From bathrooms to swimming pools, it seems that whenever the Trans community is talked about in the news or even general conversation, the discussion is brought up because of some hot button topic relating to their rights or discriminatory practices against them. 

The transgender community often seems to get the short end of the stick when it comes to affirmations or positive recognition. 

As the 2022 Pride Season approaches, the world is gearing up for the return of in-person pride parades, festivals and other related events. What better time to remember and celebrate how much we owe the Trans community – and the important role they have and continue to play in our struggle for equality, safety and empowerment? 

Had it not been for the mix of gay and lesbian folk, many of whom were angry drag queens and pissed off gender benders (yet to identify with terms such as LGBTQIA+, transgender and non-binary) who were weary of the police raids, arrests and beatings routinely taking place at the Stonewall Inn (and other gay and lesbian establishments of the era) leading up to what has become known as the Stonewall Riots, we might not be celebrating the gains we’ve made over the last 53 years. 

Our opinions today on what the fight has achieved and how those gains should manifest across the LGBTQ spectrum are as diverse as we are. While we struggle to find equity, we don’t always offer it to each other.  

When it comes to our feelings and beliefs about trans athletes competing alongside cisgender athletes, for example, the LGBTQ community can often be split between not wanting to appear to ostracize and oppress members of our own community and what we inherently believe to be fair. Simply stated, not all cisgender lesbians agree with sharing the court, field or swimming pool with those they think might have a biological advantage. 

So, when Sports Illustrated  recently reported, “Lia Thomas took control in the final 100 yards of the 500-yard freestyle to make history Thursday as the first transgender woman to win an NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) swimming championship,” not everyone in the LGBTQ community cheered. 

Some were angered by what they considered a miscarriage of Title IX legislation while others weren’t quite sure how to feel. Title IX is a federal civil rights law in the United States that was passed as part of the Education Amendments of 1972. It prohibits sex-based discrimination in any school or other education program that receives funding from the federal government. Quite possibly, some of our fears, opinions and concerns might be based upon not having enough information on the journey of becoming the person we were meant to be and how that informs upon our understanding of what it means to be a trans athlete. 

As you might imagine, every journey of transition isn’t the same. For some, transitioning might mean changing names, identification and daily attire. For others, the final step in transition might be surgery to feminize or masculate. Somewhere in the middle – there’s also Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT).

Swimmer Lia Thomas beat two Olympic medalists amid protests to make history as the first trans athlete to win an NCAA title. Photo: Facebook

HRT is the process of using anti-androgens to block male or female hormones. Taking estrogen and progestin helps you develop breasts, softer skin and rounder hips for Transwomen. For Transmen, it’s testosterone that’s being given and estrogen that’s blocked; resulting in greater muscle mass, a lower voice and hair growth. 

Why is all this important to communities outside of the LGBTQ community?  Here’s some food for thought: how much testosterone or estrogen one possesses has been connected to how well one fairs in physically strenuous activities – though it’s just one factor and may have much more to do with appearance than it does strength and ability. 

For greater clarity on the issue of trans athletes competing with cisgender athletes, QNotes spoke with Charlotte’s Wesley Thompson. 

‘That…trans women have an unfair advantage because they started with a male body [at birth] and…will always outperform cis women is a fallacy,’ says Amity Medical Group’s Wesley Thompson. Photo: Courtesy of Wesley Thompson

Thompson is a Physician Assistant at Amity Medical Group, an independent family medicine practice with three locations in the Charlotte area that treats many trans patients. He has been dedicating his time to practicing Transgender Healthcare and HIV medicine for 35 years. 

“There are cisgender woman who are muscle bound and can blow their cisgender male counterparts away,” says Thompson. “When a trans woman competes with other women, [as a result of HRT] she has shut down her testosterone. Her muscles begin to soften and her fat increases so that she takes on the curvaceousness of a cis woman. If she chooses to push herself in the gym, she may still be very strong.

“However, I have a cisgender woman who trains me in the gym and she could whup my butt on any day. So, when we look at a transgender woman [it’s important to recognize] she no longer has an advantage edge against her cis opponent, even if she has broader shoulders and her legs are longer. HRT alters her muscle mass and strength and that’s the intent, [to use hormones to assist] trans women and trans men in assuming the gender they realized they were meant to be.”  

Now, before you get your panties, boxers or whatever in a bunch over that “meant to be part,” consider the fact that no matter what you believe, who and how you are is a personal decision and your life is a journey that only you can define. 

 “It’s unfair to exclude [transgender athletes] from any form of Olympic or other competitive sporting event. That…trans women have an unfair advantage because they started with a male body [at birth] and…will always outperform cis women is a fallacy. 

 “Hormonal changes begin within the first week of HRT … and those changes continue for about a year.”

To be fair, most of these [cis/trans athletics] conversations center Transwomen. No one seems to be too upset about competing against Transmen – in sports or otherwise. Tatenen Corbett, a trans male and resident of Columbia, NC has some thoughts on why that is.

 “Because we live in a misogynist world,” says Corbett, “people with XX chromosomes, assigned female at birth people, are perceived as less capable and less opposition. Fortunately for me, I have a partner who doesn’t judge me [as less or inferior]. I get to be as masculine, or feminine, or flamboyant as I want to be, without it diminishing my manhood in any way” – something that trans and cis individuals can equally spend a lifetime hoping for. 

As for where we go from here and what should happen next, we might consider starting with overall respect and acceptance of those that are different from us, with a little less focus on what may or may not have been in their underwear.