This doctor is saying it louder for the people at the back – there’s no scientific reason for banning trans people from sport
On March 30, the eve of Trans Day of Visibility, Idaho governor Brad Little signed two anti-trans bills into law.
One barred trans people from updating the gender on their birth certificate, the other barred trans girls and women from playing sport at school or college.
The second law, HB500, bans schools and colleges from letting trans and intersex girls play sports, and means that any girl whose gender is called into question will be forced to undergo genital examinations, chromosome analysis or blood testing to “prove” that she is female.
This is being done in the name of safety and fairness in sport for cisgender women and girls.
But the scientific evidence for excluding trans women and girls from sport on the basis this will maintain fairness for cisgender women and girls doesn’t exist, as Dr Vinny Chulani, director of the Phoenix Children’s Hospital Adolescent Medicine Program, explained in an interview yesterday with them.
“This is a decision that is really not based on science,” said Chulani, an esteemed practitioner in the field of LGBT+ care.
“There are so many characteristics that contribute to excellence in sports. And the same attributes don’t always carry over from one sport to the next. You need different skills for golfing than you need for archery, basketball, soccer, or gymnastics.
“Plus, there’s not really any sound body of evidence that speaks to the advantage that testosterone confers. When you take a look at some of the studies that have been done on transgender females in terms of their athletic ability, it overlaps with the range that you would find in cisgender women.
“There is no body of evidence to suggest that there is an advantage.”
Chulani added that there were huge misunderstandings about sex, gender and bodies among legislators and those advocating for the exclusion of trans women from sport.
“Bills like Idaho’s fail to recognise the diversity within the transgender female population.
“They also fail to understand the biology of puberty and where we are presently in terms of treatment, specifically with puberty blockers.
“Remember that when you take a look at pre-pubertal bodies, assigned male and assigned female bodies look a lot alike; it’s not until puberty that they go their different ways under the influence of sex steroids…
“Nowadays, if you have a patient in early puberty who was assigned male at birth and has gender distress or gender questions, we can use puberty blockers to suppress male puberty.
“They would not develop the traits that would theoretically afford them the advantage. Yet this child, under Idaho law, would still be excluded.”
Chulani went on to talk about what he sees as a huge problem with the bill – how to implement a law that will “force women to prove their womanhood”.
With the burden of proof on those accused of not being women, those who cannot afford blood tests or genital exams to offer up medical evidence to schools and colleges that they are female will not be able to play sports.
“The other thing that’s crazy about this is that it’s being applied to kids in K-12,” Chulani said.
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“That means the rules for participating in K-12 sports will be more stringent than those governing the Olympics.”
Finally, Chulani said, it’s important not to lose sight of what this bill really is: part of a larger anti-trans movement.
“This law in Idaho has to be viewed in the context of the march that we are seeing in legislative houses across the country,” he said. “Let’s not be ignorant, right? This is part of a larger anti-transgender agenda.”