Gender equality is the success story through which many other social issues are measured. Most people don’t disagree that a woman can do anything as well as a man, minus one area — sports. It’s the one part of society that has been, and continues to be, separated by sex with little objection, making it extremely confusing for transgender athletes.

In the most recent issue of 0, Pablo S. Torre and David Epstein explore the difficulties of transgender athletics. The story centers around Keelin Godsey (formally known as Kelly), a genetically female hammer throw star who lives his daily life as a man. If you saw Keelin in person, you would also think he was a man. In the past, he’s been escorted from a women’s bathroom because of his masculine looks, but on the field, Keelin Godsey competes as a woman: He competes in female events. Godsey has obtained his masculine looks without hormone therapy, therefore making him eligible for the women’s Olympic team, which he will attempt to qualify for on June 21.

As transgender athletes become more prevalent, athletic governing bodies have begun taking measures to create clear-cut rules for such athletes. The Olympics requires athletes having hormone therapy and gender reassignment surgery to compete as their chosen gender. For a woman hoping to compete as a man, this means hormone therapy and male genitalia. For males hoping to compete as women, testosterone suppression and female genitalia are necessary. The NCAA, however, took a different approach. They decided that “genitalia does not affect athletic ability,” and therefore only hormone therapy is required.

The Olympics are the pinnacle of competitions for most athletes. The rule to require gender reassignment surgery shows a high level of commitment compared to those who only complete hormone therapy, which is a reversible process. The pressure of the Olympics is great, and it would not be out of the question for an athlete to take advantage of the rules to gain a slim benefit.

It also makes sense that the NCAA requires only hormone therapy for transgender college athletes, considering gender reassignment surgeries can cost up to five figures, a luxury that many transgender college students just can’t afford.

These rules seem fair and logical. They set in place standards so that everyone is competing on an equal playing field, which is the reason sports are separated by sex in the first place. Where the line begins to blur is in the social aspect of sports. What locker room will Godsey change in at the London Olympics, should he make the team? How will male athletes feel if Godsey chooses to shower in the male locker room? Will opposing players call foul play on his 5-foot-9-inch, 186-pound build? What pronoun will the television announcer call him? But in a women’s event, the choice is more complicated. Does Godsey need to ask his fellow teammates if they feel comfortable with him showering next to them, or should there be rules and legislation to handle these questions?

The answers to these questions are unclear. I would plead for decency, for people to be mature enough to ask Godsey his preference and for people to express their feelings if they feel uncomfortable. Unfortunately, we don’t live in that world. We live in a place where decency must be made into law to avoid lawsuits and confusion. Without these clear-cut regulations, many people feel they would not be able to live at ease.

Jesse Klein is a LSA sophomore.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *