Women do NOT hate trans women: but collective blindness is hurting women

(More) women must swim against the anti-women tide - will they?

Who led this "fight"?

"More than 465 women...." [The Hollywood Reporter, March 31, 2021]

The raging debate about trans women in women's sport is merely a symbol of a space that (too) few influential women are struggling to regain.
That shouldn't blind us to the fact that it's a space that (too) many influential women first ceded.

Many influential, privileged women (often even more than men)

have been the most vocal supporters of trans rights at the expense of women's rights

Contrary to accusations by pro-trans lobbies, most pro-women lobbies don't wish that trans-folk are denied opportunities to compete in sport; merely that they compete among themselves or, at the very least, with their 'parent' rather than their 'adopted' gender.

Women don't hate trans folk!

But every time there's an anti-woman outcome (sport is merely one sphere), many pro-women lobbies seem to disregard, or worse disown, the process that led to that outcome and their ignominious part in it. There's a predictable hardening: trans-folk are cheats, men at the The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) or the International Olympic Committee (IOC) are misogynists because they treat trans women as women, it's misogyny (or patriarchy) running riot again and the like.

But who fought the feminists?

A Hall of Fame (or Hall of Shame)

depending on how these women would like to see themselves

and how their campaigns have harmed other women

The thing is, many influential women may have more to do with this poisoning of the waters than they admit.
Especially those who campaigned to ensure the discourse becomes (and stays) anti-women. Regardless of how extraordinary their achievements in other spheres, their record in this conversation is far from exemplary.

Recall Bazaar's hugely influential piece, by a woman, as far back as 2018 - link here.

Over the years, thousands of high profile essays, research papers, surveys, speeches, letters, tweets like this from women, by women have been either embarrassingly naive or simply disingenuous. That doesn't mean they weren't dangerous - to women! Link here.

No sensible woman wants to hurt or humiliate trans women, but she does need to think harder when she unequivocally supports trends that (because they lack any sort of balance, nuance or temper) eventually, harm other women. It definitely gets the blood stream going to speak of battles and freedom and the like but who's fighting? For whom? Who's winning freedom? Who's losing?

Sadly - but not unimportantly - in the case study of sport for instance, it's women at NCAA committees (not only men or trans-folk) who seem to have allowed these anti-women rules.

The Lia Thomas (or Iszac Henig) saga is merely a symptom of deeper problems. How?

Every practice flows from a policy that's been approved, usually at several levels.

Did NCAA men or trans-folk simply ram through anti-women policy? All on their own? Without the implicit or explicit support of decisive women voters, at every stage?

What if women had voted en masse, as a 'block', to counter what they'd perceived as patently anti-women? Would draft (let alone daft) policy have become policy? Instead what have some of the most powerful women been doing? They've made it harder for other women to stand up to them - only women with courage, clarity and conviction have been able to call them out.

That some influential women (J K Rowling, Julie Bindel, Maya Forstater, Helen Joyce, Kathleen Stock, Dr Heather Brunskell-Evans and a handful of others) have been swimming against the tide is comforting. But they're still only a handful because of the multitude of influential women that they're, sadly, having to battle. Would they need to swim against the tide if it was truly with them?

Why didn't more influential women, enough influential women swim against the tide when it mattered, well before pantry-chats became protocol, before Papers became policy, before bills became law?

In campaigns for policies that, eventually, harm women, whose voices have often been the loudest, whose fists the highest, whose placards the largest, whose grins the widest?

Agreed, it's harder for women to 'count' as a block on NCAA's Board of Governors - even as recently as 2021-22 only 5 out of the 21 on that Board are women!

But at every other level, is there evidence that women used their legitimate power to consolidate and fight anti-women policy? Or are the voices of women behind the already powerful voices of trans women? See link here

For instance, there are at least 15 NCAA Association-wide Committees, including on 'sportsmanship, equity, ethical conduct, women's athletics, minority opportunities and interests'. Women are strongly, if not equally, represented in all. And the NCAA has members in 50 states across the US, Columbia, Puerto Rico and Canada.

It's frankly impossible for men or trans-folk to simply 'mute' women.
Women are too powerful, as a block, to mute any longer.
Could it be, instead, that many women - at several levels of policy - muted themselves by actively framing discussion against women?

Unless these women start wielding power that they already have, where and when it counts, it's always going to be easier to blame 'individuals' (Lia Thomas, Iszac Henig, Laurel Hubbard), 'men' (and their misogyny) or the NCAA or the IOC or 'the system'. This is especially true of women who can inform policy from the grassroots up.

Women activists are understandably overjoyed at the passage of bills that protect their private spaces from the intrusion of trans women.

Not all trans women are naughty or nefarious but many are both.

Women rejoice at votes in their favour. They cheer legislators behind the Ayes and show the finger to those behind the Nays.

What they're not doing is looking closer at women behind the Nays. The ones whose votes they must, in fairness, take for granted but can't. Or at least haven't been able to, until recently, and only after outcry from affected women and girls on the street. These papers became bills and were put to vote because women who could have spoken up didn't - didn't speak enough, soon enough, loudly enough, consistently enough, collaboratively enough, creatively enough.

Wielding woman power means women voting with courage and conviction, not complicity or convenience. At the humblest of gatherings, not just the highest committee benches. To expect men or trans-folk with vested interests, to angelically self-correct is negligent and naive. Especially if women are falling over themselves to undermine what the most sensible among them are saying!

A few clear-headed women have been swimming against the tide; apparently many other women haven't been, clear-headed or swimming.

Here's one of the few trans women, Corinna Cohn from Indianapolis, speaking bravely, sensibly on this theme.

The case study of sport: fairer sex?!

Was Laurel Hubbard’s participation as the first publicly transwoman in a women’s event at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics (held in 2021), progress for diversity and inclusion? Or a fatal misreading of the principle of fairness in competitive sport, that tears at both diversity and inclusion?

Does fair competition on one hand and diversity and inclusion on the other, represent “conflict”? Or are they all principles of fairness that we must just manage differently?

Women are different (from men) and make sport indescribably more diverse. How? By competing alongside men, in the same sporting disciplines. How? In female categories that recognize their difference. Not superiority or inferiority but difference! However, “alongside” does not mean along “with” or on the same track or field. It means separately, distinctly.

No choirmaster apologizes for placing soprano, alto, tenor and bass in separate clusters in a choir. Why should he? After all, a choir isn’t about registering superior over inferior, but about gorgeously different voice types, ranges, complementing each other. Separately. And in harmony. Glorious union and inclusion. But from equally glorious diversity.

Like all fair competitions, sport recognizes strong and fast, but rewards stronger and strongest and faster and fastest. Or it would be neither fair nor competition. Contestants would simply be kissing each other’s cheeks and exchanging bouquets. Remember, 'elimination' rounds are the soul of tournaments.

By its very nature competitive sport includes by excluding.

As a very human activity, sport reflects our very human imperfection, our brilliance amidst fragility, our power amidst our tenderness. You may have decades of practice behind you, but something as minuscule as a muscle pull can ruin the moment. Imperfect diversity, imperfect inclusion. Always striving. For more, for better.

Only the obtuse would pit flyweight or bantam against heavy or super heavyweight. Think Orlando Bloom in a ring against Sylvester Stallone. All men in the ring use similar tools and techniques - punches, jabs, hooks, bobbing, weaving. But would you pit a 108-pounder against a 201-pounder any more than you’d pit Ryan Gosling against Dave Bautista? All men. Yet treated differently because, well, some men are daintier.

Would anyone allow little girls to compete with women merely because they’re both “female”? Or trained-professional women to compete with untrained-amateur women? In any discipline?

Overdosing on inclusion

Isn’t that why steroids stay banned? To reduce - if not remove - competitive edge in physical prowess, save what society gives athletes in family status: money to be mentored or to afford special kit and such? Or to remove the edge that Nature lends athletes through gifted genes? Or the edge they give themselves through tenacity, training, technique and temperament?

Strength, speed, endurance and power-sports such as boxing, power-lifting, cycling, swimming recognize different contestant bands by including them all. Differently! Not only do categories for men and women differ, sub-categories of age or weight or height ensure further levels of fairness. That acknowledges the obvious - hamstring or bicep size, for instance. And less obvious - heartbeats per minute or lung capacity!

Inclusion and diversity. And fair competition. In tandem.

Not mutually exclusive but hand in hand, serving sport and its fans.

Lumping everyone with breasts “together” is as insensitive as dumping everyone else in another “together” merely because they sport a more prominent Adam’s apple.

A woman is so much more than her breasts, what a travesty to reduce her to her organs and hormones.

But even with the all the "right" organs and hormones, a trans woman cannot micro-control the impact of reduced testosterone levels on performance any more than Naomi Osaka can miraculously will back the tennis ball into her cupped hand after serving her ace.

Most competitive advantages that testosterone gives boys at puberty, cannot be willed back when they become trans women. The Science of Sport podcast with high-performance sport expert Dr. Ross Tucker, explains this and related points.

There are others

Menstruation is a competitive leveler among girls, that it cannot be among trans-girls in terms of pain, fatigue, blood loss, oxygen and blood pressure levels.
Pregnancy, child-birth, lactation and child-rearing are levelers among women that they cannot be among trans women.
Contact sports such as rugby, basketball, football, hockey, ice hockey and combat sports such as karate, kick-boxing prioritize safety, for a reason. Injured women bear risk of debilitating or life-threatening impact in a way that men do not.
It’s not about what can be done (let women compete with men) but what must be.

What of the poor Under-13s?! Dismantle age categories too? At the altar of some imagined equality-inclusion universe? Even someone as delicate as Natalie Portman would be barred from the Under-13 team. Why? She’s not Under-13! As an adult woman she should, in fairness, compete with adult women in comparable categories.

If an adult suddenly identifies as a child or becomes retarded enough to mimic the mind of a child, do we allow him to kick-box with a child? That’s not inclusion. That’s idiocy.

Trans men competing with men isn’t fair either. Even the silliest TikTok challenges hint that the lower center of gravity, smaller skeleton of a woman (even one self reporting as a trans man) gives her an edge over a man in certain activities that she loses in many others.

Male-female differences aren’t always and only about testosterone. And men aren’t always better at contests!


Categories help.

They enable inclusion and diversity and fairness.

If categories for women and men and subcategories of height-weight-age within male and female categories are diverse and inclusive enough, why not categories that recognize and reward differences between men and women on one hand and trans folk on the other?

Why not distinct categories for transgenders or others who don’t qualify (or identify!) as men or women?

Why not subcategories within that broad trans category, that are distinct for trans men and trans women?

If there aren’t sufficient trans folk to warrant certain team sports (requiring greater base numbers) isn’t it fairer for them to wait until there are, instead of invading women's teams? Didn't women wait for decades before they got anywhere near today's scale of female presence on the sports field?

After all, even if some trans women can beat many women out of the park, they’re probably out of their depth when it comes to top-ranking men. Is it fair to huddle them into a large, unwieldy and probably still unfair category that bundles them with men or women? Why not a new category? Or two? Why not develop benchmarks that do new categories greater justice?

Creating new categories is hard work. Sports policy would be better off investing time, effort and money there instead of seeing nothing but a reductionist trade-off for women (or men) merely to include trans folk.

If the idea of diversity-inclusion derives from a principle of fairness, it's the latter that must prevail, even as we struggle to appropriately articulate the former.

Categories don’t sacrifice the essence of sport - fairness! They draw inspiration from the ethos of a common starting block but in the real world operate more like a penalty-kick in football; outrageous to the novice but game-on to the veteran.

Like the “handicap” that levels a playing field, giving (almost) everyone (about) the same opportunity. Not the same opportunity. Not everyone. Almost.

Don’t contests for the blind give differently abled contestants the same starting point, forbidding others from skewing things by jumping in, merely to express solidarity? I may want to “support” my wheelchair-buddy but don’t my good two legs - rightly and automatically - disqualify me from her playground? Am I not better off cheering her from the stands? Does the IOC look at “overwhelming advantage” or indisputable scientific modeling when deciding such contestants? Or do they go by a supposedly innate sense of fairness, of principle?

I may cheerily jog blindfolded onto a track for the blind, but I’m not blind.

I may happily stuff my ears with plugs but I’m not deaf.

I may be sufficiently weaker, slower than my wheelchair-bound or prosthetic-wielding rival to dismiss arguments about level playing field. But I am not allowed to compete on her track because I’m not differently abled.

If I’m a man disabled by a terrible accident I compete with disabled men, even if I’ve become disabled. I do not compete with women merely because I’ve become weaker or slower than men! That’s good faith. It’s also common sense. No one in their right minds is waiting for me to prove “overwhelming” advantage or for my “numbers” to increase on the women’s track. Instead they place me where I belong - on the track for disabled men. No one is waiting for me to become a “sufficient” threat to the women’s track.

Laurel Hubbard’s loss (or victory) in a woman’s event matters less than the inherent and essential unfairness of a trans woman participating in a women’s event.

Hubbard’s loss (or victory) does not exclude other women; Hubbard’s participation does.

If you include unfairly, you exclude unfairly too.

Hubbard’s loss doesn’t mean pro-trans lobbies are right (we told you, trans women are no threat to women) any more than Lia Thomas's victory means biological sex-based lobbies are right (we told you, trans women are a threat).

The narrow prism of victory (or defeat) sort of misses the point.
The issue isn't - shouldn't be - about winning, but about competing and all the fair principles that it mandates.

The Paralympics embody diversity, inclusion and fair competition. Not by stubbornly ignoring difference but by celebrating it: difference in muscle power, limb size, vision and the like. By recording excellence differently. By rewarding achievement differently. All of it based on difference, founded on difference. Oneness. Not sameness.

Rights - yes, but whose rights?

Human rights must be human first.

Policy desperately needs proportion.

Few countries boast of updated or accurate census data on transgender populations. But even the US, puts transgenders at 0.6%. Even if you assume half (0.3%?) are trans women, is that contingent any match for the massive population of women: 50%?

0.3%!? That’s before narrowing to the even tinier percentage of trans women relative to women who actually merit a piece of action in competitive sport. Allowing for the higher public acceptance - and greater presence - of trans folk in sport in the US and some countries, relative to others, this proportion of trans women to women will be far lower globally, possibly to a point of insignificance in competitive sport.

Globally, if girls and women were, say, even twice that US trans women contingent, or 0.6% of the planet’s population (instead of the 50% they actually are!), would women’s sport as we know it today, have seen the light of day, ever? Would men, so concerned now about inclusion, have bothered about proportional representation for women at national and international level?

Even after a century of struggle, women still don’t enjoy equality with men: audience support, sponsors, media coverage, kit, training or pay. Even with overwhelming numbers on their side, women have had to fight to get here. Not to speak of decades of sexual harassment by male trainers, coaches, physiotherapists, administrators.

How come influential men are so frenzied about equity for the minuscule 0.3% when they've ignored the multitude of 50% for decades?

That makes the question starker: whose voice must count for more on global playgrounds?

Not that minorities don’t matter. They do. Precisely because they’re minorities. But it’s important not to lose perspective either.

Isn’t it fairer to create a separate category to allow the newly-recognized minority of trans women to compete with and among themselves than to browbeat such an overwhelming majority of women, for decades excluded from sport and several other spheres, to meekly surrender space yet again?

Imagine one trans girl first edging out 1,000 girls at a local level, then edging out 10,000 girls at national level and 100,000 at international level. Imagine that happening across sporting disciplines, across countries, year after year, decade after decade. If the trans girl population did suddenly and impossibly expand in proportion (to make their numbers eventually count) wouldn’t those edged out girls lose even more incalculably, more irrevocably?

In accommodating a new interest group, Supreme Courts around the world either create a new category or protect the status quo. Either way, they don't disturb the status quo by default, merely because a new interest group shows up.

What did the IOC do? They admitted that current data is inconclusive and still went ahead, overturned the status quo, allowed trans women to compete with women - a grave indictment of bias.

Families of sport-loving children and adults, law-makers, activists, athletes, coaches, administrators must act. Now.

That includes challenging themselves on language that hurts women. Hundreds of women journalists and commentators who have written insightful articles, spoken on TV and podcasts calling out this travesty of trans intrusion are undermining their cause by referring to trans women as women, repeatedly using 'she', 'her', 'hers'.

If they privately claim that 'trans women are not women', why publicly undermine women by using language that should - by rights - apply only to women?

One otherwise sensible substack piece by Suzi Weiss dated 21 February 2022, titled Watching Lia Thomas win referring to Thomas uses the words 'she' and 'her' around 20 times.....each.

One of Weiss's paragraphs captures this best: "When she swam on the men’s team, Thomas never made it to the NCAA Championship. Now, Thomas is seeded number one in the league and is poised to give Katie Ledecky a run for her money next month at the NCAA championships."

"When SHE swam on the men's team....."?!

Men who haven't spoken up yet, believing they have no bone in this fight must lobby alongside women (and vote) for separate categories that allow trans folk to compete, but without discriminating - again - against women.

Women who've been undercutting other women all along, to put it mildly, must urgently reconsider.

The IOC is right to update the Olympic motto to “Faster, Higher, Stronger - Together”. But it’d be tragic if they’ve mistaken “Together” to mean a camel’s back.

Welcome trans folk into sport.

Not like this.

One category need not suffer at the expense of the other. It need not be the zero-sum game that the IOC or activists on both sides make it out to be. Oneness can include and preserve difference, simultaneously.

Inclusion isn’t about lazily and irresponsibly throwing every hue and shade into a tired uniformity or a dull sameness. Fair competition isn’t only about the fairer sex competing on the same ground as the other sex. It’s also about ensuring that competition between and among any group of contestants is as fair as possible, in any sporting ground, on any given day.

All sports demand effort. Should equitable sports be any different?

But sport is merely one sphere.

On trans themes, influential women have let other women down repeatedly; (far more) of them need to swim against the tide - will they?

Six panelists helped USA Today handpick a handful of winners out of thousands of nominees of women achievers from across the US; one panelist was a man, the other five were women. Of 12 National Honorees for Women of the Year they still picked one who, frankly, isn't a woman.

Rudolph Lambert Fernandez is an independent writer writing on pop culture.

Twitter: @RudolphFernandz


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