All The Things You Can’t Deny: Title IX, Trans Women, And the Reality of ‘Neutrality’

When it comes to the issue of identification versus biology, perhaps no place illustrates the discrepancies better than sports.

Athletes like Fallon Fox, who went from being a third-rate MMA fighter in the men’s division to winning all his bouts but one when he went in the ring with women, show that the body discrepancies between an XY and XX human are not simply due to hormones.

Now, many trans activists claim that the fact that Fox lost one of his bouts—and the fact that several sports authorities have agreed to accept men as women if they complete two years of hormone replacement therapy—proves that there is no difference between hormone-altered men and natal women.

This, of course, is based only on studies that show muscle percentages being similar.  How are bone density, the differences in body shape, and so on supposed to change?  No answer.

The problem becomes clearer when we apply it to an immediately visible aspect of human physiology: height.

No one (except, perhaps, the world’s most dedicated devil’s advocate) would disagree that when it comes to playing basketball, height is an important determining factor of ability, especially at elite levels.  Basketball players in NCAA, NBA, and WNBA teams have historically been much, much taller than the average person.

Enter Gabrielle Ludwig.  Gabrielle is 51 years old and plays for a college basketball team in Northern California.  He previously coached basketball for young people.  The young women sharing a team with him are 18-20 years old.

Ludwig stands six foot six (a height he claims he has after “losing height” because of his transition—apparently he claims he was six foot eight before).  While seeing photographs of Ludwig next to the far-shorter women he plays with make it obvious that this is an old man playing against young women, trans activists are not convinced.



(above: nothing wrong with this picture, say trans activists!)

These activists maintain that because some women have been six foot six, and because trans women (like extremely tall women) are a very narrow subset of the population, no real dent could be made in women’s basketball by transgender players.

But is that true?  Let’s take a look.

At six foot six (198 cm) Gabrielle Ludwig would be a slightly shorter-than-average NBA player. If he entered the WNBA, on the other hand—which he couldn’t, because he doesn’t have the skills and is very, very old for a basketball player—he would be in its top ten or fifteen players of all time.

Ludwig’s height corresponds (based on and to a z-score of 2.85, meaning that Ludwig 2.85 standard deviations above the average.  That’s quite tall even for a man—in fact, 99.8% of men in the United States are shorter than him.

Women, however, are shorter, with a slightly smaller standard deviation in their heights.  A height of six feet, six inches corresponds to a z-score of 5.67—nearly six standard deviations above the norm.

What kind of probability does that convert to?  Well, it’s tricky to say, because z-score tables usually cut out at around a score of 3.4.  However, according to wikipedia, a z-score of 5 means that only one in two million people would be expected to be over this range.

One in 500 for men—one in two million for women.  That’s a factor of 4000.  In other words, even if only one in 4000 male-born persons decided to transition, there would be as many trans women standing 6’6 as there are natal women.

And that’s just for a z-score of five (also known as five sigma).  If the calculation was for 5.67, we could expect that 4000 number to be even larger—perhaps as large as 6000 or so.

As it is, most estimates place the prevalence of transgenderism at roughly 1 in 200 people.

If those estimates are accurate, 6’6 MTFs outnumber 6’6 women by a factor of at least 20.

In basketball, height matters.  I expect to see people commenting right here on this post that height doesn’t matter, because it’s the internet and you can find someone advocating any contrarian position imaginable.  But if that’s your first impulse—to start saying height in basketball doesn’t matter—think about where your ideology has led you to.  At the point where you start denying these other basic realities in a rush to placate your own gnawing doubts or your political allies, you’ve crossed over into cultish, fundamentalist thinking.

There are many more tall (6’2 and above) trans women than natal women, even when you take into account the significantly lower proportion of trans women in the population.  Since basketball and many other sports confer a height advantage, it is likely that allowing MTF people into women’s sporting programs will lead to a slow but definite erosion of women’s opportunities for athletic scholarships and more.

I wonder what it will take for people to recognize this practice as harmful.  Given what some countries have done to ensure Olympic successes (puberty blockers, lies about birth certificates), and given that the IOC now will allow trans athletes to compete as their identified-with sex, rather than their biological sex, I suspect it will be only a matter of time before some nation fields a team of somewhat tall men as nearly impossibly tall women.

You can talk about muscle mass and estrogen all you want, but—once again—reality stares right back with objective, real physical differences that cannot be erased through verbal games and political doublethink.

As NCAA protections for women (you know, the ones who start as girls, discouraged to play sports) erode in favor of “gender-based” protections, remember who’s being protected … and who’s being left behind.


15 thoughts on “All The Things You Can’t Deny: Title IX, Trans Women, And the Reality of ‘Neutrality’

  1. Reblogged this on winterdominatrix and commented:
    Pure Male privilege allows a 53 year old retired from a full career in the army dude, to want to be on a girls college basket ball team.
    Do you think they would allow a 52 year old women do this? No, they would tell her she is too old. Male entitlement over female standard in play here? Yep.
    Do you think they care that a girls spot in sports is lost to a man? Probably not. Is it fair to girls? No. Do you think they asked the girls about having a guy the age of their fathers undressing in the same room? Probably not.

  2. This takes us back to your Winston Smith post. Arguing that hormone treatments alone equalize the playing field between men and women is exactly like the party saying that there are not four fingers but five. It’s not an argument; it’s a lie. By that logic, FtMs ought to be quite capable of playing in the NFL. After all, they’re taking androgen.

  3. “Do you think they would allow a 52 year old women do this? No, they would tell her she is too old. ”

    Well the issue is that a 52-year-old woman simply can’t compete with an 18-year-old. Unless this team’s coach is particularly afraid of a discrimination lawsuit or is really committed to being a cheerleader for the trans cause, I’m assuming that this 52-year-old transwoman can compete, athletically, with women less than half her age, which is a damn good example that transwomen have no business playing sports with women.

    The choices you make in life require sacrifices. Buck Angel, for example, was a female fashion model before he transitioned to being a man, and his transition necessarily ended his modeling career. How is it that transwomen are being allowed the exceptional privilege to compete with women in prosports or highly competitive amateur sports? Why are they not being asked/required to make a necessary sacrifice that goes along with transition? Want to transition? Great, but don’t ask women to give up our hard-fought right to compete on an equal footing against each other in athletics. Women have only had somewhat equal access to athletics for a few decades, but now we’re expected to step aside for the Fallon Foxes and Michelle Dumaresqs of the world? Screw that. The fact that two third-rate male athletes sailed to the top of the field once they transitioned is proof positive that they have an unfair advantage.

    Now that the medical establishment is medicalizing young gender non-conforming children, maybe we can revisit this conversation in 10-15 years when children who weren’t permitted to go through natural puberty start vying to compete in their desired gender’s sports leagues. But making women compete with biological men who went through male puberty is a non-starter. If I were a more serious athlete, I would be pissed if I had to compete with someone I (correctly) perceived as male.

  4. For MtoF transgender athletes, many high schools and non-college rec sports programs do not require, either hormone therapy or reassignment surgery. I am waiting for a lawsuit against either a high school or a rec sports program, claiming sex discrimination against women, because women do not get to play on a ‘level playing field’ vis-a-vis men. This lawsuit, if taken through all appeals possible, should help settle this issue. Right now I tend to think that women (both ciswomen and fully transitioned transgender women) are walked all over, because they won’t speak up the way men do when men’s rights are being trampled on.

    That transgender MtoF 2014 California high school softball player Pat Cordoza-Goff switched from baseball to softball because the all-male baseball team made her feel unwelcome is striking. The solution the school comes up with? Help her play on the girls’ softball team. Not require transgender sensitivity training for the boys on the baseball team. But send her to girls’ softball, where the girls won’t complain. It’s less for a school to deal with, isn’t it? Same for rec sports programs.

    I predict either sports will become unisex, with boys free to go out for girls’ softball teams, girls’ field hockey teams, etc. or in five years time, the standards for when a MtoF transgender individual can compete on female teams will become medically stricter.

    The tactics of the transgender community stink of the very bigotry they claim is applied to them. Say you want transgenders to meet a certain medical stage of transitioning, and many will call you a bigot. I do credit the transgender folks who say absolutely a transgender MtoF needs to at least be on hormone therapy for an appropriate amount of time.

    I hate this situation. As soon as women finally achieve some equity in sports funding, along come a bunch of folks who have not lived with the biology of a woman’s body. Here the women are again, back to having to elbow their way into spots on sports teams where the playing field is level.

    Please let there be a lawsuit soon, with top lawyers on both sides, to settle this fairly.

    The lawsuit transgender MtoF Choie Johnson has brought against CrossFit should help. The Renee Richards late 1970s lawsuit concluded Dr. Richards is a woman, but also said that she could compete in the U.S. Open because she was so old that the playing field was effectively level. Then in 2003-ish, the IOC said same-age as fine, as long as the surgery and the hormone therapy have taken place. Now with Jonsson sueing Crossfit, we will see what the courts are saying these days on same -age transgender, transitioned women.

  5. P. S. Would connecting by email with some of the folks here concerned about discrimination against women in sports via trans*gender rules be possible? I have a legal issue in process and need to bounce ideas off people who, well, “get it,” re untransitioned transgender women being prioritized over women in sports. Owner of this web site, can you email me? Or others, feel free to write me at

  6. I’m disappointed that you chose to completely negate the transwomen you wrote of by using male pronouns. Obviously, that’s your choice to write what you want, but at least be respectful of the people you write about. They are human beings who are women, whether YOU think so or not, so please use female pronouns as you would with any woman. Regardless of which gender they were assigned at birth, they deserve, as we all do, respect and the least you can do as a journalist/writer is to be respectful.

    1. I negate no one. They continue to exist. Being misgendered is not being blipped out of existence. If you’d like to know why I don’t use preferred pronouns for trans people, you are welcome to read the post “Cisgender? Cui Bono?”, which explains the reason for my pronoun usage.

  7. Fuck the age excuse too. As a youth athlete who has fallen away from athleticism, I look forward to the senior olympics, but I don’t want to be competing against ex-males there either. grrrrrrrr

  8. I don’t understand this argument. Why does basketball matter more than a person’s identity? Basketball is a game. It’s a way to amuse ourselves. So what if there are physical differences between cisgendered and trans women? Don’t you think it’s possible for those kind of logistical considerations to be addressed by, say, changing the rules of the game, or making new divisions, or just not worrying about it because, in this case, nobody’s getting paid anyway? The right of people to live in a self-actualized way matters more than sports, obviously. If you can’t see that, you probably also can’t see this situation with much clarity at all.

    1. What about other people’s right to have a fair playing field? Shall we make it so people born male have all the sporting positions, all the engineering and computer scholarships and other things set aside for women because of physical difference or historical and ongoing oppression?

      The “right of people to live in a self actualized way” does not mean they have a right to take a slot from a woman who is actually a woman, not just a wannabe.

  9. Again this comes to the issue of whether compassion and empathy on the subject of gender dysphoria should amount to everyone having to reorder their lives to accommodate it… which I would argue against. As you harshly but accurately point out in your 1984 post, a lot of sympathy that flows in the direction of obvious trans people is no more than disguised pity and / or social obligation, so anyone taking the full gender reassignment route should be bloody well aware that it often entails a lonely existence. However, is a hollow social acceptance legislated by government actually any better than an honest social rejection? Whilst I think it appropriate that healthcare providers and the law work to help and protect trans people, beyond that it is completely necessary that we keep a realistic view, show some inner strength, and resist the urge to play victim: an addictive and pointless behaviour pattern if there ever was.

    One narrative I have seen a few times since coming out, and been quite dismayed by, is to see some transpeople who complete their transition (or even who go any significant distance) then proclaim that they intend to cut ties with the trans community. A few do have the fortune to be able to do that (those who are lucky enough to “pass” flawlessly), but I for one cannot think of a more rotten way to promote the solidarity that transpeople actually need. If one cannot have empathy for the people in one’s own situation, how can one expect to find it elsewhere?

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