File this under Things That Should Never Happen
Since winning a gold medal in the 2019 Pacific Games in the female weight lifting division, Hubbard, who is from Auckland, has had my attention and that of the world. Why? Because as a male a good two decades older than his female competitors, his participation in the Olympics as a trans-identified male athlete in a female sport requires us all to suspend reality…and to lie. Something I am not comfortable with and something you shouldn’t be comfortable with either.
I have been continually shocked by the (very loud and increasingly foaming at the mouth) support Hubbard receives online. People continue to refer to him as if he were a woman (not a transwoman, a literal woman). However, using this language is to agree to and propagate the fallacy that individuals are actually able to change their biological sex, which is impossible. Imagine actually believing it when someone says, “It’s okay if a man competes as a woman, “her” testosterone levels are below the acceptable threshold. Now her body is exactly that of a biological woman’s!” Is how one feels about oneself more important than the physical reality of their body? To believe in gender identity, you would have to think that one can perceive one’s own sex separate from the material reality of one’s body. When did we come to accept the idea of “gendered thoughts” or “gendered feelings” as valid and should be affirmed through the legal process? It is a statutorily undefined concept at best. (1)
Even with lower levels of testosterone, if you hit puberty as a male, then your bones will be denser than the average woman (peak male bone mass is around 50% more than women’s), your lungs and heart will be more prominent, and muscles will be capable of handling higher levels of pressure. Body size will increase, hands, shoulders, and feet grow much larger than an average woman’s. Men have, on average, 66% more upper body muscle than women, and on average, women are around 30–35% muscle by weight, while men are 40–50% muscle. Men have much lower body fat percentages. Men have higher hemoglobin levels. I could go on, and on, and on. (2) How testosterone affects the strength and muscle mass is just the tip of the iceberg. Women are not the weaker sex in all areas (women have better vision, higher levels of pain tolerance), but our bodies are fundamentally different. And of course, men can’t give birth because, well…they’re male. Having testosterone/estrogen treatments doesn’t change the physiological effects on the male body during puberty causes. There is no scientific evidence to suggest that this advantage is negated through cross-sex hormone use.
Now come all the “arguments” that a (middle-aged, morbidly obese) trans-identified male has no advantage over female athletes… although he managed to qualify for the Olympics while recovering from an injury and being two decades older than the average female competitor in his field. In fact, the year that Hubbard “debuted” in female weightlifting, he set a new world record in the heavyweight category.
Of course, another incoherent argument is “transwomen are women,” the same as all other women. Any suggestion to the contrary is meted out with the overused accusation of “transphobia.” There is quite literally no bigger bully than the ones advancing this anti-female agenda. Part of me was hoping that Hubbard would win to galvanize people into action. I still hope this helped peak people, upset people, motivate people to push back again this regressive ideological cult. He won’t be the last male stealing awards and spaces from women, and in fact, several other trans-identified men are competing in women’s sport in the Olympics this year!
To sum this story up, a male, with all the biological advantages that confers and cannot be negated (male puberty), competed against and took places that otherwise would have gone to marginalized women of color. Gender, however one wishes to define it, is not the same as sex. Women require spaces of their own, and Laurel Hubbard’s participation in female sport is a clear example of male privilege and sexism. To argue for men’s inclusion into women’s sport is not only fundamentally heterosexist; it also serves an old claim that women need to take care of men and put their needs before their own.
Hubbard competing in the 2021 Olympics. Women can’t afford to be nice about this threat to our sports and our spaces. (Image from CBS Sports)
- Barrett, Ruth. ‘Female erasure: what you need to know about gender politics’ war on women, the female sex and human rights.’
Pacific Palisades, CA: Tidal Time Publishing, LLC, 2016.