Monday, October 25, 2010

The Last Week begins...

This is my last week here in Arizona.  I can't believe it.

This day next week will be my first day on the new job in PA.  I woke up this morning at 5 something (my internal clock is still very confused) and lay there for a little while thinking about that - about how much there is to do between now and then and how things are going to change in my life.  I try not to think about it all that much because it's easy to get overwhelmed by it but I'd be lying if I said I didn't find myself with a big knot in my stomach from time to time.

I'm driving to Palm Springs tomorrow to do an interview for a segment on trans athletes.  That should be interesting.  It's about a 5 hour drive from here and given everything else that's happening in my world I'd prefer to drive there, do it, and drive back all in the same day.  If I can do that then Wednesday becomes about packing the car and cleaning.

You'd be fascinated (and perhaps a little disgusted) to see some of the email that I got after the CNN article.  The intersection of trans and athletics still makes people crazy and it still baffles me who so many seem to think that this is anything new.  But every time it comes up all the same old arguments come in to play.

I'll share a few of the less ugly ones that represent a few common themes.

A significant component is about "choice".
Don't make your issue/problem societies. Just because you made the choice to alter your God given equipment, don't force your decision/choice down the rest of our throats, just as we would not do to you. You make your bed, you sleep in it. What's next, I decide I'm no good at a particular discipline as one sex, so I'll just jump ship to the other team? Your credibility and intellect come into serious question.

Good day sir/ma'am, whatever.

Here's another one:
Yes, you have a fundamental right to compete.  I don't think people are arguing that (at least I am not).  If you want to compete, and you have the DNA of man, why not compete with MEN?

By playing against men: You can still love your sport and continue to do something you enjoy.  Competition will still be your fundamental right, and you would not have to relinquish anything simply because your path to manhood or womanhood was nontraditional.  Wasn't that your argument word for word?

You physically can compete against men, but still chose to go against women?    That seems odd to me, but admittedly I have not walked in your shoes so I won't judge.  If you are testing yourself physically, why test yourself against someone you know is inferior?  What joy would it bring to blow the competition out of the water?  That seems hollow.  Competing against men seems to solve every one of your issues, and issues I have brought up.
This entire notion of inherent "competitive advantage" seems to be such a profound argument against allowing trans women compete against other women.  The real shame is that any trans athlete who excels will find themselves criticized for this "advantage" (thicker muscles, better DNA, bigger lungs and heart, all kinds of things) rather than being recognized simply as being a good athlete.

But that same argument has been used in the past to prevent other minorities and/or ethnicities from competing in sports as well.  For example, if you go to the Christopedia website (it bills itself as "The True Christian Encyclopedia") there is a similar "statistic" about black athletes:
Negroes have arms which are longer, relative to body height, than those of Caucasians. This feature, together with their much thicker cranial bones, gives Negro athletes an advantage over Caucasians in boxing. The skeletal and muscular peculiarities of Negroes' lower limbs have given them considerable success as sprinters, but have left them relative undistinguished as distance runners.

So, using this logic, should it be argued that blacks should be prevented from boxing against whites because of some inherent "advantage"?  Would anyone dare make that generality or that argument in this day and age?  Of course not.  So where does it end?

A 1977 article in Time Magazine titled "The Black Dominance" provides a fascinating view of this broader subject of dominance and advantage.  One brief excerpt:
The image of the star athlete is, increasingly, a black image. Yet, while many Americans, black and white, wonder about the reasons for the overwhelming black presence in major sports, simply to remark on the fact makes some people uncomfortable. Racial differences —whether physical or cultural—have been employed in the past as excuses for discrimination. Throughout history, scientific findings have been twisted to serve the social theories of supremacists from ancient Greece to Nazi Germany to separate and unequal America.

Read more
This is the exact same stuff that transgender athletes face.  The most important phrase in that passage is "excuses for discrimination" because that's exactly what it is.  Somehow, people can justify it when it comes to trans athletes, but we've gotten past that when it comes to other ethnicities.  Based on many of the emails I've gotten, the main argument why they're NOT the same thing is this notion of "choice"....

There was a large international wrestling tournament here in the Phoenix area over the weekend.  Teams from as far away as Japan and Canada were here, as well as several US Champions and other "big" names in the sport.  I did not compete as I haven't been on a mat in weeks and I've learned my lesson about getting hurt.  My dad used to say "There's a fine line between brave and stupid" so I just went to watch.

I sat in the stands and watched of hours on end.  I had a blast.  One of my goals was to meet a couple of people that I haven't had a chance to chat with and I did that.  I had a chance to talk with the US Champion in my weight class for a while.  I got to spend a little time catching up with my coach.  And, there was lots of good wrestling.  All in all - I had a very enjoyable day.

Back to the topic at hand:  I never imagined I'd become a poster child for trans athletes and perhaps there is still time to step away from it.  But somebody needs to call this stuff for what it is.  And, for now, I will be one of those someones.

One a more positive note, I'll share a blog posting from someone who attended my session at the SHRM Conference a couple of weeks ago (read it here).  Thanks to Paul for his kind words.  It's nice to know that being "out there" sometimes makes a difference....

Time to go.  So much to do and so little time.  I think my head is gonna explode....


Gin said...

As someone stuck in AZ for the time being, I congratulate you on your escape and wish you all the best where the seasons change!


Rachel said...

You may find this interesting along these lines if you haven't seen it already ...

Spectator: “Will transsexuals destroy women’s sport?”