Transgender Within Sports


Over the past several years, transgender has become a very controversial issue that everyone has been talking about. Furthermore, this controversial issue can be found in sports more than anywhere else. Moreover, individuals that chose to partake in sports and are considered transgender will face cultural opposition from society.

Transgender is defined as “of, relating to, or being a person whose gender identity differs from the sex the person had or was identified as having at birth; especially: of, relating to, or being a person whose gender identity is opposite the sex the person had or was identified as having at birth (Merriam-Webster, 2018).” In other words; for example, male-to-female (MTF) the transgender individual is someone who was born with a male body, but who chooses to identify as a girl or a woman. On the other hand, a female-to-male (FTM) transgender is an individual who was born with a female body but chooses to identify as a boy or a man.

Throughout the years there have been many negative things that have been said and done in regard to transgender individuals. Due to this, transgender individuals may choose to do the following; change his or her name, chose different types of clothes, different hairstyles or anything else that will allow the transgender individual to present him or her as a person that reflects his or her chosen identity. In addition, some individuals chose to take hormonal pills or undergo surgical procedures in order to change his or her body to better reflect his or her gender identity.

However, recent years have created a better outlook for those who chose to become transgender individuals. This movement has allowed transgender individuals to have a better day to day living as well as having the ability to participate in athletics. This has to do with an increasing amount of kids in high schools across America who chose to become transgenders. Due to this, many governing bodies are forced to rethink how their rules and structures are defined.


According to Matt Slater (2015), men have been trying to masquerade as women in order to win medals for almost as long as women have been allowed to participate in sports. This can be evident as Hermann Ratjen competed as Dora Ratjen. During the 1936 Summer Olympics, a female by the name of Dora Ratjen finished fourth in the high jump for the German women’s team.

Two years later in 1938 at the European Athletic Championships, Dora Ratjen won the gold medal and set the world record for the high jump. However, some of the opposing athletes didn’t believe that Dora Ratjen was a woman. Despite this, there was no way to prove that she was not a female, but instead a man. Later the same year, Dora Ratjen would eventually get caught as being a man, not a woman. Dora Ratjen was traveling on the train when the conductor of the train reported to the police that there is a man on the train claiming to be a woman. After all the haggling with the police, Dora Ratjen would eventually admit being a man (Berg, 2009).

In addition to Dora Ratjen, there was also Stella Walsh. Halen Stephens took home gold in the 100-meter dash during the 1936 Olympics. She was later accused of being a man by her fellow counterpart Stella Walsh. Due to these accusations, Halen Stephens was forced to take a sex test which she ultimately passed. However, later it was discovered that when Stella Walsh died, she was found to be the one with ambiguous genitalia and abnormal chromosomes. Another example can be found in 1964 where a North Korean women’s sprinter by the name of Kim Dan broke women’s records for 400 and 800 meters. Furthermore, a South Korean man recognized Kim as a son he had lost during the war (Transas City, 2018). Many experts believe that this event was the root cause of Budapest Gender Testing.


Budapest Gender Testing took place in Budapest in 1966 at the European Athletics Championships. At the Championships there were three doctors who carried out all of the examinations of all female athletes. These doctors performed a visual examination to determine if the female athlete were who they said they were.

Furthermore, doctors also performed tests that involved “manual groping to feel women’s genitals (Transas City, page 2, para 3, 2018).” Even though these examinations seem to be completely unethical and wrong, there was no mass outcry during that time by the women who got examined. As time went by, in 1968 International Olympic Committee (IOC) came up with a better way to test for transgender. IOC introduced chromosome testing or Barr Body Test, this consisted of checking swabs of cheek tissue. A doctor would check the tissue for its chromosome marking XX for women and XY for men. It later came to be a very inefficient way of testing.

Along with the new test, came new problems. For example, a male with XXY syndrome would pass the test and thereby be able to participate against the women who are XX. Furthermore, due to the inefficiency of the Barr Body Test, in 1992 IOC introduced the Polymerase Chain Reaction test. The Polymerase Chain Reaction test is based on repetitive cycling of 3 reactions which vary in temperature of incubation. These 3 reactions consist of denaturation, annealing, and extension.

Denaturation is utilized to denaturize the native double-stranded genomic DNA at 940 C. This is done for about 5 to 10 minutes. After the first step is complete, then the second step comes into play. Within the second step, a cycle is “performed at reduced temperature: 300 C to 660 C. Two short primers are annealed to a complementary sequence on opposite specific strands of a template (Thokar, 2010, page 62, para 3).” Lastly, the third step is an “actual synthesis of the complementary second strand of new DNA occurs through the extension of each annealed primer by Taq DNA polymerase in the presence of deoxyribonucleoside triphosphate (dNTPs) under suitable reaction conditions (Thokar, 2010, page 62, para 4).”

In addition, the Polymerase Chain Reaction test also has the ability to determine gene expression within its matrix. The gene expression of SRY was looked for as the determinate for men. However, as with all research, more information was discovered later on that showed women also have the ability to possess the SRY gene and that it’s not as exclusive to men as once thought. One example of this misunderstanding can be seen in 2006 during the Asian Games where Santhi Soundarajan was required to take sex test and which thereby she tested positive due to her gene expression. She was later stripped of her medals and was forced to return home where she struggled to find peace with what she was presented with (Thokar, 2010).

Rules and Regulations

 In 1972 the government took steps forward by introducing Title IX as it was passed by the legislation. Title IX states that “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance (U.S. Department of Education, 2015, para 1).”  In 1972, Title IX was a great step forward. However, Title IX was not the answer to it all. For example, private schools and clubs are excluded from Title IX because they do not receive federal funds and thereby are not required to follow Title IX law.

In 2003, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) introduced a policy of inclusion regarding transgender athletes. Only those “who have (a) undergone sex reassignment surgery, (b) had hormone treatments for at least two years, and (c) received legal recognition of their transitioned sex can participate consistent with their gender identities (Buzuvis, 2012, page 26, para 2).”

The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), unlike the IOC, allows transgender athletes who choose to identify themselves as females to participate on teams that compete for women’s championships if they are undergoing cross-sex hormone treatments designed to naturalize the effect of testosterone on the body. Furthermore, unlike the IOC, the NCAA does not require sex reassignment surgery or legal recognition of one’s transitioned sex. The NCAA justifies this by stating that hormone treatment “as sufficient to neutralize any source of gender-related physical advantage that may be relevant to the sport (Buzuvis, 2012, page 27, para 3).”

Furthermore, there are big governing institutions who are trying to take proper steps in order to make transgender athletes feel more accepted among the natural athletes who participate in sports of his or her choosing.


As we can see, it is difficult making the right decisions when it comes to transgender individuals who chose to participate in athletics of all levels. Some people have his or her own opinions on what is right or wrong based on what he or she believes is right. On the other hand, some believe that being transgender has no effect on the performance and that he or she should be allowed to participate in athletics of all levels. Some might also say that transgender individuals have been unfairly treated and thereby consistently the subjects of abuse and discrimination for more than half of century. In the end, we are all entitled to our own opinion and our own believes; thereby, we all as individuals will make our opinions based on what is right and wrong. 


Berg, S. (2009, September 15). How Dora the Man Competed in the Woman’s High Jump. In Spiegel Online. Retrieved from olympics-how-dora-the-man-competed-in-the-woman-s-high-jump-a-649104.html Buzuvis, E. E. (2012).

Including Transgender Athletes in Sex-Segregated Sport. In Western New England University School of Law. Retrieved from

Merriam-Webster. (2018). Transgender. In Merriam-Webster. Retrieved from

Slater, M. (2015, July 28). Sport & gender: A history of bad science & ‘biological racism’. In BBC. Retrieved from

Transas City. (2018). Cross-Training – The history and future of transgender and intersex athletes. In Transas City. Retrieved from

Thokar, MD, M. A. (2010, June). Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR)–Practical Review. In Physicians Academy. Retrieved from

U.S. Department of Education. (2015, April). Title IX and Sex Discrimination. In U.S. Department of Education. Retrieved from

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *