Lana Lawless: Why the LPGA Tour Will Never Let the Transgender Play
For those of you who don’t follow golf or have yet to hear the story, Lana Lawless is a female golfer who was formerly a man and now wants to join the LPGA Tour. Needless to say, this controversial topic has raised eyebrows and brought up a plethora of questions.
The LPGA says all golfers must be born females, disqualifying Lana from competition. Juwanna Mann jokes aside, this is an important precedent to set.
Just a year ago South African runner Caster Semenya was humiliated when the IAAF decided to test whether she had a rare medical condition that would give her an advantage over her competitors. Semenya has since been cleared to return, but the question over how to handle transgender athletes remains both a significant athletic and social issue.
Physically, men are superior to women. It’s not sexist. It’s not chauvinistic. It’s fact. Men lift more, jump higher and run faster. If we allow men to have sex change operations and play against female competition, they have an unfair advantage.
The Y chromosome is responsible for differentiating males from females—except in rare genetic abnormalities. If we are to define the lines for athletics, we should do it scientifically so there are clear terms.
While I highly doubt somebody would undertake a sex change operation just for a competitive advantage, it’s a precedent that needs to be set.
Devils Advocate: Should The LPGA Mirror Olympic Rules?
The LPGA has taken flak from LGBT groups who believe their treatment of Lawless is unfair. In fact, it was only after Lawless won the Long Drivers tournament in 2008 that the rules concerning transgendered individuals were changed, and Lawless was restricted from defending her title.
The International Olympic Committee ruled in 2004 that transsexual athletes were allowed to compete in the Athens Olympics. If the Olympics welcome transgendered competitors, shouldn’t the LPGA?
Lawless’ Sex Change Came Too Late in Life to Qualify
In 1990, the International Association of Athletics Federations stated that any individual that underwent a sex change before puberty should be accepted to participate under their new gender.
Unfortunately, Lawless had her sex change operation just five years ago—well after she had gone through puberty. Based on this suggestion, the LPGA should uphold their ruling and ban Lawless from competition.
Male Bone Structure and Stature
Strength is a huge part of golf. As much as the game requires traits like patience and hand-eye coordination, the great players capitalize on their strength and muscle. That said, perhaps the fact that Lawless won the Long Drive competition should open some eyes.
She was clearly stronger than her XX chromosome competition, and had an obvious competitive advantage. Driving the ball 256 yards into 30-mile an hour winds are atypical results for most women.
Men Typically Outdrive Women
John Sommers II/Getty Images
There is a reason the women’s tee is closer to the green than the men’s. Men hit longer drives.
While the top female driver is Karen Stupples with a 283 yard average, Robert Garrigus leads the PGA with an average drive of 316.1 yards. That’s a 33-yard difference between the top male and top female, which represents a 12 percent gap.
The longest drivers don’t always make the best players, but it certainly does not hurt.
How Do We Define the Term Female?
Lawless is currently suing the LPGA over this “female by birth” requirement, claiming that after getting her testes removed and undergoing years of hormone therapy she has no edge over the rest of her female competition.
This is difficult because Lawless totally believes that she is right here and it is hard to blame her. Despite her DNA, she feels like a woman and is recognized by the state of California as being legally female. However, she towers above her competition and quite frankly, sticks out like a sore thumb.
The LPGA needs to maintain the integrity of their competition and not succumb to political correctness. In her heart and in the eyes of the law, Lana is a woman. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but genetically, she is still a man.
In the case of Caster Samenya, it was ultimately deemed that she was a hermaphrodite (meaning she has both male and female organs), and that she could continue competing against women. That is not the case for Lawless, who was born a standard XY male.
The one case that may force the LPGA to allow Lawless on the tour is that of tennis player Renee Richards. Born as Richard Raskind, Richards had gender reassignment surgery in 1975, to become a woman. After being denied the right to play in the US Open, Richards sued disputing a similar “born-woman” rule.
The Supreme Court ruled in her favor and Richards was allowed to play in the USTA, and after a successful career she earned a Hall of Fame induction in 2000.
There are sure to be strong emotions on either side of this debate. Many will argue that Lawless being born a male gives her a strength advantage, and sets a dangerous precedent. Others will argue that Lawless is now legally female and point out past Olympic rulings that have allowed transgendered athletes to compete. It’s a complicated problem and as such, there is so simple solution.
While I don’t believe Lawless had this operation in an attempt to dominate female competition, I do believe that individuals in the future may attempt this outlandish stunt if you allow late-in-life sex change recipients to compete.
There is a lot of money in professional sports, and there are enough bizarre, attention-seeking individuals that would try to exploit this system. Factor in Lawless' apparent size and strength advantage, and it would be unfair to fellow female golfers.
This seems to be more of a social issue than an athletic one, so it will be interesting to see whether the courts can overrule the LPGA’s ruling. My one request is that this issue is dealt with peacefully and without hateful slurs.
Everybody is entitled to their opinion and I hope we can have an open and honest discussion on this subject.