Transgender athletes, inclusion and fair play

Listen 49:00
Transgender swimmer Lia Thomas, right during a meet with Harvard on Saturday, Jan. 22, 2022, at at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass. Thomas won the two individual events in which she competed. (AP Photo/Josh Reynolds)

Transgender swimmer Lia Thomas, right during a meet with Harvard on Saturday, Jan. 22, 2022, at at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass. Thomas won the two individual events in which she competed. (AP Photo/Josh Reynolds)

University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas has become part of the debate over inclusion for trans athletes and fair competition. Thomas, who formerly swam for Penn’s men’s team, began transitioning in 2019 and has taken testosterone suppression treatment. She started swimming for the women’s team this season, breaking multiple school and league records.

But her circumstances, and those of other transgender athletes, raise a host of difficult questions about fairness in sports, inclusivity, rights for trans athletes to compete and what a “level playing field” looks like. While the science guiding these debates and policies is still evolving, some of the conversation has been weaponized as fuel for anti-trans rhetoric, discrimination, and legislation. This hour, we explore the complex issues and science around the question of transgender athletes and fair play.

Guests

JOANNA HARPER, a visiting fellow for transgender athletic performance and Ph.D. student at Loughborough University. She’s also a transgender athlete and the co-author of the book, Sporting Gender:: The History, Science, and Stories of Transgender and Intersex Athletes. @fondofbeagles

SCHUYLER BAILAR, an author and activist and the first transgender athlete to compete on an NCAA Division 1 men’s team. His first novel is Obie is Man Enough. @sb_pinkmantaray

NANCY HOGSHEAD-MAKAR, CEO Champion Women, a civil rights lawyer, and a two-time Olympian, who won three-time gold medals and one silver in swimming. @hogshead4au

 

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