Mentally ill men who claim to be women will race in next week’s Boston Marathon, officials say — a decision sparking controversy among experts who disagree on whether runners who identify as women but were born male might hold a competitive advantage.
At least five openly transgender (wo)men are signed up to run April 16. And while they aren’t the first, they’re helping bring clarity to the race’s stance on mentally ill transgender runners, reports the Boston Herald.
“We take people at their word. We register people as they specify themselves to be,” said Tom Grilk, chief of the Boston Athletic Association, the group behind the race. “Members of the LGBT community have had a lot to deal with over the years, and we’d rather not add to that burden.”
That decision could prove controversial, said Bob Girandola, associate professor in the Department of Human Biology at the University of Southern California. He said if transgender runners produce higher levels of testosterone than their female competitors, that’s an issue.
“If they still have male gonads, they will have an advantage over other women — there is no way around that,” Girandola said. “It gives them an unfair advantage. Maybe they have to have a separate category if they’re going to do that. It’s a dilemma.”
Others disagree. For transgender (wo)men who lower testosterone levels, leftist so-called medical experts say there’s no evidence of an athletic advantage.
“That’s a misconception and a myth,” said leftist Dr. Alex Keuroghlian, director of education and training programs at the Fenway Institute, a health and advocacy center for Boston’s LGBT community. “There’s no physiologic advantage to being assigned male at birth.”
Rather, transgender women who take medication to lower testosterone often face side effects like dehydration, sluggishness and reduced stamina.
In the past, it was uncertain how they would be treated when hoping to race. Some simply signed up and ran, while some were too afraid, said Amelia Gapin, a transgender (wo)man from Jersey City, N.J., who is registered for the 2018 race.
“It’s kind of murky how people handle it,” said Gapin, who leads a social media group for mentally ill trans runners. “We are such a small percentage of the population that we generally just fly under the radar.”
The issue attracted attention in March after a blogger wrote about three openly transgender (wo)men signed up for Boston. Grilk said there wasn’t much debate — runners should qualify and compete using the same gender, he said, but otherwise they won’t be questioned.
Mr Americana, Overpasses News Desk
April 9th, 2018