On what gender defined teams should trans sports players play once they define themselves?
That is going to be the big question once we have come down from the applause with last week's announcement from the world of Hockey. In an article titled 'What Harrison Browne's Transgender Announcement Could Mean For Other Pro Sports Leagues,' Uproxx.com joyfully covers Browne's first game.
Earlier this week, Harrison Browne (formerly Hailey) of the NWHL’s Buffalo Beauts became the [first] openly transgender to play in a major North American sports league. Harrison, who shone as a Maine Black Bear in college and debuted with the Beauts in their inaugural (and championship) season last year, says that he previously came out privately to coaches, teammates and close family and friends in college and on the Beauts, but decided that in order to fully enjoy the sport that he loves now was the right time to make his identified gender public. Browne also won a silver medal while playing for Canada at the 2011 IIHF World Women’s Under-18 Championships.
He says that being open about his true self improved his game, and told ESPN,
“My family is starting to come to grips with it, now it’s my time to be known as who I am, to be authentic and to hear my name said right when I get a point, or see my name on a website. When I put that equipment on, I’m a hockey player. I don’t think about who I’m playing with, I don’t think I’m playing with women. I don’t think I’m in the wrong body.”
In the Beauts’ opening game, Browne scored a sweet goal that cut the Boston Pride’s lead to 4-1, and talked after the game about how great it felt to score his first hockey goal as an open and out player.
The commissioner of the NWHL, Dani Rylan, stated that the league is looking into ways for openly transgender players of either gender to join the league in the future and fully supports Browne’s transition, stating that
“At the end of the day, Harrison is the same player he was last year. We’re here to support him. It’s really not a big deal when you look at it, we’re respecting his name, the pronouns and his request to be his authentic self.”
While he says that he is putting off a surgical transition and name change (for visa reasons) currently, Browne also says that he has not completely dismissed the idea of attempting to play for a men’s hockey team in the future. – Uproxx.com
The article on Uproxx.com is very celebratory and it should be. Browne is where we all want to be, surrounded by loved ones, a supportive team, and doing what he enjoys.
But will the applause last forever? We are a binary system when it comes to athletics. There are a few times where men and women are allowed to play on the same team, often when one gender lacks the ability to field an entire team as well as other reasons.
Where is the line drawn? If we ask that question, are we assholes? Are we giving into and supporting the "heteronormative culture?" God I hate when LGBT people use that phrase. But don't yell at the heteros. I think the Gay Games follow binary designations, too, no?
So does it boil down to what makes us male or female? Is it the presence of specific gender sexual organs? Or is it the levels of estrogen or testosterone? We saw how the Olympics and the running world had a difficult time with Caster Semenya from South Africa. Here is a video from Sports Illustrated shared before the Rio Olympics.
The crux of the Semenya controversy is the belief of many athletes, medical experts and sports journalists that Semenya has an intersex condition, in which a person has anatomical sex characteristics of both males and females. That causes her to be hyperandrogenous—her body produces much higher levels of testosterone than most other females. And that in turn builds greater muscle mass and allows her to run faster. Semenya, whose supposed advantages have been debated in the track underground since she won the 800 meters at the world championships as an 18-year-old in 2009, has never publicly confirmed any of this, and declined to comment to Sports Illustrated this week. In 2009 she told the South African magazine You: "I see it all as a joke, it doesn't upset me. God made me the way I am and I accept myself. I am who I am and I'm proud of myself."
The assumptions of journalists and competitors about Semenya stem from connecting a series of dots, from her precocious dominance to media reports about her medical records to peaks and valleys in her race times that have coincided with changes in track gender rules. Last year the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) suspended a rule by the IAAF, track's governing body, that placed a ceiling on testosterone levels in female athletes. Since then Semenya has been nearly unbeatable, prompting speculation that she had been suppressing her testosterone with medication but is no longer doing so. Semenya hasn't discussed this publicly either, but in an article posted online by The Guardian on July 29, her coach, Jean Verster, said, "Caster does what she needs to do." – Sports Illustrated
With transgender individuals like Browne and intersexed competitors like Semenya, binary sports teams may never be the same.
What are your thoughts?
Should Browne remain in the Women's Hockey League?
"Browne also says that he has not completely dismissed the idea of attempting to play for a men’s hockey team in the future." Should he be able to make that decision?
Should there be just male / female teams? Remain binary by design, practice, and history?
And if so, what should the designations be for people to participate on those teams?