Accommodating Transgender Athletes

Accommodating Transgender Athletes
The challenges of trying to accommodate transgender athletes appropriately
in competitive sports come from living in a society that places a high value on
athletic achievement, as well as on the competing virtues of equality, individual
freedom, and fairness. On an individual level, a person’s participation in com-
petitive sports confers benef‌its to that individual, with those benef‌its increasing
dramatically as the person becomes more skillful and successful—that is, when
they win more. On a societal level, the meritocratic nature of competitive
sports, combined with our collective desire to win and to associate the winner
with who is the best, has led sports to play a central role in advancing social
change in the US, particularly in the areas of race and sex. This paper starts
from the assumption that it is a matter of justice generally to regard a trans
man as a man and a trans woman as a woman. Even given this assumption, it
is not obvious that this general position should be extended to competitive
sports in any and all cases, and, in particular, to the participation in women’s
sports by trans women or trans men.
I. WHY COMPETITIVE SPORTS? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 906
II. WHY WOMENS SPORTS? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 908
III. ACCOMMODATING TRANSGENDER ATHLETES . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 911
In 2018, philosophy professor Rachel McKinnon accomplished what most aca-
demics never even dream of—she became a world champion in a competitive
sport, winning the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) Women’s Masters Track
World Champion in the 35-44 age bracket. In 2019, McKinnon defended her title
and became a two-time world champion.
She has received an extraordinary
amount of attention for these victories, much of which comes from her fellow
competitors. But instead of congratulating her, many have cried foul, arguing that
* Professor of Ethics, Strategy, and Public Policy; Director of the University Honors Program and
Director of the Urban Entrepreneurship and Policy Institute at the University of New Orleans. © 2021,
Chris W. Surprenant.
1. Rebecca Reza, Transgender Cyclist Rachel McKinnon Wins Second-Straight World Masters Title,
Bicycling (Oct. 24, 2019),
masters-win-transgender-sport-debate/ [].

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