The world of professional sports is just beginning to figure out how to address transgender athletes and competitors. Luckily, magazines like Women's Running are tackling these complex issues head on. The latest issue of the periodical features trans athlete Amelia Gapin on the cover and investigates the changing attitudes about transgender individuals in the competitive running world.
Although much of the interview discussed Gapin's exercise regiment, the political aspects of her identity were addressed directly:
"I think a lot of times people get pigeonholed into being just one thing, especially when they’re a vocal advocate for that thing," said Gapin. "But I’m more than just a trans person. I’m an engineer, a startup co-founder, a wife, a nerd, a feminist and a thousand other things too."
Gapin also discussed the complex decision around her sex affirmation surgery, which was required of her if she wanted to qualify for the Boston Marathon. Unfortunately, many trans women can't afford or don't want these kinds of surgeries -- making it impossible for them to compete.
"[A] surgical requirement is little more than a transgender tax," explains Gapin. "While the hormones our bodies run on tend to have a huge effect on strength, genitals are just along for the ride again, science and medicine back this up. However, gender-confirming surgeries are extremely expensive and rarely covered by insurance. For the vast majority of trans athletes, following USATF’s rules means a cost starting at $20,000 on the low end. And regardless of how surgery is paid for, there are only around a dozen doctors in the U.S. who will even perform these surgeries, meaning there are long waitlists for surgery. According to current statistics, less than 1 in 5 trans women have had gender-confirming surgeries, and even fewer trans men have."
On the face of it, it seems a bit invasive that athletic associations are so interested in what's going on between their competitors' legs. Hopefully, growing awareness and changing attitudes will result in more fairness for trans people in sports and elsewhere in culture.