August 13th 2016


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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY Rating the ratings agencies: FFF and "Watch out"

CANBERRA OBSERVED Despite bumbling, youth detention inquiry is needed

FOREIGN AFFAIRS Erdogan's political coup will transform Turkey

SEXUAL POLITICS Transgender Olympians: what about the AFL?

EDITORIAL Marriage plebiscite: why not a referendum?

SEXUAL POLITICS Gay lobby grasps at normal and natural

MILITARY HISTORY The Western Front, 1916: our costliest theatre of war

MILITARY HISTORY Delville Wood, 1916: South Africa's Gallipoli

EUTHANASIA Disability hate crime: then the rest is silence

BRITISH POLITICS Tories push trans agenda hard in schools, prisons

TAIWANESE HISTORY AND POLITICS Fractious party puts Tsai in a pickle

MUSIC Davis biopic sadly miles off the mark

CINEMA Bourne again, but still lost: Jason Bourne

BOOK REVIEW An empire built on suffering

BOOK REVIEW Freedom of speech

POETRY

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SEXUAL POLITICS
Transgender Olympians: what about the AFL?


by Patrick J. Byrne

News Weekly, August 13, 2016

The announcement that the Olympics will accept transgender athletes is set to raise a host of issues, particularly in contact sports, including the Australian Football League (AFL).

But first the Olympics.

Since 2004 male-to-female transgender athletes have been allowed in the Olympics after surgery and two years of hormone therapy. But they will be allowed in the Rio Olympics without surgery, as long as their testosterone levels have been below male levels for a year.

The advantage male-to-female transgender men have over women in sport is a hotly debated issue, particularly in contact sports.

Fallon Fox: before and after transition.

In 2014, male-to-female transgender, Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighter Fallon Fox (then aged 39) overpowered female opponent Tamikka Brents in three minutes. The fight was brutal. Brents suffered potentially career-ending injuries including concussion and a broken orbital bone requiring staples.

 

 

Afterwards, Brents said: “I’ve never felt so overpowered in my life.

“I’ve fought a lot of women and have never felt the strength that I felt in a fight as I did that night. I can’t answer whether it’s because she was born a man or not, because I’m not a doctor. I can only say I’ve never felt so overpowered ever in my life, and I am an abnormally strong female.” (The Federalist, January 27, 2016)[1]

Fallon Fox is a former US navy sailor. In 2006 he had reassignment surgery, breast augmentation and hair transplant surgery in Thailand.

Ronda Rousey has been the Ultimate Fighting Champion (UFC) women’s bantamweight leader. She says that she could “knock out anyone in the world” but that she will not fight a man transgendered as a woman. (OUT, July 17, 2016.)[2]

The UFC is the largest MMA promotion organisation in the world. It doesn’t list Fox. Its president, Dana White, argues: “Bone structure is different, hands are bigger, jaw is bigger, everything is bigger. I don’t believe in it. I don’t think someone who used to be a man and became a woman should be able to fight a woman.”

Tim Peterson, one of two people determining the UFC rankings, says: “It is our opinion that you may have an unfair advantage over natural women in combat sports.” (The Guardian, February 17, 2015)[3]

Science is divided on whether the advantage of growing gives males who transition to appear female have a sporting advantage.

Some like Dr Marci Bowers – a male-to-female transgender and pioneer of transgender surgery – argues that for a man attempting to become a woman, after several years of hormone therapy, “most measures of physical strength minimize, muscle mass decreases, bone density decreases, and they become fairly comparable to women in their musculature.”

However, others like hormone specialist Dr Ramona Krutzik believe that advantages that have accumulated over 20 years of physical development as a male won’t disappear after a few years of androgen blocking.

“Typically, you’re looking at about 15 years after androgen suppression and SRS [sex reassignment surgery] to really start to see significant changes in bone density.” (LifeSiteNews, January 26, 2016)[4]

On average, men are stronger than women, with women’s records in sport about 10 per cent below that of men’s. This may not be important in mixed sports where strength is not the issue, for example, tennis, equestrian sports, or curling. But men typically outpace women in running, throwing, lifting, jumping, etc, and it is particularly important in contact sports like boxing, martial arts and football.

Dr Krutzik says that not only does the male body develops differently, in skeletal structure and muscularly, but the male athlete will have a male brain no matter the physical alterations he undergoes.

“Someone that has had male imprinting could have the potential for more aggression or more aggressive type behaviour than a female brain.”

The aggression factor is not just an academic issue.

Website GenderTrender, carried an article entitled “Fallon Fox: Why hormones don’t make a woman” (September 18, 2014)[5], which gave some disturbing background to the fight between transgender Fallon Fox and lesbian Tamikka Brents.

It says the level of brutality in the fight between was “unlike anything seen in Women’s MMA.

It accused Fallon Fox of devoting “his ample free time to the posting of anti-gay screeds online which centre on the ‘unfairness’ of lesbian women declining relations with males like himself who are transgender.”

These experiences of transgenders in sport may well be played out in the planned AFL women’s competition.

At the same time, the AFL’s Respect and Responsibility Vilification Framework outlines its club and community education programs to counter “vilification”, which it defines as “acting towards, speaking in a manner, or engaging in any conduct which threatens, disparages, vilifies or insults a person” on various grounds, including “sexual orientation, preference or identities”. (p7)[6]

In which case, it is possibly just a matter of time before the AFL is confronted with men transgendering as women wanting to invoke this policy in order to play in the women’s league.

 

References:

[1] “Allowing transgender Olympians is unfair to women”, The Federalist, January 27, 2016.

[2] “UFC women’s champ refuses to fight trans athlete Fallon Fox”, OUT, July 17, 2016.

[3] “Fallon Fox on life as a trans athlete”, The Guardian, February 17, 2015.

[4] “Olympics allows ‘transgender’ men to compete as women without genital surgery”, LifesiteNews, January 26, 2016.

[5] “Fallon Fox: why hormones don’t make a woman”, GenderTrender, September 18, 2014.

[6] AFL, Respect and Responsibility: Vilification Framework, p7.




























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