about 8 weeks after conception. In utero testosterone is powerful enough to cause the obvious primary sexual characteristics that differentiate males and females, as well as other very profound physiological and psychological characteristics of the two sexes. Among these differences are neuromuscular efficiency – the ability to quickly recruit muscle into contraction.
- The Standing Vertical Jump (SVJ) test is a measure of the difference in height of the upraised hand between a standing position and at the top of a single countermovement jump with no foot movement and no step. It is regarded as the best indicator of the inherent capacity for power and explosive capacity. The men’s record is 46” while the women’s record is 31”. The averages, 22” for men and 14” for women, represent essentially the same ratio as the records. SVJ increases with age, from 10 years until it stabilizes from 21 to 30 and begins to degrade. It is a direct measurement of the ability to recruit muscle into contraction quickly – neuromuscular efficiency – and the differences between women and men have profound implications for both the performances and the training of women and men.
- Puberty presents a new hormonal milieu to the landscape already primed for it in the womb. Testosterone surges to very high levels, and finishes the job already started in the male. Differences in skeletal proportion and density, pelvic shape, lung capacity, muscle size and strength, and the now-obvious secondary sexual characteristics are overwhelming in their remaking of the organism, from hands to feet, from jawbone to kneecaps. These changes are essentially permanent, and they are significant for physical performance, just like the in utero priming of the system.
- Since performance (and every other physical characteristic) displays a range, with the averages and the records at the middle and the right-hand tails of the bell curves respectively, men’s and women’s performances will overlap to an extent. Record women’s performances will overlap well into men’s average performances, but women’s average and record performances will never equal men’s average and record performances in competitive athletics.
- Testosterone administration does not significantly improve neuromuscular efficiency (power), and thus does not significantly improve the SVJ in either men or women. This means that SVJ performance and power is related to the pre-adolescent effects of testosterone on the fetus, and not to exogenous administration of testosterone for purposes of either performance enhancement or sexual transition. However, exogenous testosterone improves strength, as well as muscular endurance, a derivative of strength, and females given testosterone respond with increased strength, as do men.
- Globally, men and women have an average height difference ratio of about 1.08: for example, men’s average height is 5’9.5” and women’s average height is 5’4.5” in the USA. This ratio is pretty constant worldwide, with the closest ratio being 1.04 in a handful of African countries. Nowhere on earth is it 1.00.
- Body composition of sedentary populations varies with sex, with men carrying an average of 4-6% lower bodyfat than women. For athletic populations, the total body fat is lower for both men and women, but the average differences remain 4-6% between the sexes.
- Virtually all organized sports on earth that allow both sexes to compete have a Men’s and a Women’s division. Some sports allow mixed teams to compete, and if they do the teams are composed of both men and women. This is due to the obvious disparity in the performances of men and women. The data here are quite clear, and everyone on earth knows this whether they are prepared to admit it or not.
- I looked very hard for this data recently, and I only found one instance of a female-to-male (FTM) transsexual athlete who entered the men’s division, a boxer competing in a very light weight class. It appears that the vast majority of transsexual athletes who wish to participate in a division other than that of their congenital sex are MTF. I may have missed one – that does not alter the point here.
The point is that the International Olympic Committee and the International Association of Athletic Federations are wrong. Sometimes even large powerful organizations are wrong too – you’ve heard of that happening, I’m sure. Lowering the testosterone level of a congenital male to 5 nmol/l or any other arbitrary low number for one year does not remove the congenital advantage of having been born male. Neither does “sexual reassignment/affirmation” surgery. These organizations are participating in a lie for political purposes, to the detriment of women who want to compete in a separate Women’s division. Proceeding as though congenital men are no different from women if their testosterone has been artificially lowered is merely agreeing upon the lie.
To my knowledge, the only organization that has this situation adequately covered is the US Strengthlifting Federation, with an Open and a Women’s division. The Women’s division is restricted to congenital females, while the Open division is available to anyone else under any circumstances. No one is excluded from competition, and congenital women compete against each other.
Sports competition has always been about a lack of “fairness,” if by that you mean an equality of outcome. Winners are always outliers, and this is especially true at the elite levels of all sports. Women have their own outliers, and women’s competition finds these people – if it is allowed to do so.
Again, I am not concerned with Castor Semenya. I am concerned with our sisters and daughters and wives, and the women I train who just want to compete on the weekend to give their training a concrete purpose, or maybe even a scholarship to go to college. The Women’s divisions of competitive sports are a rather recent phenomenon, one that I think has been an extremely positive development for the species as a whole. I’d hate to see it destroyed in the name of “Social Justice,” because justice will not have been served.