The Washington Times recently reported on a transgender cyclist who was the top women’s finisher at the El Tour de Tucson in southern Arizona on Saturday. For the second straight year.
Jillian Bearden, 36, from Colorado Springs has been competing professionally for years as a man, but began his gender transition in 2014.
Bearden, who spent the first 34 years of his life as Jonathan, suffered the depression and suicidal tendencies of a man with gender dysphoria.
“My story starts at an early age,” Bearden told CyclingTips.com. “I knew I was trans. I would wear my sister’s clothes and wished to be on girls’ sports team and things like that. All throughout my life I had this dysphoria going on. All throughout high school I wore women’s clothes underneath my actual clothes just to feel comfortable in my own skin.”
Jonathan Bearden, who was married with two children at the time, began his lengthy and arduous transition process in 2014, which consisted of hormone replacement therapy (HRT), and competed as a woman at the El Tour de Tucson in November, 2016.
News that a transgendered woman had won the event sparked heated debates on fair play and the integrity of the sport. The second-place finisher, Anna Sparks, declined to comment, but third-place finisher, Suzanne Sonye, expressed her feelings.
“I have raced for 30 years, and have raced against many trans athletes during that time. The topic is heating up now, but Bearden is nothing new,” Sonye said. “I’m sure [Bearden] had a rough go at it. It’s very difficult to be transgender. But [when it comes to racing] it’s problematic to me that she [transitioned] only acouple years ago, and has lived 30 years as a man. Regardless of testosterone levels, she’s got muscle memory and a lung capacity that I could never build up. She was a Cat 1 as a male. I could never match a pro man. How fair is that to her female competitors?”
Sonye brings up an important point as to whether or not testosterone levels are a valid measure for allowing transgender women to compete with biological women.
In January 2016, the International Olympic Committee released revised guidelines on transgender athletes and hyper-androgenism, now allowing biological men to compete as women without first undergoing a sex reassignment surgery.
The new guidelines state that athletes who have transitioned from female to male are eligible to compete in the male category without restriction.
But for those transitioning from male to female, the athlete can only compete in the female category if:
1. The athlete has declared their gender identity as female and cannot change for a minimum of four years.
2. The athlete must demonstrate that their total testosterone level has been below 10 nmol/L for at least 12 months prior to their first competition, and must remain below 10 nmol/L throughout the period of desired eligibility to compete in the female category. (the average testosterone level for men is 10-35 nmol/l)
USA Cycling granted Bearden a racing license nearly three months after the International Olympic Committee had released their rulings regarding transgender athletes. Compliance with these conditions may be monitored by testing and Bearden has worked with the IOC and USA Cycling as a testing subject, hoping to build policies that allow wider participation within the sport.
But now that Bearden has won the race a second time in, it may be appropriate to question whether or not these standards are valid.
Bearden is not the only case that raises this question. Probably the most notorious is that of transgender MMA fighter Fallon Fox, who fought a female opponent in 2015, giving her a concussion and braking her eye socket.
Other examples include Christina Ginther, a 44-year-old six-foot tall transgender who sued to play in a women’s football league in Minnesota, and 50-year-old transgender Gabrielle Ludwig who is 6’6” and 220 pounds and joinedthe women’s basketball team at Mission College in Santa Clara, CA, in 2012.
There are many other examples.
The whole subject raises the broader question of why transgender athletes feel they must impose their presence in female sports rather than simply competing against other transgender athletes? Is it because of the psychological trauma of being transgender? We are always told we must be sensitive to transgender people because so many of them commit suicide? If so, why must the entire sporting world bend to accommodate the feelings of people with clear psychological problems? Why not simply create transgender leagues to allow transgender athletes to compete with each other?
Why must we force female athletes—or anyone—to labor under the tyranny of aggrieved transgender people?