In Support of Trans Athletes
While anti-women, racist, xenophobic, and homophobic narratives have become standard for the far-right for most of recent memory, anti-trans has been pushed to the front pages in recent elections. A current top election campaign point is the attempt to ban trans women from 'single sex' female sports.
Attacks on trans rights
The key pillar of the far-right organizing for power program is division. Election campaigns show just how nasty even the centre-right can get cozying-up to these hate-driven narratives when they think that they will lose.
While anti-women, racist, xenophobic, and homophobic narratives have become standard in the USA for the Republicans for most of recent memory, anti-trans has been pushed to the front pages in recent elections.
Take for instance the recent election in Australia. Anti-trans policies became the focus of the Liberal Party in the final weeks of the campaign as they started losing in the polls to the Labor Party.
A top election campaign point was to ban trans women from "single sex" female sports.
A proposed bill has been led by Liberal backbencher Claire Chandler and supported by Liberal candidate Katherine Deves, which will allow sporting groups and clubs to exclude trans women from single-sex sports.
Check out the outrageous ads put out to support the Liberal Party's anti-trans policies:
Like anti-trans bathroom bills in the previous election in the USA, this "issue" has strangely become a tip-of-the-spear issue for the far-right.
It has come to my attention that even well-intentioned people on the left struggle with this narrative. We attempt to address some of that here.
But, science. But, biology!
A call for some objective truth in the struggle to find a reason for personal prejudice is not a new phenomenon. But, as a scientist, it hard to see how this kind of "science of prejudice" is ever objective.
The far-right are using their common tactic of conflating two concepts of "fairness" and "merit" to drive division on this sports issue. It is not the first time. Science and biology and their relation to explaining why some athletes had an unfair advantage was used to dismiss the Berlin Olympic win Jesse Owens and many other Black athletes who won and competed during the 1936 Nazis-hosted games.
Testosterone testing of women has also been used to try to claim some women are "too male" to compete "fairly".
Understanding the confusion around biology tropes and sports requires a review of what sports is. Specifically, the result of the commodification of the concept of fairness and merit in sports and competition.
Let me state it clearly, there is nothing scientific about banning trans folks from competition. And the confused expressions and innocent sounding "it is just biology" is the classic far-right trope. It is anti-trans hate wrapped in yet another frame.
"Winning" in sports.
Are we really concerned that a trans man is going to win all the events?
Are we really concerned that a trans woman is going to win all their events?
The only reason would be that some still think trans is just a decision or incorrect state of mind as opposed to part of the continuum of humanity—biological and otherwise.
The binary in sport is from an outdated mode of understanding of biology, sex, and the genetics of body-type forms. The outdated mode still thinks that there are non-overlapping and limited spread of error around some "perfect" type of man and woman.
Indeed, the concept of winning in sports is a commodified version of this perfection. However, like CocaCola's Santa Clause, this commodified version of perfection is a new concept scrubbed of racist history, repackaged, and sold to the sports consumer.
In the USA, the recent focus has been on the swimmer Lia Thomas.
From a Citizens' Press Brief reader:
Lia satisfied all the rules and policies in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) before she won her 500 free title, and then suddenly the NCAA changed all the rules and her career is over.
People act like she had upended the sport when really it was only that one race she won. I think she came last in the 100 final and 5th in the 800. People seem fine with trans athletes competing, but not fine with them winning; inclusion up until a point.
In many ways the new rules are designed on a false notion that people will start pretending to be a woman in order to beat other women in sport. Which is nonsensical.
We also know testosterone levels is used against cisgender women (Caster Semenya) so it is all nonsense.
The real issues in womens sports are sexual abuse and equal pay/opportunity.
In fact true "equality" would mean ensuring exact same training resources available to all athletes, which isn’t a thing.
Winning is defined under a commodified version of sports concepts of fairness and merit. Like neoclassical economics, this commodified concept collapses when confronted with the messy reality of humanity.
Biology—like with anything that people do not understand, but think that they understand—it is used effectively to spin hateful, divisive political narratives by the far-right.
One could make the same biological arguments around any (ethnic, historical, geographical) group where the allele frequency for best body type for a particular sport exist. We seek perfection and victory, through "fair" competition supposedly driven by "merit" of the athlete training hard and "wanting it more".
It could be said that many of these notions are even correct. World-class athletes who win did luck-out on that day, luck out on their genes, luck out on their class and social position in society, and ability to work very hard to win. All these things can be true, but we choose how to frame each of these and what aspects to prioritize when talking about "fairness".
What is not true is the notion that some genetics are non-natural, non-human, unfair—which is essentially the position to stand against trans athletes when they compete and win.
We are having trouble allowing this conversation because we are artificially bounded by a reified concept of sports where we can only care about the sex chromosome shape—none of the other alleles in the rest of the human genome matter in this reified form.
People understand these concepts just enough to hear or make stupid comments that can sound credible.
We must push back.
We cannot pick and choose who and what is part of humanity based on poorly reified and commodified versions of "perfect humans". We must embrace our diversity, celebrate it. And, we must evolve our cultural events—designed to bring people together, not divide us—around this true reality as we expand our understanding of our world and ourselves.
This is at the very soul of the socialist ethos.
In the end, this will change when athletes stand up in solidarity with one another and all humankind and demand change.
Socialist can and must help them on their way.