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Trandgender Athletes Information

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Trandgender Athletes Information

Post by Lorri Kat on Thu Jun 26, 2014 6:24 pm

Transgender Athletes

Intolerant and uneducated remarks made by people about Transgender athletes are based on false misconceptions about the human body.  

• Elementary to High School
Many realize that they are transgender before or when they are first entering puberty.  At the Elementary level there is no significant difference between ‘boys’ and ‘girls’ in relation to physical ability.  Perceived differences in ability at this time are the result of socially constructed stereotypes.  Transgender students at this level do not have an advantage or disadvantage with their peers.  
In middle school the suppression of pubertal hormones in transgender youths should start when girls and boys first exhibit physical changes of puberty (confirmed by pubertal levels of estradiol and testosterone, respectively), but no earlier.  This is done under the guidance of a therapist and an endocrinologist  and they will be treated with Gonadotropin Releasing Hormone (GnRH) analogues, such as Lupron, that delay puberty until the patient and parents are ready to make a decision about cross-sex hormones, usually at age 16.  Transgender students from this time forward till starting HRT are at a disadvantage with their peers in physical development.
From age 16 on High School thru College pubertal development of the desired opposite sex is initiated at this time using a gradually increasing dose schedule of cross-sex hormones and medications specific to the gender orientation.  These youths will develop normally in their target gender and have no physical advantages over those of their target gender.  
Hormone therapy (HRT) that is initiated to youths at a later time stops the development of traits and redirects them to the target gender.  After a year of treatment they are physically at the same level or lower level physically (MtoF) as persons in their target gender.  Transgender youths at this time have no advantage over their peers with some having a disadvantage at competing in sports of their target gender.


Hormone-treated adolescents are referred for surgery when the real-life experience (RLE) has resulted in a satisfactory social role change; the individual is satisfied about the hormonal effects; and the individual desires definitive surgical changes. Surgery is not performed until the individual is at least 18 years old.
Those transitioning later in life will see changes within two years or even a few months that make them congruent to the abilities of their target gender.  Muscle strength and stamina will change accordingly to that target gender.  While the onset of puberty has affected their skeletal shape, which cannot be altered at this point by HRT for those that did not take puberty blockers.  That is not an advantage as many make it out to be.  Men and Women come in all shapes and sizes and in the case of high level athletes most are in the upper range of their respected sex.
• Bone Advantage Myth
Mostly this pertains to Male to Female transsexuals in that they have a “man’s body”, or that her bone structure and bone density from prior testosterone production when living as a male gives her an unfair advantage.  It is not the body that produces hormones; specific glands in the body produce testosterone which is then spread through the body. There are only 3 glands that produce testosterone; the testes, ovaries, and the adrenal glands. Since transsexual women have under gone the medical change they no longer have testosterone production from the testes, additionally they do not have testosterone from the ovaries. Transsexual women have only one small source of testosterone which comes from the adrenal glands, whereas cisgender females (females whose self-perception of their gender is the same as their assigned birth sex) have testosterone production from the ovaries and adrenal glands. In fact studies consistently show that cisgender females have higher testosterone levels than transsexual females. After transgender individuals have undergone the typical medically accepted 2 yrs of hormone replacement therapy and/or surgery required to legally change sexes, it is HARDER for Transsexual Women to attain and maintain the same muscle mass as their cisgender female counterparts. Bone density varies greatly from each individual based on nutrition, sex, age, and race. It is true that men have higher bone densities than women, but African-Americans also have higher bone densities than Caucasians and Hispanic people. The average bone density of African-American women is nearly the same as the average bone density of Caucasian males. Bone structure also varies greatly by individuals based on genetics.

• Muscle Mass
Within three months transsexual females will have a decrease in muscle strength and stamina, conversely transsexual males will have an increase in muscle strength, stamina and mass.  Any perceived advantage or disadvantage between sexes is altered toward that of the target gender.  Male to Females will be noticeably weaker with less endurance and require the same or extra amount of effort to sustain or increase athletically as those of their target gender.  Female to Males will find it much easier to gain strength and endurance.
• Lungs
The ability to absorb oxygen is mostly a function of hematocrit levels. A transwoman who is hormonally female will have female levels of hemoglobin; hence she will NOT absorb more oxygen than her competitors. VO2 max declines sharply upon commencement of hormone therapy as such  her lung capacity has a negligible effect  on performance.
• Similarities
In a 2003 study of the dimensions of shoulder width with the consideration of height and weight of a sample of over 500 males & females showed that there is a significant overlap of male and female body dimensions. Even experts have a hard time telling gender apart in skeletons of many female athletes. Everybody has different bone densities and structures and there is simply too much variation to exclude someone solely on the bases of that measurement. Not only is there an extreme amount of variation that overlaps between sexes, but bone density and bone structure is irrelevant to determining athletic performance.  Many Registered Nutritionists often talk about iron intake and proper eating habits and the importance of body composition testing to measure our body fat and muscle in major segments of the body in athletes. But not one word about bone density or bone structure-because it has a negligible effect on athletic performance. This same unfair argument of bone density was used to keep African-American and Caucasians segregated in athletic competition fifty years ago.  The Bottom Line: All elite high-performing athletes have genetic advantages in some way or another, but an athlete’s mindset is what takes them to the next level. Nobody should be barred from or discouraged to compete in the sport they love that meet the legal standard for their gender identity.
I encourage you to speak up and use your voice against this hateful negativity because trans* athletes need our acceptance and support.
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Lorri Kat
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