More Than Hormones
The debate on trans females competing against biological females has once again come to the forefront of coaches, athletes and social justice warriors.
The centre of the topic has been around the inclusion of biological Male, Laurel Hubbard who was selected for the New Zealand female Olympic weightlifting team with the main argument being around hormone levels, namely the “suppressing” of the Male hormone testosterone.
Before we go further into this article let’s just point out that the testosterone level requirement of a trans female (Biological Male) is 10 nanomoles per litre under the IOC rule over a period of 12 months, a figure that is considerably higher than the average biological female which ranges between 0.12- 1.79 nanomoles per litre.
In a nutshell, this difference even after suppressing natural testosterone levels offers a clear advantage to biological Males and does not factor in previous years of training as a biological Male which has been proven to retain gains in performance even after transition.
One thing not being spoken about is the anatomy advantages of biological Males vs Females. Like testosterone the Male anatomy offers huge advantages vs biological Females especially in strength, power, jumping and field sports.
For example, let us look at the Female hip vs Male hip structure.
As you can see from these two images the Female hip structure is wider and angle Q is greater.
This increase in the range provides disadvantages for lifts such as squats and increases the likelihood of knee valgus and instability in the hips under load.
In powerlifting you will rarely see female athletes squatting wide without supportive equipment as their hip anatomy does not support this stance, even on the rare occasion you see females open up their stance the lifter usually displays poor knee/hip stability and ends up with uncontrolled knee valgus.
Males on the other hand tend to squat with a wider stance and are less likely to suffer from knee valgus or instability in the hip vs their female counterparts. Those that do, usually present this breakdown at higher loads.
The Male hip structure not only offers potential advantages in hip stability, knee tracking, but range of motion advantages which is especially important in sports such as powerlifting.
In field sports Females are more likely to suffer from ACL injuries vs Males due to their hip anatomy. Sports that involve sudden changes of direction such as football, basketball and volleyball have been shown to increase Female ACL injuries rates.
There are plenty of other examples we can list here such as chest wall differences, shoulder joint difference, lung capacity and muscle mass, which would all benefit the biological Male especially in pretty much all sports from endurance to strength sports.
Even hand size plays a big part in sports such as weightlifting and powerlifting, Biological Males have bigger hands thus making it easier to grip a barbell.
Weightlifting even provides a lighter / thinner bar for Female athletes to compensate. Anyone who uses hook grip will tell you it’s a lot easier if you have bigger hands, fingers, thumbs or use a thinner bar.
When we equate all these advantages along with other things such as bone density, previous/current testosterone levels or limb proportions it’s obvious to see that the advantages of a biological Male go way further than just hormones and suppressing testosterone levels.
Sport is supposed to offer a level playing field, allowing trans Females to compete against biological Females simply goes against the ethos of sport and completely undermines the future of a level playing field for biological Females in sports.
Unfortunately there is no easy solution to this issue. A trans only division has been suggested, but being completely honest I do not think there would be much interest and trans athletes would still feel excluded from the main platforms of sports.
I sympathise with trans athletes and want to find a solution, but cannot abide by a “solution” that negatively impacts the entirety of biologically Male and Female sports – a decision that was made entirely without athlete consultation.