trans Olympians?

Before we begin, let me gently but boldly opine that so many seem to handle any LGBT conversation poorly. So many justify shame for someone. The Intramuralist adheres instead to the Judeo-Christian ethic echoed by author and research professor Brené Brown, noting, “We live in a world where most people still subscribe to the belief that shame is a good tool for keeping people in line. Not only is this wrong, but it’s dangerous.” When we justify subjecting another to shame, disgrace, humiliation, or disrepute — especially by public exposure or venomous criticism — we are not “loving our neighbor” well. Whatever so-called side they’re on. We then look like the ones who most need to grow. Hence, allow us an added encouragement this day… May our passions and opinions never prompt us to justify the cruelty of shame.

With that as our backdrop, one controversy we all knew was coming is now here. Let’s borrow from the headlines…

First, from NPR: “New Zealand Weightlifter Will Be The First Openly Trans Competitor At The Olympics”

In 26 days, “Tokyo 2020” commences (still the official title for marketing and branding purposes). Laurel Hubbard will represent New Zealand, competing in the  women’s weightlifting category for women over 87 kg (approximately 192 lbs.). Hubbard is a biologically born male, who transitioned to being a woman eight years ago. Prior to her transition, Hubbard competed in men’s events, holding national records in junior competition.

Next, from Yahoo!News: “Transgender runner CeCe Telfer ruled ineligible to compete in the women’s 400-meter hurdles at US Olympic trials”

Telfer was also biologically born as a male. In fact, as recently as 2017, she competed in men’s collegiate track and field. She ranked 390th in the NCAA Div. II men’s 400 meter hurdles that year. Two years later, Telfer won the women’s title.

The reason Hubbard is allowed to compete at the Olympics and Telfer is not is due to testosterone levels. According to a 2015 decision by the International Olympic Committee, “Those who transition from female to male are eligible to compete in the male category without restriction.” However, those who transition from male to female and wish to compete in the female category must meet multiple conditions. One of those conditions is a limitation of testosterone level. Telfer’s level was too high; Hubbard’s was not. While the IOC set a maximum level of 10 nanomoles per liter of testosterone, note that such level is four to five times more than a biological woman.

Remember our early encouragement. No person is to be shamed. The shame, disgrace, humiliation, and disrepute some in the transgender community have received has been awful and unloving. None of God’s creation deserves that. Wisdom says we don’t disgrace or discriminate. We want to be honoring and fair.

One Olympic fact highlights the fairness — first acknowledging some significant Olympic moments… Mary Lou Retton’s perfect “10” on the vault… Muhammed Ali lighting the torch… the absolutely amazing, “Miracle on Ice”… Names are forever etched in our memories… Torvill and Dean… Bolt… Phelps… Jenner… Strug and more.

One person we cheered on multiple times was the incredibly gifted Flo-Jo — Florence Griffith Joyner. She dazzled the world with both her speed and her style. She is considered the fastest woman ever alive, holding still-standing records in women’s track and field. She ran the 100 meters in a mind-boggling 10.49 seconds in 1988. And in the past 33 years, no other woman has come close.

However… hundreds of high school boys — non-Olympic champions — have significantly bested Flo-Jo’s time. Hundreds…

Back to weightlifting for a moment… Belgium’s Anna Vanbellinghen’s recent comments have been insightful in this controversy, especially since she expects to be competing against Laurel Hubbard in Japan. “I fully support the transgender community,” says Vanbellinghen. “I am aware that defining a legal frame for transgender participation in sports is very difficult… However, anyone that has trained weightlifting at a high level knows this to be true in their bones: This particular situation is unfair to the sport and to the athletes.”

There’s a biological difference between male and female. So how do we not discriminate against one in our support of another? How do we ensure our advocacy is not unfair?

Just asking questions, acknowledging facts with sensitivity and respect, getting set for the summer Olympics, and craving to handle all well…