The popular strength conditioning program CrossFit has refused to allow transgender individuals to compete in the CrossFit Games on the team with which they identify. One California woman is now suing the exercise program for discriminating against her based on her gender identity.
In 2013, Chloie Johnson sought to perform in the CrossFit Games, which yield a prize of $275,000 to the man and woman who place first, with lesser cash prizes for the rest of the top 10. An anonymous individual outed Johnson as transgender, which prompted CrossFit to assert that individuals have to compete based on the sex of their birth. In a letter obtained by TMZ, CrossFit argued that trans women would have an advantage over other women — taking umbrage at the suggestion that the decision was narrow-minded:
We have simply ruled that based upon [Chloie] being born as a male, she will need to compete in the Men’s Division… The fundamental, ineluctable fact is that a male competitor who has a sex reassignment procedure still has a genetic makeup that confers a physical and physiological advantage over women. […]
Our decision has nothing to do with ‘ignorance’ or being bigots — it has to do with a very real understanding of the human genome, of fundamental biology, that you are either intentionally ignoring or missed in high school.
Research has suggested that trans individuals do not have any clear advantage in athletic competition. That’s because the supposed advantage stems not directly from genetic makeup, but from testosterone levels, which would dissipate after about one year of estrogen therapy. That is why even the Olympics adopted a policy 10 years ago setting a standard — albeit a high one — for how trans athletes can qualify for the team they identify with:
- They must have had gender reassignment surgery.
- They must have legal recognition of their assigned gender.
- They must have at least two years of hormone therapy.
Johnson underwent surgery in 2006 and all of her government documents, including her birth certificate, identify her as a woman. In a press release, Johnson said she didn’t want her outing to have been in vain: “If I am going to be forced to out myself, I want it to be for the good for all transgendered people and athletes — not because of a company’s discriminatory policies.”