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Michelle Begs to Differ: Trans Female Competative Advantage

DisagreeWhile most of the commentary has been very agreeable so far, we do have one amongst us who tends to take the dissenting opinion. This is good because fairly few discussions really need to any new thought when everyone just sits around agreeing with each other all day. I mean what fun is that? Based on the content provided by this person, who remains nameless and allegedly no one I know, my guess is that they fall in line with the RadFem philosophy. As this person, to date, is the only one of that bent who has chosen to comment and presumably read my posts, I thought it would be fair to address a few of their recent points found here. By the way, my guess is that this person is female, but without knowing for sure, I’m keeping it gender neutral.

In my post about Fallon Fox, they made a statement about transgender being a “self-diagnosed disorder” that I thought would be a good place to start. The tone suggested that this is synonymous with “contrived bullshit”. First, this is not exactly true. Transsexuals (I’m leaving cross-dressers out of this for the moment) generally experience a variety of symptoms leading them to seek professional care usually in the psychiatric, psychological, or medical arenas, if not all three. Under the World Professional Standards of Transgender Health (WPATH), the symptoms are evaluated, alternative causes are explored, systematically ruled out if appropriate, and a diagnosis or professional opinion is given. Treatment is recommended, including pharmacological care (hormones), and most patients respond positively.

For the sake of comparison, there are many conditions for which fluid or culture testing, various scans, genetic tests, or exploratory surgery cannot detect and rely on diagnosis by a professional asking the right questions. An excellent example is fibromyalgia. The point is that lack of a current litmus test in no way renders a condition non-existent. Sufficient evidence exists that the WPATH treatment of transsexuals is so successful in alleviating the negative symptoms that many insurance companies are starting to cover this. For-profit entities are hardly known for funneling any money away from shareholder returns without a solid basis of evidence.

Furthermore, I would add that the treatment is sufficiently difficult, if not heinous at times, and hard to obtain that the willingness of individuals to undergo the full regimen must still be less than the debilitating nature of the symptoms. Even the most motivated psychotic or fetishist (both alternative conditions that must be ruled out to proceed) would be hard pressed to complete all stages. All in all, the statement of ‘self-diagnosed’ as ‘bullshit’ simply doesn’t fly in this case.

I also found the statement “trying to beat the hell out of someone who was born female” to be over reactionary. I don’t really understand the motivation of fighting professionals, but it is very clear that anyone who gets in one of these rings does so with an expectation of either beating someone or being beaten. I understood the statement as a condemnation of men employing physical violence against women. The natural reaction, when framing it this way, is “how horribly wrong!”. I think we all agree that violence against women is a real and persistent problem worldwide. This, however, isn’t it. This is not a domestic or other criminally violent situation, but a contest between two athletes, so the only question is whether one has an unfair competitive advantage over the other.

Speaking of which, the statement “Fox has an advantage over most women who were born female” doesn’t have much basis to back it up. Her height (5’6”) and weight (135) are well within the female norm. Her skeletal form contains no inherent advantage and is subject to the same bone density issues experienced by other women her age. The issue of unfair competitive advantage has been thoroughly studied by the medical community and the vast majority of evidence is indicative of there not being one.

Reading through the details, my overall impression is that this person philosophically disagrees with the concept of a non-segregable gender binary. One should be once and forever categorized as only male or only female at birth and that transitional forms of either are fabrications. Here is the thing though; this model, perpetuated in so many societies to essentially make things simple and easy from a religious or bureaucratic point of view, has consistently failed to establish conformity. The model is flawed, and no matter what reasoning, logical or emotional that is used to shore it up, a portion of the population does not reflect the gender marker on their original birth certificate. We exist. We understand many organizations and individuals disagree that this ought to be, but it changes nothing.  We will not cease to be, go away, change our minds, or ever stop in our relentless pursuit of equality.

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About michellelianna

I'm a transgender woman now in the maintenance stages of transition having all the electrolysis and surgery one can reasonably be expected to undertake. While busy exploring my new world, I took to blogging about it with dubiously popular results. I don't have quite as much to say as I used to, but I'm not quite done yet either.

8 responses »

  1. nobody you know

    http://www.bloodyelbow.com/2013/3/20/4128658/dr-ramona-krutzik-endocrinologist-discusses-possible-advantages-fallon-fox-has

    Leis and Bowers fall back on the usual weasel words of ‘probably’ and whatnot that are generally steeped on anecdotal claims that do not involve persons competing in professional or even amateur athletic endeavors. Krutzik at least discusses the physical development realities that enter the equation with respect to bone and muscle structures.

    Important quotes from the interview (which appears to have gone largely ignored by trans*):

    “Typically, you’re looking at about 15 years after androgen suppression and SRS to really start to see significant changes in bone density. It’s been too early for her to see much of a decrease in bone mass or to make her equal to that of a female. She started off with a much higher bone density than other women her same age, and therefore will maintain a lot of that for a while. Additionally, because she is taking estrogen, that will actually help to maintain that bone mass. She may even carry that higher density much longer because of the estrogen therapy.

    Women also have lighter, child bearing hips because of the difference in hormones during the body’s developmental years. Her skeleton and body mass and shape developed a long time ago. Those changes cannot be undone. They are permanent.”

    and

    “There’s not really a way to determine how much her muscle mass will decrease over time. What can be said is that she has a naturally higher propensity to build and maintain muscle mass because she was once a fully developed, adult male. You can’t ever take that away from her.”

    I won’t delve into personal philosophies because, quite frankly, they are not relevant to this discussion nor are they relevant to ANY discussion about biological reality. I’ve competed as a professional athlete and as an amateur, in multiple sports, occasionally in competition that was mixed in nature. Age generally took me out of the mix at the professional level. Some of my training including competing against males, who I basically used as a measuring stick for overall performance, but the manner in which we would compete was inherently different because of certain physiological differences between male and female structures (think in terms of power versus finesse). The athletic realm is NOT the same thing as trying to load stuff up after a Saturday run to Home Depot to get stuff for the garden nor is it the same as self-perceived differences in daily activities.

    Reply
    • Fair enough, that settles that then I guess: Fox can’t compete.

      The imprinting part however, is pure humbug. Brains that masculinised due to testosterone-puberty? I’d welcome that Dr Krutzik to the multiple studies by now that show trans women’s brains are within female norms, even post-puberty and pre-HRT.(there’s no such thing as 100% male/female brains, just female norms and male norms in brain structure which overlap)
      Of course some may try to dismiss these studies for small sample sizes and such(can’t be helped, trans people aren’t that plentiful), but then what proof or study results did she give for her imprinting theory? Let’s put the imprinting conjecture aside for a moment:

      Since we’re trying to look at this not from a social angle, but are approaching this as a safety issue, it would only be fair to exclude any other female MMA athletes that have equal or more advantages than Fox in terms of size, frame, bone density, muscle power and whatnot.

      Bring on the measuring tape, bone scans, pressure tests(for muscle power), anything you can measure on her. Then, let (in the interest of fairness and safety) all other women in the MMA be tested. Outside female ranges? Stronger/bigger than Fox? Sorry, you’re unsafe, time to toss your gloves. Looking at Fox, I think you can say goodbye to a sizable portion of the female MMA roster.
      OR, you can treat each athlete on a case by case basis, like the Olympics do?

      Reply
  2. Before HRT, just “being me” meant that I would never need to swear. Now I swear at the drop of a hat, literally! Also things I used to be able to move with no problem seem a lot heavier than they used to be. I have to laugh that there is usually another woman nearby who will offer to help without my asking yet I wonder why men often seem to be scarcer than hen’s teeth.
    By the way, Drs. Marci Bowers and Sherman Leis have already weighed in on this issue. (http://www.bloodyelbow.com/2013/3/8/4075434/leading-sex-reassignment-physicians-weigh-in-on-fallon-fox.)

    Reply
  3. These are excellent and stimulating points! I have tussled for many years wondering if my need to transition is “just” a product of patriarchal gender constructs. I finally put that away and got on with changing my life and enjoying peace of mind and a vastly improved body image.
    My own narrow personal experience with upper body strength? Even after less than a year on HRT I can see the difference in my own physicality. As I’ve transitioned from “husky” to “plus sized” I understand the changes. My arms are much thinner and finer (I don’t want to use the obvious word Weaker). I tilled our garden this year and the rototiller nearly won! I had to use my body very differently. I used to have a pronounced mass of muscle on top of my shoulders (trapezius?) that bridged up to my neck, I hated it because it made my neck thick and ugly. It’s now gone and blouses fit like they should. Now I am not athletic so I may well have been able to “save” more of that strength if I’d tried. And I do know that I am stronger than many natal women my age, but I have to get help to lift things that I used to be able to manage by myself. I’ve started buying two smaller bags of dog food instead of the huge one. I’ve learned new ways to open jars. I use my legs more. And any one of the women boxers or fighters or roller derby queens would be able to do things I can’t and not break a sweat. But again, I’m not trying to keep any of my previous male physical “privilege.” Especially the high blood pressure, dicky prostate, barrel chest, balding, course skinned, ham handed, brittle haired privileges.

    A cis woman friend of mine is five or so inches taller than I am, served in the Marines and stays fit. She has an Amazonian presence and is totally much stronger than I am, or ever was. If she grabbed the other end of the sofa on moving day she would think I was a total wimp! Individuals are all over the spectrum and who can help but love it?

    Reply
  4. Hello Michelle! Before I start, I just want to say that I like your thinking and writing style. I appreciate and value your voice and admire your courage in fighting for equality against such a hostile cultural backdrop. On behalf of this disgusting colonist culture, I am sorry, to you, and me, and all of us who this culture tries to Spiritually deflate with its dehumanizing worldviews and behaviors.

    I still kinda straddle the line between radfem *theory* and trans* *reality* (which I recognize is complex and diverse). I’ve been continuing to non-engage in radfem vs. trans wars because radfem blogs are painful to read and I’m never in the mood for psychological warfare being flung my way. But I hate the way trans* people are being treated. Enough is enough.

    Re. your medical ‘evidence’ of the reality of trans*: My thinking is that a) I don’t need euro-colonialism’s religion of science to “prove” that trans* is real; b) there is nothing “disordered” about being trans; it is the grossly dis-eased colonist culture that is disordered in its relations towards the human race both within and outside of its culture; and c) some radfems think that the trans* identity somehow erases the female sex class, which I disagree with.

    The THEORY of female sex erasure via trans* is a joke (truly, it’s laughable), especially when compared to the very REAL erasure of females that is happening to millions of girls and women (and some males and trans folks) in prostitution/trafficking. Radfems have SO MUCH passion and energy, it makes me sad and mad to see it being spent on psychologically torturing the super marginalized, highly suicidal and HARMLESS trans* population (minus a few ‘bad apples’, which exist in ANY population), when such feminist energies can be better spent supporting and helping their prostituted sisters who are being raped, tortured and killed as I type these words, sisters who they themselves may think are more “real” females than their trans sisters. However way they want to frame it, feminism needs a reality check and to seriously prioritize its causes.

    As for this Fallon Fox issue, I both agree and disagree with you here: males DO typically have more upper body strength than females even if they’re the same height and weight, though it depends on the individual’s build and body type, and exceptions always exist. It’s just not black & white, on either side of the argument. Physics, body build, bone structure are things that exist and that aren’t wholly erased when hormones are taken, and are things that science and its tests cannot fully capture or understand.

    About Fibromyalgia: because there is no litmus test for this very real illness (in a culture that demands “evidence” for every fucking thing in existence as though this is possible or something we should aspire to), it is often discounted and dismissed as being “all in your head” and/or wholly attributed to emotional/mental trauma, which is extremely offensive and harmful to people who needlessly suffer from very real & debilitating physical pain.

    Last point, regarding where you say: “fairly few discussions really [lead] to any new thought when everyone just sits around agreeing with each other all day. I mean what fun is that?” —-> I very much desire harmony and peace and respectful relations, which can exist even when there is disagreement, but very difficult to do in this violent shit show colonist culture. It breaks my heart to read the conflict which I experience as full on internet terrorism between radfems and trans people. I was recently reading one particularly hateful radfem’s blog and I cried as I read the abuse she hurled at a transwoman. This is not the kind of “fun” I want to have on the internet. It breaks my heart, and god knows what psychological harm it’s doing to the trans* recipients of such violence. And you know what these bullies would probably say to me? “awww boohooo, call the WAAAAAAMBULANCE, someone’s fee fees got hurt.” Fun fucking timez all around huh?

    Sincerely,
    FR

    Reply
    • i like this, femrag! i don’t jump (or even tiptoe) into the mudpuddles made by terfs when they show up in trans spaces. i read their stuff when it comes linked to something i wanna see, and often end up doing it tearfully peeking through the fingers covering my eyes. i’m no coward, but i do hate confrontation that apparently will not result in any valuable change for the better.
      i sorta sympathise with their overiding fear of being displaced and devalued (cos lord knows we can relate to that,eh?), but cannot believe that women smart enough to argue so forcefully cannot seem to see that, as michelle notes above, that gender isn’t a strict binary.

      Reply
    • Hey FR,

      I found myself nodding over and over as I was reading your post. Thank you for being such a critical thinker. I figured I’d share a thought or two, if that’s alright?

      When it comes to the ‘radfem theory’ vs ‘trans theory/reality’, you might be happy to know that the two aren’t necessarily irreconcilable. Radfem theory is definately correct to gender roles are social constructs, it just failed to account for gender identity. Most trans theory seems to see it along these lines:
      Gender Roles = social construct, there is nothing that innately drives women to like pink, dolls and be nurturing, or men to like blue, cars and be good at math.
      Gender Identity = innate, it has to do with what your mind expects your body to be like.
      See, trans theory is not arguing that male/female stereotypes are true or innate at all, just your mental body-map. At this point some will counter “I don’t feel like a woman at all, I’m just me”, which is simply a blind spot, caused by always having had a body that fits their gender identity. Offer them testosterone shots and dare them to still “just be themselves” as their body changes, that should open their eyes.
      Butler(and others) have stated that if we could get rid of gender (roles) completely, the need for people to transition would disappear. It would be lovely if she was right(I hope she is), but I’m afraid the mental bodymap-body mismatch would still exist.

      The Fallon Fox issue isn’t really a fairness issue, but more of a social one. You’re right, science doesn’t know everything, but in sports it’s all we have to go on as far as an objective fairplay decider goes. All evidence thus far points at it being a level playing field after 2+ years of hormones and surgery, even the Olympic committee confirms this.
      If someone wishes to exclude(discriminate against) a certain group, the onus is on them to provide proof that it is the proper thing to do. It is not the task of the (potentially) excluded person to prove that they deserve equal treatment.
      Another problem is that if you are going to exclude her for having a different height, strength, limb length, hand size, bone structure etcetera.. you’re also going to have to measure and exclude every cis female athlete that falls too far outside female norms. Looking at Fox’s physique.. I think quite a few cis athletes would have to throw away their gloves.
      Mind you I am totally with you that ‘objectiveness’, ‘evidence’ and ‘science’ is overglorified in our culture. I personally suffer from a condition that is often deemed ‘not real’ and ‘unprovable’. But if we were to base the decisions on trans issues based on gut feelings and emotions.. trans people would lose every time.

      Again thank you for your attempts to be compassionate to all. People like you made me reconsider the value some radical feminist theory could have.

      Kind regards,
      Kim

      Reply
    • Hi FR!

      Sorry for the delay in response; life has been downright nutty. Let me
      begin by saying we have seem to have a mutual appreciation club going
      here because I really value what you have to say over on Feminist Rag,
      even when I don’t always comment. You are fighting the good fight, and
      I’m with you all the way.

      The real corker about RadFem philosophy is that if you strip away all
      the anti-trans elements, it is something I can get behind. Somehow
      something that started as a noble and necessary cause got hijacked,
      I’m guessing probably by a few influential individuals, to focus way,
      way too much energy on working diligently against a population many of
      whom would be in perfect agreement. I can’t wrap my head around this
      thinking at all; the process is beyond my ability to comprehend.

      A few months ago I wandered over to Brennan’s site and attempted a
      calm conversation to find common ground. It went on longer than it
      should of, mainly because I took it as a challenge to see how polite
      and detached I could remain when piled on by Cathy and a couple
      others. I’m not saying my way always make sense either. I finally
      concluded that it wasn’t me; just the very idea of me that made dialog
      pointless.

      Got off topic there. Good point on the “proof” aspect of trans. Our
      society likes clean scientific answers to everything, when in truth
      there are clear answers to not very much. This is further compounded
      by the nature of western research that at best will declare, “the
      results are indicative of potential correlational link between…”
      That way both sides of any issue can say, “See! There’s your proof;
      it’s true!” or “See! Totally inconclusive; it’s false!” Ugh. People
      can debate until the end of time whether stars were made or just
      happened, but nevertheless, there they are either way.

      I’m also 100% with you on the RadFem focus; also something that
      completely eludes me. There are quite a few deadly serious pandemic
      horrors that absolutely destroy the lives and well being of actual
      living breathing women, and anything thinks time should be wasted on
      esoteric ideas? I brought this up as well, politely, and had the point
      completely ignored except to told trans are definitely, definitely the
      real and pressing problem. Plus, apparently I’m an “asshole” for even
      bringing it up. Apparently sex slavery, mutilation, rape as a tool of
      war, rape culture in general, and gender based murder are secondary
      issues.

      Fallon Fox… no, it’s not simply black and white. Loss of upper body
      strength is a often documented effect of HRT, as is loss of stamina. I
      know personal accounts are not a well agreed on measure, but in
      absence of a great deal of study on this, it is at least something. As
      a runner who also has worked out with weights, I have personal
      experience with this. Granted, I’m not getting any younger, but after
      several years of running from spring to fall and charting my progress,
      a significant drop off occurred the spring after I began HRT the fall
      prior. While the full effect needs more study, most of the data
      currently favors some measure of equity between a cisgender woman and
      a trans woman who has been on HRT long enough to experience the full
      effects. Frame is different, but the degree of overlap between the
      genders is huge. Fallon falls well within the female norm.

      I hope I didn’t come across incorrectly and label fibromyalgia as
      “potentially fictitious” or anything such! I simply utilized is as a
      good example of something that is very real, but for which no
      physiological diagnostic test exists. This was simply to answer the
      accusation that trans is “self-diagnosed” and the implied message that
      this makes it suspect.

      As for the flame wars…. ugh, what a perfect way to ensure that no
      one will listen! More things I don’t understand. I’m probably far too
      idealistic in my vision of people on polar opposite sides of an issue
      simply listening to each other, debating and leaving open the
      possibility of changing their minds. I try to stay out of the
      mainstream RadFem vs Trans battle proper, but do feel compelled to
      answer anything brought up here. I may be completely mistaken, but if
      someone is willing to read my piece and comment, even if they are in
      total opposition to my point of view, at least they may be willing to
      talk. Anything is possible, right?

      Thanks again for all your thoughts! Seriously, your comments are often
      better than my posts and I hope you continue.

      My very best, Michelle

      Reply

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