Something’s Got to Give: Reconsidering the Justification for a Gender Divide in Sport

Philosophies 4 (2):23-0 (2019)
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The question of whether transgender athletes should be permitted to compete in accordance with their gender identity is an evolving debate. Most competitive sports have male and female categories. One of the primary challenges with this categorization system, however, is that some transgender athletes may be prevented from competing in accordance with their gender identity. The reason for this restriction is because of the idea that transgender women have an unfair advantage over their cisgender counterparts; this is seen as a problem since sports are typically guided a principle called ‘the skill thesis’, which suggests that sports are supposed to determine who is most skillful by maintaining a fair starting point. In this paper, I argue that if the skill thesis ought to be maintained and there continues to exist no conclusive evidence in support of unfair advantages possessed by trans women, then we may want to re-consider the gender binary in sport. Rather than having male/female categories, it may make more sense to categorize athletes based other sport-specific factors. This may help to maintain the skill thesis while at the same time removing potentially unfair and discriminatory barriers against transgender athletes.



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Andria Bianchi
University of Waterloo