Transgender Athletes and The Inclusion Dilemma

About this sample

About this sample


Words: 2409 |

Pages: 5|

13 min read

Published: Aug 4, 2023

Words: 2409|Pages: 5|13 min read

Published: Aug 4, 2023

Table of contents

  1. Introduction
  2. The Moral Debate on Transgender Athletes
  3. Suicide Rates Among Transgender Population
  4. Impact of Testosterone Suppression on Athletic Performance
  5. Body Development of Transgender Athletes
  6. Impact of Aerobic Capacity on Athletes
  7. Perceived Performance Advantage of Transgender Athletes
  8. Conclusion
  9. Works Cited


With justice a cornerstone of society, at what extent should female transgender athletes cross the finish line in a women’s sporting event? In the 1970s, Renée Richards, among one of first transgender athletes in the United States to receive attention, generated popularity as a result of the situations unusual occurrence (Stark-Mason). Richards, a biologically male tennis player, “underwent gender reassignment surgery in 1975 at the age of 40” and registered as an athlete in the 1977 U.S Open and competing in the women’s division (Stark-Mason). Currently, the “International Olympic Committee opened its doors for transgender athletes who met three criteria: hormonal therapy, legal recognition of their assigned sex, and surgical anatomical changes, including external genitalia changes and gonadectomy” (Stark- Mason). The non-existent status of standardized requirements for female transgender athletes, previously classified as male, ultimately give the athletes leverage while competing. Lenient rules enable the athletes to take advantage and ignore certain requirements, giving the individual an edge in competition. Even though inclusion would help transgender athletes feel accepted, biologically male athletes should not compete in women’s divisions because the individual still exhibits physical differences and testosterone influences the body structure and ability in development.

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The Moral Debate on Transgender Athletes

Many people believe that the topic of transgender athletes consists of a moral debate, containing topics such as inclusion and fairness to the transgender athlete. Others argue that the rising suicide rates in the transgender population directly relates to lack of acceptance in activities that the aspiring gender provides. Helen Carroll, an LGBTQ sports advocate and NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) board member, adamantly expresses where to draw the line as an ethical question (Ashwanden). Carroll then states how many transgender individuals constantly fight themselves and the feeling of bodily displacement (Ashwanden). Playing a sport ignites a sense of confidence in an individual and in others around them. As a result of that newfound confidence, a transgender athlete will gain confidence in a new identity. Karen Morrison, a NCAA board member and head of the NCAA Inclusion Department, believes that “we’re at the cusp of an enormous cultural change” (Elfman). That change will produce an accepting society, but the important concept of inclusion still remains absent in many communities. Massive strides for transgender athletics, broadcasted every day, allow society to accept those individuals as a result of the inclusion generated though sports. Where society should draw the line varies among different collegiate and professional organizations. The outcome of the topic, deemed a moral debate and an ethical decision, still remains undecided.

Suicide Rates Among Transgender Population

Without participating in typical activities that the aspiring gender offers, the individual will feel increasingly isolated. As a result of isolation and detachment from a new gender, many transgender individuals have suicidal thoughts, or commit suicide altogether (Toomey). The skyrocketing suicide rates in the United States alone baffle the AFSP (American Foundation of Suicide Prevention), ranging from 14% to 20%, and averaging 47,173 deaths caused by suicide per year (American Foundation of Suicide Prevention). The high percentages of suicide rates in transgender individuals almost average to half of the transgender population. Russell Toomey, an associate professor at the University of Arizona, states studies “have revealed that nearly 25% to 30% of transgender adolescents report attempting suicide” (Toomey). Many transgender individuals face large amounts of discrimination and isolation a new identity. How would it help if society excluded those individuals from activities that made that individual feel normal and helped to create relationships with a new gender? Others may argue that with a larger transgender population, the suicide rates will also rise because of the amount of individuals with that classification. Findings from the 2008 National Transgender Discrimination Study revealed that 45% of 18- to 24-year-old transgender individuals had attempted suicide (Toomey). This study revealed the common claim, expressed by many co-ed sport supporters, stating the direct correlation between inclusion and suicide rates. As a result of acceptance into an aspiring gender at a young age, it will potentially affect the individuals acceptance in a society at a later time.

Impact of Testosterone Suppression on Athletic Performance

Testosterone suppression, a medical procedure that allows the male body to appear feminine, suppresses the production of testosterone and encourages the production of estrogen. This method gives the male transgender individual the feminine body and appearance they previously only felt emotionally. Testosterone suppression creates an “increased body fat” which allows to neutralize the athletic ability between a male and a female, along with “decreased strength and mass of muscles” (The Healthline Editorial Team, Gotter). This method allow a transgender individual’s anatomy and appearance to change, allowing the body to appear more feminine. With the crucial help of surgeons and health specialists, communities, beginning to accept transgender individuals, ultimately lessen the feeling the isolation and loneliness those individuals may experience. Many argue the crucial inclusion for transgender individuals would eliminate the probability of suicide, and ultimately promote a fully inclusive society. Solutions such as testosterone suppression support the inclusion of the individuals using visual similarities to the aspiring gender. The suicide and depression rates, linked to lack of inclusion, invigorates many communities to create tactics that will better the acceptance and outlook towards transgender individuals in society.

Body Development of Transgender Athletes

Sexual identity, typically discovered in the later years of many transgender individuals lives, allow for biological body development to create irreversible changes. Many individuals possess an opposing viewpoint consisting of many solutions such as medical practices that even the playing field; therefore allowing that female transgender individual to still compete in the preferred division. Although many use testosterone suppression as a cure for the problem of injustice to other athletes, countless individuals fail to take into account the role that testosterone played on the body during structural development. Potential muscle capacity, one prominent way testosterone influences the body, affects the body’s structural ability after development. A study performed by individuals from the Department of Neurology at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry related testosterone and muscle growth. The results of the study showed that male “muscle mass, estimated by creatinine excretion [the lower levels of creatine phosphate in the muscles], increased in all nine subjects (20% mean increase)” (RC et al.). With increased levels of testosterone present, just as it would appear in development, male muscle mass increased by 20% overall (RC et al.). The results displayed that hormone levels change the amount of muscle an individual may possess, giving male athletes the edge just because of heightened testosterone.

In the body’s developmental years, the overall growth and structure of the body becomes molded and shaped by the presence and levels of testosterone. Highlighted in development, structural differences between male and female athletes become apparent. With a structural advantage, men usually possess “longer arms and legs,” allowing for a longer stride and larger arm span (“Structural Differences”). The length of the arms and legs on an individual will not change as a result of testosterone elimination; instead, that trait presents itself in the genetic makeup. Also “due to higher estrogen levels, women have more body fat than men” (Lee). The leanest female athletes have body fat ratios of approximately 8 percent compared with the 4 percent body fat ratios of male athletes” (Lee). Testosterone affects the production of metabolism during development, setting a precedent that the body must follow to maintain, lose, or gain body fat. Enabling men to have lower body fat ratio, A male’s metabolism typically burns much faster than a woman’s allowing the man to have less body fat.

Impact of Aerobic Capacity on Athletes

The successes of many athletes typically stem from prestige aerobic capacity. From olympic swimmers to marathoners, lung capacity and performance allow any athlete to excel. Women have smaller rib cages, “resulting in a lower lung capacity” (“Structural Differences”). The invariable size and capacity of a lung cannot change. When a male athlete decides to transition to the female gender, the individual cannot decrease the size of the lungs, the amount of type II muscle fibers, or shorten the length of the arms and legs. Fueled by the presence of testosterone, certain characteristics, created in development, influence the performance, growth, and potential function of the body.

Although testosterone suppression creates a minimal decrease in performance and appearance, many uniform characteristics of the male anatomy still remain. Myostatin, classified as an “autocrine and paracrine hormone” and produced by skeletal muscle cells, “inhibits muscle differentiation and growth” (S. Lee, Feher). A medical experiment, conducted by scientists in New Zealand, revealed that the difference in muscle mass between males and females “could be due to male muscles having lower levels of myostatin” (“Block Myostatin”). Instructed to produce certain amounts of this hormone, the genetic makeup of a skeletal muscle’s myostatin output does not fluctuate based on the present levels of testosterone. The production of myostatin, unaffected by the presence of testosterone, eliminates the idea that testosterone suppression will allow both sides to compete fairly. Heavily impacted by the presence of myostatin, male muscle growth exceeds female muscular growth as a result of male skeletal muscles containing less myostatin. This allows men to possess an immutable athletic advantage. Some of those advantages inhibit excess muscle growth in women because they possess escalated levels of the hormone. As a result of higher myostatin levels in females, the athletic advantage female transgender individuals have becomes accentuated.

Perceived Performance Advantage of Transgender Athletes

Male muscles contain many different levels of hormones and fibers, compared to the composition of a female muscle. A popular study, performed by M. Bilodeau and his colleagues from the University of Iowa, determined the effect that gender has “on changes in electromyographic (EMG) signal characteristics, of the quadricep muscles” (“Slightly Higher Type II Fiber”). EMG, a common medical measurement, shows the electrical currents generated in a muscle during exercise. With increasing force and fatigue, the male’s quadriceps displayed a moderately “greater type II fiber content in the VL [quadricep] muscle of men compared to that of women' (“Slightly Higher Type II Fiber”). The data shown from the study reveals that many male muscles produce increased amounts of type II fibers which allows muscles to overcome fatigue, therefore allowing for more muscle growth and capacity. Type II fiber, classified as a “fast twitch muscle” (White) inhibits muscle exhaustion. A fast twitch muscle helps the muscle handle fatigue by acting as a “second resort” when slow twitch muscles tire out. In development, the production of type II fiber, fueled by the presence of testosterone, provides the body with irreversible muscle changes and functions.

Although testosterone affects muscle capacity in development, a biologically male athlete’s skeletal structure still enables many male athletes to uphold advantages over women. After testosterone suppression, the natural advantage of men over women in sporting events still remains up to 10% to 12% (Niiler). With the “natural ability factor” how does testosterone suppression solve any of the problems related to unfairness within co-ed sports? Women cannot train any harder to compete alongside biologically male individuals that possess a natural advantage over them. A woman’s skeletal structure only allows for women to contain a certain amount of muscle, that muscular amount averages to “8% less muscle mass” than a male (“Structural Differences”). Potential female muscle growth cannot exceed a certain amount; whereas a male’s muscle growth can continue even after the female athletes muscle capacity reaches the physiological limit. Even though testosterone levels decrease during testosterone suppression therapy, male athletes still possess unalterable natural advantages over women. Many of those advantages, skeletal muscle capacity, type II fiber content, and lower levels of myostatin, enable a female transgender to unjustly excel.

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At what degree should society draw the line between the moral and ethical debate of inclusion for now female transgender individuals, and fairness to biologically female athletes? Advantages that a female transgender athlete may experience will allow the individual to dominate in all levels of sports, from the middle school soccer league, to the college track team, providing female transgender athletes with an innate biological disadvantage. Instead of reflecting on justice for all female athletes, society focuses on seeking equality for female transgender athletes. With domination in all levels of sports, not based on talent or passion, just on natural advantages, transgender athletics blur the lines between inclusion and fairness for other athletes. Even though inclusion through sports would supplement a transgender individual’s acceptance in society, female transgender athletes should not compete in women’s divisions because the effects tesotosterone had on the body in development and the many physical advantages the athlete still possesses after testosterone suppression therapy.

Works Cited

  1. American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. 'Suicide Statistics .' The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention , American Foundation of Suicide Prevention , 2017 , Accessed 4 Dec. 2019.
  2. Ashwanden, Christie. 'Trans Athletes Are Posting Victories and Shaking Up Sports.' Wired, 19 Oct. 2019, Accessed 6 Nov. 2019.
  3. 'Block Myostatin for Female Muscle?' Joe Weider's Muscle & Fitness, vol. 64, no. 5, May 2003, p. 43. Gale In Context: High School, Accessed 12 Nov. 2019.
  4. Elfman, Lois. 'The Ally Team: Inclusiveness Is Growing for LGBTQ Athletes.' Diverse Issues in Higher Education, vol. 30, no. 5, 11 Apr. 2013, p. 19+. Gale In Context: High School, Accessed 12 Nov. 2019.
  5. The Healthline Editorial Team, and Ana Gotter. 'Low Testosterone in Men.' Healthline, Healthline Media , 27 Feb. 2019, Accessed 12 Nov. 2019.
  6. Lee, Lexa W. 'How Do Men and Women Differ Athletically?' Sportsrec, Leaf Group Media, 11 Dec. 2018, Accessed 6 Nov. 2019.
  7. Lee, Se-Jin, and Joseph Feher. 'Myostatin.' Science Direct, ElSEVIER, 2012, Accessed 10 Nov. 2019.
  8. 'Male Quadriceps Muscles May Contain Slightly Higher Type II Fiber Content.' Women's Health Weekly, 13 Mar. 2003, p. 35. Gale In Context: Global Issues, Accessed 12 Nov. 2019.
  9. 'Men and Women Are Different.' USA Today, vol. 131, no. 2695, Apr. 2003, p. 8. Gale In Context: High School, Accessed 12 Nov. 2019.
  10. Niiler, Eric. 'Testosterone Ruling for Athletes Fuels Debate over 'Natural' Ability.' Wired, Condé Nast , 1 May 2018, Accessed 12 Nov. 2019.
  11. RC, Griggs, et al. 'Effect of testosterone on muscle mass and muscle protein synthesis.' , National Center for Biotechnology Information , Accessed 8 Dec. 2019.
  12. Stark-Mason, Rachel. 'A Time of Transition .' NCAA, Champion Magazine , 2019, Accessed 9 Dec. 2019.
  13. Toomey, Russell B., et al. 'Transgender Adolescent Suicide Behavior.' AAP News and Journals Gateway, American Academy of Pediatrics , Oct. 2018, Accessed 12 Nov. 2019.
  14. White, Justin. 'What Are Fast- and Slow-Twitch Muscles?' Greatist, Greatist , 6 Aug. 2015, Accessed 10 Nov. 2019.     
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Transgender Athletes and the Inclusion Dilemma. (2023, August 04). GradesFixer. Retrieved February 25, 2024, from
“Transgender Athletes and the Inclusion Dilemma.” GradesFixer, 04 Aug. 2023,
Transgender Athletes and the Inclusion Dilemma. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 25 Feb. 2024].
Transgender Athletes and the Inclusion Dilemma [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2023 Aug 04 [cited 2024 Feb 25]. Available from:
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