Fun Facts

Transgender Athletes who Made a Mark

Athlete's Legs in a Circle

Sports and transgenderism is a sticky subject right now for everybody. Trans people themselves are at the mercy of a lot of conflicting legislation as to how and where they can compete.

Even the question of what changeroom they are allowed to dress in is an open question at the moment.

We all know the story of Caitlyn Jenner, who back in the 1970s was the famous athlete Bruce Jenner. While Jenner has transitions now and is legally considered to be a woman, she competed back in the day as a man and therefore doesn’t exactly classify as a trans athlete.

Caster Semenya is a middle-distance runner for South Africa who won a number of medals on the world stage.  So dominant was she that she was subjected to gender testing. While the tests concluded that Semenya should be allowed to continue competing as a female, it did raise questions about gender assignment in sports.

Dora Ratjen competed in the high jump in the 1936 Olympics as a woman. Later, after being confronted by police on a train, Dora was stripped and examined. The police determined that Dora was in fact intersex. She was confined to a sanatorium, and forced to return her medal. Dora was also forced to change her papers to indicate she was male and named Heinrich.

Later, stories came out indicating that the Nazis had forced Ratjen to pose as a woman, out of fear that Germany would be humiliated by the success of the Jewish high jumper Gretel Bergmann. 

Meet sporty trans women now at!

Renée Richards was an American tennis player who had some success back in the 1970s. Richards also underwent a male-to-female, sex-reassignment surgery before entering the tennis world. She was an early advocate for transgender rights. Living in the 60s and 70s, Richards was a target of much derision and police attention.

The whole question of gender and sports is complex. We know that male bodies generally tend to have more strength and speed than female bodies. This is an intrinsic aspect of human dimorphism. A person born with a male body is likely going to dominate a female sport—even if he becomes she—there is going to be a question of unfair dominance.
Similarly, a female who becomes a male, is unlikely to be able to compete in a male-dominated sport. Because of this, it is hard to know how or where trans people fit into the sporting world. Despite all the cheating that goes on in other ways, we still like to pretend that we have some kind of level playing field divided by sex.

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