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The transition of athletes and the impact it has on women’s sports

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In the past two decades, the world has seen the transgender movement- a movement to promote the human rights of trans people, as well as to eliminate the discrimination and hatred towards them.

Like all aspects of human society, the movement has also seen its presence in world sports. Over the years, many athletes have come out as transgender, and a number of sportspersons who were addressed as male previously, came out identifying themselves as women.

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While its a sensitive topic and will generate a mixed response from the masses, there has been a number of athletes, who have seen massive success in their careers after undergoing transition and joining the women’s division of their respective sports.

CeCé Telfer

Testosterone rule keeps transgender runner out of U.S. Olympic trials

Jamaican-American track and field star CeCé Telfer, a trans woman, used to compete in the NCAA Division II in the men’s category and in 2017, she was ranked 390th in the 400m hurdle category.

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In 2018, Telfer transitioned and in the next year, took part in the NCAA Division II women’s 400m hurdle and became national champion.

Laurel Hubbard

Laurel Hubbard: First transgender athlete to compete at Olympics - BBC News

Originally competing as a male professional weightlifter, Laurel Hubbard could not qualify for any international tournament from 1998 until 2012.

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In 2013, at the age of 35, Hubbard underwent her transition and from the next year until now, she has been able to clinch qualifications for 11 international women’s tournaments, as well as became the first transgender athlete to earn a berth at the upcoming Tokyo Olympic Games.

Hannah Mouncey

Trans athlete Hannah Mouncey says team rejected her locker room use -  Outsports

A member of the Australian men’s handball team from 2013 to 2015, Hannah Mouncey only made 22 appearances, without scoring any goal.

After her transition in 2015, Mouncey made six appearances for the Aussie women’s team and scored 23 times, although the decision was met with much controversy.

Hailey Davidson

Transgender woman golfer Hailey Davidson of Kissimmee wins twice with  designs LPGA Tour - Orlando Sentinel

Before her transition in 2015, Hailey Davidson was not a recognised name in the golfing community and failed to make a mark in the men’s tournaments.

However, six years after her transition, Davidson became the first trans woman to win a professional US tournament, winning the Providence GC in Florida back in May this year.

Mary Gregory

Trans powerlifter smashes records and draws backlash - Outsports

Back in April 2019, professional women weightlifter Mary Gregory broke the internet after she won all nine out of nine events at the 100% Raw Weightlifting Federation competition. She also set a whopping four new world records.

When it was known that Gregory transitioned before taking up weightlifting, it created a backlash among the Olympians.

Fallon Fox

Fighting Fallon Fox: the controversial science of transgender athletes in  combat sports - The Verge

A former US Navy veteran, Fallon Fox transitioned in 2006 and six years later, she became a professional MMA fighter and retired with a 5-1 record.

Even though she made history as the first transgender MMA fighter, Fox was involved in severe controversy back in 2014 when she fractured the skull of her opponent Tamikka Brents at CCCW (Capital City Cage Wars): The Undertaking, which was also her last pro fight.

Veronica Ivy

Trans cyclist Rachel McKinnon wins championships despite detractors -  Outsports

Canadian cyclist Veronica Ivy (formerly Rachel McKinnon) became the first transgender world track cycling champion in 2018 after she won the  UCI Women’s Masters Track World Championship in the women’s 35–44 age bracket.

She did her transition in 2011 when she was 29 and took up professional women’s cycling the next year, six years before she became world champion.

Maxine Blythin

The transition of athletes and the impact it has on women's sports - THE SPORTS ROOM

English cricketer Maxine Blythin, who transitioned as a teenager, became the first transgender woman cricketer from Kent to partake in the  Women’s Cricket Southern League.

Towering over 6 feet, Blythin has clocked a batting average of 124 along with four centuries. In the 2019 Women’s Twenty20 Cup, she became Kent’s leading run-scorer with scoring 175.

Kenzie Statz

Back in January this year, the Snow Crown Fat Bike Series event in De Pere saw a transgender woman named Kenzie Statz winning the race, beating the runner up by a huge margin of 2 minutes.

It was made public that Statz underwent transition recently before the event and before as a man, she did not fare well in the men’s competitions.

Tiffany Abreu

Volleyball pioneer Tiffany Abreu stars and shines in new Adidas ad -  Outsports

Up until 2017, Brazilian volleyball player Tiffany Abreu played in the men’s Superliga A and B divisions. In 2017, she underwent her transition.

Now, a player in the women’s Superliga side Vôlei Bauru, Abreu broke the league’s single game scoring record, netting 39 points against Dentil Praia Clube, a team which featured three gold medallist Olympians.

Valentina Petrillo

Valentina Petrillo: 'Better to be a slow happy woman than a fast unhappy  man' - BBC News

Nearing retirement, 11 time Italian men’s Paralympic titlist Valentina Petrillo decided to transition at 44 years of age in 2018.

Two years later, Petrillo clinched tremendous success at the women’s Italian Paralympic Athletics Championships, bagging three gold medals within a span of just 24 hours.

Gabrielle Ludwig

Jake Linwood on Twitter: "Her name is Gabrielle Ludwig. Biologically a man,  At 50 years old, measuring 6' 8”, weighing 220 pounds, Ludwig made her  college basketball debut for Santa Clara, California

At the age of 50, Gabrielle Ludwig decided to transition and enlisted herself as a player in Mission College women’s basketball team in 2012.

The 6 feet 8 Ludwig scored 17 points and 18 rebounds in a game, after returning to the court three decades later.

Chelsea Wolfe

Who is Chelsea Wolfe? Trans BMX rider slammed for vowing to burn US flag at  Olympics | MEAWW

In 2014, Chelsea Wolfe underwent transitioned and took up BMX cycling in the same year. Three years later, she switched to BMX Freestyle, an Olympics event.

Four years later, Wolfe has earned her place on Team USA ahead of the Tokyo Olympics, after finishing fifth at the UCI Urban World Championships in June.

Terry Miller - News - Beyond The Labels: Meet Terry Miller

Transgender sprinter Terry Miller became the winner of the the girls’ 55 metre dash at the Connecticut Open Indoor Track Championships in 2019, and also broke the girls’ state indoor record in 2019, a year after her transition.

The second place at the event was clinched by Andraya Yearwood, another trans sprinter.

Jillian Bearden

Jillian Bearden is first transgender athlete in U.S. pro cycling

A professional men’s cyclist and runner from Colorado Springs, Jillian Bearden transitioned at the age of 34 in the year 2014 after disappearing from the racing scene in 2012.

Two years later, she won the Arizona El Tour de Tucson and also became a professional peloton cyclist in 2017, as well as the first trans athlete in US pro cycling.

Amelia Gapin

The transition of athletes and the impact it has on women's sports - THE SPORTS ROOM

After failing to earn a qualification for any major event five years after taking up the sport, runner Amelia Gapin underwent her transition in 2012.

In 2016, Gapin earned a women’s slot at the Boston Marathon and was also a Women’s Running cover model in the same year.

Michelle Dumaresq

Michelle Dumaresq - Champion Downhill Mountain Bike Racer

Five years after her transition, Michelle Dumaresq became a professional downhill mountain biker, and went onto win the Canadian National Championships consecutively for two years. she also qualified for a World Cup race. 

Savannah Burton

Toronto transgender woman represents Canada in dodgeball | The Star

A member of the Canada’s men’s dodgeball team, Savannah Burton decided to quit the sport in 2012 and in the next year, underwent her transition.

In 2015, Burton became the first trans athlete in a Canadian national dodgeball team after joining the women’s squad, and made appearances at two world championships back to back.

Athena Del Rosario

Athena Del Rosario is a trans athlete with Team USA Beach Handball -  Outsports

Former NCAA soccer goalie Athena Del Rosario, who played for UC-Santa Cruz women’s soccer team, underwent her transition prior to her career in women’s soccer.

Later, she took up beach handball and became a part of the Team USA women’s beach handball roster and is also eyeing a qualification at the 2024 Olympics.

Natalie Van Gogh

Strava Cyclist Profile | Natalie van Gogh

After her transition in 2005, Dutch racing cyclist Natalie Van Gogh took up the sport and has been a pro for almost a decade and within the time frame, won multiple major cycling events.

Jessica Platt

Hockey is for Everyone: The Jessica Platt Story -

After failing to clinch success as a professional, Canadian ice hockey player Jessia Platt decided to take retirement, and after undergoing her transition, returned to the sport after seven years.

She became the first trans woman player in the Canadian Women’s Hockey League (CWHL) after joining Toronto Furies and now plays for GTA West in the Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association (PWHPA).

Mara Gómez

COPA90 on Twitter: "Yesterday Mara Gomez became Argentina's first  transgender footballer to play professionally in their top women's  division. Here is her story 👇…"

After a lackluster career in the men’s amateur soccer leagues in Argentina, Mara Gómez inked a deal with the women’s Primera División side Villa San Carlos, soon after she transitioned.

Chris Tina Bruce

A Trans Womans Breakthrough in Bodybuilding

After two decades as a male bodybuilding competitor, Chris Tina Bruce transitioned and started taking part in women’s bodybuilding events since 2011.

Juniper Simonis

Featured Skater: Juniper Simonis - WFTDA

After undergoing transition, Juniper Simonis took up roller skating contact sport Roller derby and became the the Women’s Roller Derby World Champion four times.

Caroline Layt

Transgender rugby player got a shot at the pros before she lived her full  truth - Outsports

After a career in the men’s rugby league, Caroline Layt underwent transition at 30 and joined the women’s counterpart of the sport, where she was once a ‘women’s player of the year’ finalist.

Parinya Charoenphol

Parinya Charoenphol - Wikipedia

A year after taking up kickboxing and winning only one fight, Parinya Charoenphol underwent transition in 1999 and six years later, she was allowed to compete as a female kickboxer.

Since them, Charoenphol has won 20 fights, with 18 of her victories coming via knockouts.

Lauren Jeska

The transition of athletes and the impact it has on women's sports - THE SPORTS ROOM

A decade after transitioning and taking up fell running, Lauren Jeska started to win multiple women’s fell running events, most notably the 2012 British Fell Running Championships.

In 2017, however, Jeska was put behind the bars for the attempted murder of a coach who enquired about her hormone levels.

JayCee Cooper

Stuck on the sidelines: A transgender powerlifter fights for the right to  compete

Formerly a men’s competitive curler and rower, JayCee Cooper transitoned in 2019 and entered powerlifting.

The same year, Cooper won the USPA Minnesota Women’s State Championship, as well as broke the women’s bench press record.

Kate Weatherly

A level playing field?

New Zealand mountain biker Kate Weatherly used to compete in the men’s downhill mountain bike open division, which is a grade below the elite division.

In 2020, Weatherly underwent transition and this year, became the New Zealand elite women’s national championship winner.

The transition of athletes: A level playing field or destruction of women’s sports?

The above examples, along with many other trans athletes that exist today, have tasted success or at least seen improvement in their careers as a woman compared to the men’s counterpart.

While many LGBT and transgender activists and groups have seen this as a welcoming and inclusive move, there have been many women’s rights activists and campaign groups such as Fair Play For Women, who have seen it as a destructive stratagem for women’s sport as a whole.

From complete domination in the women’s events and tournaments to setting up astounding records, trans women athletes, after transitioning, are in the middle ground of appreciation and backlash, from a community that is split between opposite opinions regarding such a delicate matter.

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Saikat Banerjee
Saikat Banerjee
A wordsmith who indulges in the world of combat sports, Saikat is an MMA, boxing, and arm wrestling content writer at The MMA India Show and The Sports Room. Apart from combat sports, he also engages in Indian sports content at The Sports India Show. Currently pursuing an MBA from Jadavpur University, Saikat's other interests lie in motorcycling, working out, and travelling.


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