Got Balls? Trans Athlete vs. Rabid Libertarian – Case Summary
Yes, you heard. Trans woman sues CrossFit, as the company would not allow her to compete in women’s division of the CrossFit Games.
There is plenty of coverage already on how CrossFit is right, and how CrossFit sucks, and on whether suing for money takes away from the main point, and, of course, on whether trans women have an athletic advantage over cisgender (gender identity matches biological sex at birth) women.
Instead, I want to outline three arguments that can be used to defend Chloie’s case, and also three reasons those arguments will not do diddly squat to convince CrossFit founder and owner Greg Glassman to do so.
Greg Glassman identifies himself as a rabid libertarian.
“You know,” he says, “you make me do something — if I’m already doing it, I’ll stop doing it. Even if I thought it was a good idea and it’s something that I wanted to do.”
Now, if you need a refresher:
Libertarians uphold liberty as the highest political end and are skeptical of governmental authority (because it has a potential to undermine individual freedom). In libertarianism, the agents fully own themselves. If you are sensing anarchistic overtones, you are not completely wrong.
Yes, yes – and you thought CrossFit was the next cool thing. It encouraged you to view yourself as a misfit again. I’ve been wearing orange socks to the gym, for goodness’ sake.
It was just so… rebellious. So… fresh. So… anti-establishment. It turns out it is (significantly) older than your grandmother. Bummer.
Glassman started reading economics when he was a high school student, naming Milton Friedman (best known for his “Capitalism and Freedom”) and Friedrich August Hayek among his favorites.
Notably, F.A. Hayek’s “The Fatal Conceit” is one of the books that Glassman reports enjoying over and over again. Looking into “The Fatal Conceit” more closely demonstrates that Glassman’s views, while outlandish, do have a clear origin.
Phew. My world makes sense again. My world is insane, but at least I know why.
It’s quite a read, by the way.
Perhaps, it should be included as a required text for CrossFit Level 1 Trainer Certification. It would definitely take longer than two days, but we’d end up with significantly less dumb coaches. Hi, Rich!
Although the author warns that many of his remarks would be unpalatable to some intellectuals. I must be an intellectual, because many of his remarks were, indeed, unpalatable. [Did you catch fallacious logic there? Good. Just checking that you are paying attention.]
I present to you three arguments that can be used to argue Chloie’s case. Using Hayek’s “The Fatal Conceit” as reference, I will also present three reasons why these three arguments will not mean diddly squat to Glassman.
The state of California recognizes Chloie Jonsson as a woman. You’d think that this is where the conversation ends. If it’s good enough for the government, surely, it should be good enough for a garage with a squat rack? Otherwise, I’d have to prove my womanhood to every single gym I attended, despite what it says on my driver’s license.
Chloie’s lawyer will allege that CrossFit is not following California law, and is discriminating against Chloie on the basis of her gender identity. Easy!
One of the essential basic rights in libertarianism is the right to private ownership. Hayek goes as far as saying that private property is the heart of the morals of any advanced civilization, and is inseparable from individual freedom.
To Glassman, “freedom requires that the individual be allowed to pursue their own ends and to no longer be bound by their community”. His (that is, Glassman’s) individual freedom to run the business as he sees fit trumps everybody else’s.
“Free markets”, “private property”, and “capitalism” – these words alone will give a libertarian an erection. And, a rabid libertarian? As Ana, the main character from Fifty Shades of Grey, would say: “Oh my!”. Insert some sort of bodily fluids here. Since we are talking about CrossFit, probably vomit.
If court rules against him, Glassman will oblige, but not change his tune. To him, it would be simply government interfering with his personal freedom, and reinforcing an abstract rule.
[Oh, and am I the only one to see irony in the fact that in ancient Greece, it was the Spartans (ha!) who not only resisted the commercial revolution, but also did not recognize individual property? Reebok + CrossFit + Spartan makes for an interesting threesome.]
I think it’s hilarious that de facto sex segregation in sports is used as evidence that men and women are actually inherently different.
“Well, we’ve always had males and females compete separately. There’s gotta be a good reason for that”.
If you truly believe that’s enough of a reason, then I have a great business proposition for you. It may or may not involve Nigerian military regime, large amount of money that I cannot acquire in my own name, and you sending me a small fee in mail.
Oh, and Ukraine’s friendly neighbor Russia is currently in Crimea just to rescue the ethnic Russians from the threat of torture and genocide. You are cute.
Is there really any need to reinvent the wheel? Precedent has been set. Dozens of times. There is already a commonly accepted practice in a number of well-recognized regulatory bodies when it comes to trans athletes and their participation in sports.
The IOC has put together a policy back in 2004 (see Stockholm consensus) allowing trans athletes to compete in the division congruent with their gender identity. And guess what? They have done their research.
Curiously, there has not been a slew of transgender medalists, taking the spots of cisgender female athletes, riding on all that extra testosterone and genetic advantage.
That’s not good enough for CrossFit.
CrossFit is, essentially, a state, an organized political community under one government. Enter government, aka Glassman. Note that not only Glassman is the sole owner of the company, which has no board of directors, but that he also turned down many potential sources of revenue, so as to not jeopardize the tight monopoly that he is running. A monarchy, if you will.
A monarch must act as a guardian of tradition, and won’t be told what to do by another government. Just ask President Putler.
The preservation of tradition are crucial, and a “taboo” issue will only act as an instrument for strengthening the social ties within the state.
In “The Fatal Conceit”, Hayek quotes Adam Smith: “The most decisive of the prosperity of any country is the increase of the number of its inhabitants.” Amen. I mean… AMRAP.
Glassman cares about one thing and one thing only – increase the number of CrossFit’s inhabitants. Not about making the sport LGBT friendly.
This, of course, is the crux of the case.
A common sentiment tends to be something along the lines of: “Well, it’s a really complicated issue, but I personally think that she would (or would not) have an unfair advantage.”
Polite Canadians must have come up with this strategy – you veil a statement as an opinion, because you do not want to upset anybody. And you can escape public ridicule.
Not from me.
You do not get to have a personal opinion on how someone’s chromosomal make-up and hormonal profile affects their athletic performance any more than you get to get a personal opinion on quantum physics. Or gravity.
Which takes us to THE argument. You know… when people pull out the BIG GUNS. Aka the Genetic Advantage Argument.
On average, men are stronger than women.
No shit, Sherlock.
Yet just being XY does not translate into inherently better athletic performance. I can outrun and outlift many XY individuals. With or without a penis.
Let’s go back to Critical Thinking 101.
- Not all men are stronger than all women.
- Some women are stronger than some men.
- Some women are stronger than some other women.
- Most men are stronger than most women.
- Some men are stronger than some other men.
Still with me?
However, notice that none of the above logical masturbation actually applies to trans women.
Trans women are more similar to cisgender women than they are to cisgender men.
After extensive research, both ICO and NCAA have decided (independently!) that HORMONE PROFILE is the primary determining factor for gender qualification in sport. So let’s focus on what matters.
Don’t trans women have an unfair advantage because they have much higher levels of testosterone?
Testosterone is the true muscle juice. It is produced in the testes, in the ovaries, and (a very small amount) in the adrenal glands. A cisgender male (adrenal glands + testes) produces roughly 10 times the testosterone of cisgender female (adrenal glands + ovaries).
A post-op trans woman will only have the testosterone produced by her adrenal glands.
I talked to Alaina Hardie, a trans woman and a trans athlete, and a science nerd behind www.transathletes.org, one of the best resources on the web for trans athletes, their coaches, allies and friends.
She is also a former grappler, who competed on a Canadian National team for three years. Grappling is a combat sport sanctioned by the International Federation of Associated Wrestling Styles (FILA). [Listen to a podcast interview with Alaina on No Holds Barred, where she talks about trans athletes, grappling and robots.]
“My testosterone is so low that it can’t be accurately measured”, says Alaina. “Yet somehow there is this fear that an army of transsexual women will come and dominate the sport”.
We know that men with average testosterone are stronger than women with average testosterone. Yet, the hormone profiles of some female athletes are actually closer to that of male athletes than to non-athletic females, showing higher than average levels of testosterone.
Thus, chances are that my testosterone levels are significantly higher than Alaina’s.
“I take steroids that make me weaker and fatter”, Alaina laughs.
There is no evidence to suggest that trans women have any genetic or other advantage over cisgender women. Now if you are curious to dig into the actual research – be my guest. One of the best compilations of scholarly references can be found here.
Larger frame (or other variables) can provide an athletic edge, but given a tremendous morphological variation between individuals, that is hardly an issue unique to trans women, and does not justify discrimination.
What are you going to do? Kick me out of the next WOD, because I look stronger than you?
As an XX female (as far as I know), I’d be happy to compete with Chloie. And I’d be curious to see who would win.
Unfortunately, all the scientific evidence in the world will not convince Glassman, as he would claim that this is a moral matter, and traditional morals fail to meet rational requirements.
Hayek is also very clear on this: “Morals cannot be scientifically reasoned”. He goes on to accuse intellectuals of scientism, a somewhat derogatory label used to refer to belief in the universal applicability of the scientific method.
In other words, since you can never know anything for sure, you should give up trying, and just… you know… go on morals.
I’m pretty sure that’s called chaos. Oh, wait, and we are back to anarchy.
If you identify as queer, as part of LGBT community, as trans activist, or simply as an educated and/or reasonable person, tread carefully.
Vitriol will not help your(our) argument. Slamming possibly uninformed, yet well-intentioned individuals will not help the argument. I can tell you the difference between trans woman, cisgender woman, AIS woman, and intersex woman. Most people cannot.
Posting, commenting and asking questions is an invitation for more information. When people post, comment and ask questions, they indicate their desire to know more. Take it as an open invitation for sharing the knowledge that you possess. It’s an opportunity. A teachable moment. Use it wisely.
Before writing this article, I thought I don’t like Glassman.
It turns out I REALLY don’t like Glassman.
But you know what? I respect him. While deeply disagreeing with everything he stands for, I respect that he stands for something. It’s… refreshing.
Yet herein lies the irony.
While advocating a perpetually changing mix of training, CrossFit failed to realize that our gender is also constantly varied across broad modal and time domains.
Adaptation to the unknown is the key to any and all evolution. Currently, CrossFit is not doing a very good job.
If CrossFit will fail to adapt, it will fail to evolve. Things that fail to evolve go extinct.
Remember the vibrating belt machines?
What do you think will be the outcome of this case?
Is CrossFit as inclusive as it claims to be?
Annoyed into a trance,