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Transgender Athletes | Munk Debates

SEASON TWO - EPISODE #36

Transgender Athletes

Be it resolved, yes you can have fair Olympics with transgender athletes competing against cisgender women.

Guests
Joanna Harper
Gregory Brown

About this episode

It’s been 125 years since the modern Olympics were founded in Athens, and this year will see a monumental first for the world’s biggest sporting competition: the inclusion of Laurel Hubbard, a transgender female athlete, in the women’s weightlifting competition.

In 2015, the IOC issued guidelines that allow transgendered athletes to compete as a woman if their testosterone levels are suppressed to predetermined level prior to competing. Scientific advisers to the IOC argue that hormone therapy is sufficient in creating a level playing field between transgendered athletes and biological females. Trans women, they maintain, who have undergone estrogen therapy, do not possess a material athletic advantage over cisgender women.

Critics of the current IOC policy argue that the suppression of testosterone does not mitigate many of the physical advantages gained by those who have gone through puberty as males - such as developing a bigger heart, more lung capacity, longer skeletal structures, etc. Separate sports categories for women and men were created to give female athletes the chance to compete against each other and win on approximately equal terms. Including transgender women in sports competitions like the Olympics is profoundly unfair to cisgender females and denigrates their hard work and sacrifice as elite athletes.

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Guests

Joanna Harper

“We need to be very careful when we make arguments that trans women athletes are displacing other women, because in a sociological sense they are indeed female."

Joanna Harper

“We need to be very careful when we make arguments that trans women athletes are displacing other women, because in a sociological sense they are indeed female."

Joanna Harper has a master’s degree in physics and several years of experience working as a medical physicist. After her gender transition in 2004, and subsequent reduction in running speed, she turned her focus to the performance of transgender and intersex athletes. In 2015 Harper published the first peer-reviewed article containing quantitative analysis of the athletic performance of transgender athletes with differing hormonal values. Since then she has collected subsequent retrospective data on transgender athletes and is currently engaged in a prospective analysis of two transgender athletes. She is the author of the Rowman and Littlefield book Sporting Gender: The History, Science and Stories of Transgender and Intersex Athletes. Harper has authored articles on gender diverse athletes in both peer-reviewed publications and in the Duke University Law Review as well, including “The Fluidity of Gender and Implications for the Biology of Inclusion for Transgender and Intersex Athletes.” Harper has served as an advisor to the IOC on matters of gender diversity and sport since 2015. She was also a witness for the IAAF at both the Dutee Chand and Caster Semenya cases before the Court of Arbitration for Sport. Harper has also worked with other international and national sporting federations to help develop appropriate transgender specific eligibility policy. Harper speaks frequently at scientific and professional conferences around the world on transgender and intersex athletes. In the fall of 2019 Harper relocated to Loughborough University where she is now engaged full-time in the study of transgender athletic performance.

Gregory Brown

“If you're going to compete, you should have a chance to win. Including a trans woman who runs 12% faster than a cisgender woman makes it very difficult for it to be a meaningful competition.”

Gregory Brown

“If you're going to compete, you should have a chance to win. Including a trans woman who runs 12% faster than a cisgender woman makes it very difficult for it to be a meaningful competition.”

Dr. Greg Brown is a Professor of Exercise Science in the Department of Kinesiology and Sport Sciences at the University of Nebraska at Kearney where he has been a faculty member since 2004. He is also the Director of the General Studies program at the University of Nebraska at Kearney. He earned a Bachelor of Science in Physical Education (pre-Physical Therapy emphasis) from Utah State University in 1997, a Master of Science in Exercise and Sport Science (Exercise Physiology Emphasis) from Iowa State University in 1999, and a Doctorate of Philosophy in Health and Human Performance (Biological Basis of Health & Human Performance emphasis) from Iowa State University in 2002. He is a Fellow of the American College of Sports Medicine and an American College of Sports Medicine Certified Exercise Physiologist.
 
Dr. Brown is an author on 53 peer reviewed publications, 67 peer reviewed presentations, and three book chapters in the areas of Exercise Physiology and Sports Nutrition. His work has focused primarily on performance enhancing substances, the energy cost of physical activity, and the effects of combined resistance and aerobic exercise on health. He serves as a peer reviewer for 30 different scholarly journals. He teaches courses on Introduction to Human Physiology of Exercise, Exercise Physiology, Advanced Exercise Physiology, Research Methods in Exercise Science, and Sports Nutrition. He has also served as an expert witness for several legal cases and has provided expert testimony before state legislative bodies regarding the inclusion of transwomen in women’s sports.

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