If the world’s sporting bodies were forced to choose between (a) the traditional differentiation of sports competitions along male-female lines, and (b) a system of unfettered gender self-identification, the choice would not be difficult: The idea that half the planet should focus on being a good loser while male bodies dominate the medal podium is preposterous and sexist.
From puberty onwards, male physiological advantages express themselves as increased muscle mass, higher lung capacity and blood flow, and increased bone strength. As recent studies have shown, these advantages generally don’t go away simply because an athlete has changed their pronouns and hormone chemistry. At the highest levels, the difference between male and female world records typically hovers around 10 percent. The men’s world record in the 100m dash, for instance, is 9.58 seconds. The record among women, by contrast, is 10.49 seconds—a time that is routinely bested by teenaged male athletes at high-school track meets. And so while the number of transgender women competing may still be small, their likelihood of out-competing biological females is high. And in sports that involve physical contact, such as rugby and boxing, ignoring the biological differences between men and women isn’t just unfair, but also dangerous.