Caitlyn Jenner Says She Opposes Transgender Girls Competing in Girls' Sports

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistMay 2, 2021

FILE - In this Sept. 7, 2019, file photo, Caitlyn Jenner attends the Comedy Central Roast of Alec Baldwin in Beverly Hills, Calif.. In her four days as a candidate for California governor, Jenner had a Twitter spat with a Democratic congressman, unveiled a website to sell campaign coffee mugs and swag and was photographed with a startup business owner. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP, File)
Richard Shotwell/Associated Press

The topic regarding whether transgender women should be allowed to compete in women's sports has become a major talking point around the United States, with a number of states introducing bills to limit or ban such participation.

Over the weekend, former Olympic athlete and transgender woman Caitlyn Jenner said she was in favor of such prohibitions.

"This is a question of fairness," Jenner told TMZ. "That's why I oppose biological boys who are trans competing in girls' sports in school. It just isn't fair, and we have to protect girls' sports in our schools."

It boils down to some people believing transgender women have an unfair advantage competing against cisgender women, while others argue that such arguments are used to justify discrimination against transgender athletes and normalize a false conception of femininity. The fear is that such restrictions will further drive transgender women away from sports, especially at the youth and high school levels.

Dr. Eric Vilain, a pediatrician and geneticist who studies the difference in athletic performance between men and women, called into question whether transgender women actually have an inherent advantage during an interview with NPR:

"We know that men have, on average, an advantage in performance in athletics of about 10 percent to 12 percent over women, which the sports authorities have attributed to differences in levels of a male hormone called testosterone. But the question is whether there is in real life, during actual competitions, an advantage of performance linked to this male hormone and whether trans athletes are systematically winning all competitions. The answer to this latter question, are trans athletes winning everything, is simple—that's not the case. And higher levels of the male hormone testosterone are associated with better performance only in a very small number of athletic disciplines: 400 meters, 800 meters, hammer throw, pole vault—and it certainly does not explain the whole 10 percent difference."

He added that any potential advantages would vary from sport to sport. A transgender woman may have certain advantages in basketball based on her height, for instance, but perhaps would be disadvantaged in a sport like gymnastics, he said.

At the top level of sports, no openly transgender athletes have ever competed at the Olympics (Jenner competed as the male gender assigned to her at birth under the name Bruce Jenner in the 1972 and 1976 Olympics, winning gold in 1976 in the men's decathlon). The IOC is expected to announce its transgender athlete policies after the Tokyo Games this summer.

In the NCAA, only CeCe Telfer of Franklin Pierce University has won a championship as an openly transgender athlete (the Division II 400-meter hurdles in 2019).

But the issue remains a divisive one.

"Yes, on average... there will be performance differences that will be better," bioethicist and cultural anthropologist Katrina Karkazis told Will Hobson of the Washington Post. "Whether that's an advantage or not... I actually think that's a normative statement that involves a value judgment about what is advantaged."